Reply To: Secondary Life Skills Music Class

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Wow! Sounds like you could do many things, if you had a few more resources. As it is, you may want to start with movement. As the students are all mobile, start each class with a movement activity. SPED students enjoy repetition, so you could begin with the chicken dance every class for weeks and then switch to the YMCA. It will give them some physical exercise and you could point out the musical concepts (moving to a beat, form, etc.). The internet has TONS of resources for group dances so your curriculum is easy to find. You may also be able to expand into folk dance later. If you have the money, purchase a book/CD of “The New England Dancing Masters” or Sanna Longden’s collection. You may also ask your elementary PE teacher or elementary music teachers for resources that you could borrow for movement.

Another idea – use chairs, the floor, small buckets etc., for a drumming unit. If you need more sticks, buy dowel rods and have the shop class cut them down for you and sand the ends. Create a simple AB drumming composition and have the students create the form (ABAB, ABBA, etc.). Then play the composition as a group. You could also play it with recorded music or one of you could play an instrument to give the composition a melody.

Singing games would also be a hit with these learners. The Holy Names folk song collection is fabulous and free! There are passing games that you could do with any small objects, dances, chase games, etc. Some of the material may be a bit juvenile (I’d stay away from “Ring Around the Rosy”), but others would be great (Al Citron, Cairo, Great Big House, etc.). You may also want to ask your elementary teachers for ideas of folk songs that they use with 4th/5th grade. That level of curriculum would work well for your students.

Another idea is to include listening. You could have the students listen to art music and then ask them how it made them feel. You could also play a piece and have them create art to go with it. You could choreograph simple movement to the art music or ask the students for ideas, too! Be sure to play the piece multiple times as most students cannot form much of an opinion about something after one listen (even I have trouble with this as an adult).

I think the key is that repetition is not a bad thing. The students like familiarity, so you don’t have to be super creative in every class period. Change one small portion of the lesson and they’ll enjoy all of it.

Good luck!