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5 Strategies to Help Teach Music to a Special Needs Student

  1. IMG_0185When introducing a new piece of music, play it through in its entirety – up to tempo and with all the dynamics and flourishes you hope to hear at the end of the teaching experience.
  2. Break down the lesson into small segments (ie. taking the instrument out of the case, opening the piano lid, reviewing the previous week’s lesson etc.) Use a picture board to reflect the 5 – 6 segments in every music lesson. Having a regular and familiar opening and closing is really important for framing a successful lesson. However for diversity you may want to make changes to the framework every school year or perhaps every season. Just remember to give the child a warning notice that changes are coming…3 weeks from now, 2 weeks from now, next week….
  3. Include free time – this can be a time to move, improvise, sing, stretch, listen to a song on CD.
  4. Have a trigger for when things are going well. This could be a phrase that the teacher says and only saves for such occasion, a certain shaped sticker, a different colour that you write a note in their journal etc.
  5. Use hand gestures to move you through the piece instead of a metronome. This creates a more relational experience and keeps the student involved with not only the music but with you as teacher.

…and a bonus…enjoy the little moments and know that you are contributing to a child (and their families) life in a positive, meaningful way.