You must have experienced the following situation. You listen to a song once or twice while you are going to work for example, and after that, the song continues to play in your head all day long, again and again, and again.
The great thing here is that we can apply this situation to our special needs students. When you are working with such children you can easily make them learn thanks to their reaction to music. Some studies have also given significant results when it comes to autistic children as well as those suffering from Williams’s syndrome. Basically, such children possess musical abilities despite the fact they can’t function properly.
Thanks to these studies there is a large number of music therapists who develop music-basedinterventions (songs, chants, and musical cues) to help the special needs students make progress in their education. The good thing is that the U.S. Department of Education recognizes music therapy and in California, for example, it is considered to be necessary for students to grasp all the benefits of their educational program.
The music, in this case, is used to motivate the students, help them with their memory and even help in communication when all other methods fail. Teachers and other people engaged in the education of special needs students can always consult music therapists for some help.
Even if you as a teacher don’t sing well, it is not a reason to avoid integrating music assisted learning in the learning process. Pay close attention to the next four strategies recommended by music therapists for teaching special needs student.
Increase comprehension with music and visuals
Although for some students music is enough to help them in the learning process, there are students who will get the most when music is combined with visual aids. For example, if you want your students to learn the lyricsof a popular song, you can use digital pictures, flashcards or story books to boost their understanding.
Teach with their favorite songs
If your students are hard to engage or can’t concentrate enough, it is a good idea to use their favorite songs and create lesson plans around them. For example, you can give them the lyrics of their favoritesong either printed or in digital form, and ask them to read them out loud, make a list of the words they don’t understand, point out key words, and talk about the meaning of the songs they like the most. At the end, they can do a writing activity.
If you are working with younger students, all the characters, animals, action verbs or objects from the song can be presented with photos and pictures. As the song goes on, the students can point out to specific photos or pictures, or order them one by one as they appear in the song.
Don’t forget the Rhythm
The student’s visual environment is very important for special needs students. However, we shouldn’t forget the auditory environment as well. With the help of rhythm,you can easily point out key words, or help the students become more active in the activity.
For example, there is a pretty good chant
Let’s go ’round in a circle.
Let’s go ’round in a game.
When I get to you, tell me, what’s your name?
When the chant ends, the students can use they hands to clap the syllables of their name. This activity is extremely useful if you have students who speak either too quickly or you have trouble understanding them.
Although it is wonderful to have all those singing and rhythmic activitiesin class and help your students sing different keywords, names or rules there is one question that bothers us. What to do after class, when music is not normally used?
Well, it’s our job to make the students easily move to the non-music environment. Here are a few ideas:
- The visuals you have used through the song should be present and used with the activities which are executed without music.
- Use “Why-“questions after the song in order to use spoken language to revise the song content.
- The song lyrics can be used as cues during the week. For example, if you want your students to keep their hands down, you can sing that phrase every time you want them to put their hands down. The singing must gradually transform into a spoken language. So, at the end of the week, you don’t have to sing that phrase anymore.
The good thing is that they can listen to their songs in the classroom, without the need to listen each song individually using wireless headphones. Working as a group will most likely engage all of them.
And now is the right moment to think about using music with your special needs students and think about the units you can use in this way.