Reply To: Down's Syndrome ideas?

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Is he able to keep a steady beat? Students really need to be able to internalize the beat and play around with rhythm as that is being worked on. I would start with having him tap the beat to as many different things as possible and have him pat the beat on the drum, woodblock, tone block, etc.. Having him march around the room, really explore movement with scarves and different types of music (not only fast/slow, loud/soft, but classical/rock etc.). I will sometimes have students pick their favorite instrument and go crazy with the instrument doing absolutely nothing and then FREEZE. Then I tap a beat and ask them to follow me. Then FREEZE. Then we go crazy crazy CRAZY! Then FREEZE…and back and forth and back and forth. Once I see they have that, the next class we can do the same type of activity only this time we do beat and rhythm and they have to echo saying beat beat beat beat as we do the beat beat and then rhythm-ooh rhythm-ahh when I do the rhythm of titi-ta-titi-ta.

In the beginning, I highly recommend lots of short pieces that are repetitive that you can do each day so he can really get a handle of the words and then you can start exploring the different things in the piece without the words getting in the way. For example, take a short hello song and have him tap the beat to it as you sing it. The next time you do it in class, do the same piece and then have him tap the beat with the drum. The next time have him explore the song using large motor movement. Once he has that all down, progress to having him clap the rhythm of the piece. Depending on the length of your class with him or how many other students are in the class with him, there are so many different exploration activities you can do to get him to work on the aspect of rhythm.

Depending on his verbal ability, there are a lot of music teachers that will use non-sense talk to get students to work on rhythm. For example, saying boo-bah boo-bah boo-bah boo and adding a hand motion with this action. The student might find this silly but that’s the point–get silly, have fun, but learn how to internalize the rhythm in the body as well as in the vocal sounds. I was recently working with a general music teacher who uses this technique quite effectively and her pre-schoolers really love when she does the waaaah waaaah waaah waaah like a baby and has them pretend to rub their eyes and cry like a baby. It gets them to make those long rhythmic sounds but without emphasizing the need for true form of ta-a sounds and all of the articulation that goes with making that sound.

If you have the resources to get a big exercise ball that someone can hold or you can position so it doesn’t roll away and then get two maracas (really, four…two for you and two for him). Tap a rhythm using the maracas on the big exercise ball and he taps it back. This makes it really fun and students love seeing the maraca bounce.

If you are ideally wanting him to be able to read rhythms using traditional notation, you can start by using simple icons (it is really fun when you can find something the love like frogs or teddy bears). Find an icon and manipulate it in a word document to make one that is long and two that are short (quarter note and eighth notes) and then make different rhythms with those icons. Then work on having him read them as long-short-short. Once he is able to grasp that concept, change them out (with him watching you do so) to the notation of an actual quarter note and eighth notes. I find it is important that the kids watch me change the teddy bears out to quarter notes/eighth notes so they can understand the transition. If he is able, you can pick two different animals like frog to be the quarter note and lilly could be the eighth notes–but this can make it confusing for some that there are two different icons and they can get tripped up on that when you really want him to focus on the long and short concept rather than the pictures themselves.

I hope that some of this helps. I have quite a few other ideas but that should give you a start. More information on his developmental abilities would definitely help refine the recommendations to his needs. Good luck.