Secondary Life Skills Music Class
December 15, 2013 at 8:11 pm #33847
The band director and I have been co-teaching a Life Skills music class once per week for the past 3 years now. We have both been teaching for 30+ years and neither of us have had any training in this area. Our building is grades 9-12. Our first year of teaching this class we had 5 students, last year 15, now this year 8. All of the students are mobile, so we do movement activities frequently, we always work on steady beat, and work simple rhythm patterns into whatever music we use for the period. We have no equipment other than piano, stereo, computer, projector, screen, etc. In other words, no Orff instruments, no resonator bells, no auxiliary percussion other than a few sets of rhythm sticks which we use. The students are great to work with, and are willing to try things; we just feel inept most of the time. We go week to week, wondering what to do the next week without any guidance. We have no resources. We go looking on the internet for anything, anything to help us, but have come up with very little. Most things are related to elementary, or mainstreamed situations, and though we have that as well, this is a completely separate class. Any suggestions for resources, equipment, topics, ideas, anything would be most appreciated.January 22, 2014 at 11:25 am #34577
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! http://kodaly.hnu.edu/search.cfm 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!January 31, 2014 at 6:01 pm #34739
I had a colleague a few years ago who had the Life Skills kids in general music class, though for middle school. I remember her using Will Schmid’s World Drumming curriculum with them and doing the easy drumming ensemble. They loved it! I’ve used that with high school classes since, though not Life Skills kids. I imagine it would work well with the high school Life Skills kids too. I can tell you my high school music appreciation kids loved it! There is a bit of a cost to get the equipment, but if you can swing it, it would be great. I like it because they learn by listening to the drum leader, and the patterns are short an easy to remember. Plus, you don’t have to use all the parts in the ensemble (the first ensemble has 7 separate parts). It would work fine even with the two main drum parts and the cowbell. We purchased the world drum kit for 40 students at my last school a few years ago and I want to say it was around $3000. They have smaller kits available, or you can even buy the drums ala carte. The curriculum book comes with a dvd…I had no experience with drums before trying it, but the materials made it easy to learn.
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