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Music for Elementary Classroom Teachers

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Jane Lane School is a school located in Walsall containing a total number of 138 students with special needs. Most of the students come from White British families while the rest come from minority ethnic groups. The students have moderate learning capabilities and some of them suffer from autism. The advantages that this school has in teaching music education are that the behavior of the students is excellent and it has a strongly established system of care and support that provide the teachers with good environment for teaching music. The students also help in ensuring that the community is tidy by doing some gardening. One of the challenges this school faces is that it does not have enough links with mainstream schools and colleges. It would allow students to gain experience from the mainstream students. In addition to this, some of parents feel that they do not have enough information on the progress of their children. If I were a teacher in this school, I would ensure that I try to provide more information to the parents of these students about the progress of their children. I would also ensure that I teach the children different types of music. I would choose grade 1 and the sixth form level. This is because these students are at the most advanced level in this school and it would be easier for them to understand what I taught them. I would also teach them real life experiences in the outside world.

Observation

I visited the Jane Lane School in Walshall that is a school for mentally deficient students. I observed that the music teachers applied different methods to teach these students about music. From my visits, I found reasons why an observer learns more through seeing tutors’ or peers engagement in studio or performance work. It enabled me to have a better form of communication with the mentally challenged students and their tutors. It enabled me to assess the feelings of the students towards the methods of teaching that the tutors adopted. I was able to know how the students responded to the method of teaching when teacher showed a song from 20th the USA and allowed the students to listen to it. He/she would then take an emotional card and ask the students on how they felt. In addition to this, from the observation I was able to know whether the students liked the dynamic method of teaching them music. I assessed the different feelings of the students on whether they liked playing games. The teacher introduced the game of hiding a ball in some corner and, later. asking the students to find the ball. It also improved my skills of teaching music. I was able to learn on different methods that the tutors used to deal with the pressure of teaching mentally challenged students. Some students were more mentally disabled than others and, thus, the tutors used different methods of teaching them. Due to this, I was able to learn about the importance of using different methods of teaching to different students (Burack, Hodapp and Ziglar, 1998). Furthermore, I was able to learn that different students had the ability of playing different musical instruments such as piano, violin and guitar.

I was also able to learn many challenges that the mentally deficient students go through while the tutors teach them music. Some of the students in this institution had hearing complications. It was hard for them to understand the instructions that the teachers gave them (Snowman, McClown and Biehler, 2011). In addition to this, some of the students had sight problems. This made it difficult for them to see the demonstrations that their teachers gave them on how to play various music instruments. Some students had problems with speech, thus, it becomes difficult for them to communicate with their tutors on areas where they have not understood. From my engagement with the tutors, they made me understand some steps taken in order to have a successful communication with the mentally deficient students. They suggested that I should maintain a calm low volume when issuing instructions to these students (Switzky, 2004). They also suggested that I determine the mental age of each student so that it helped me to choose appropriate words to communicate with the students. A person, also, learns more when he/she sees the efforts that the tutor adopts to avoid mimicking the voice of a mentally deficient student. This is because the student will know that the tutor is sensitive of the fact that the student is handicapped. I was able to learn through attending the tutors’ work the importance of looking in the students’ eyes during the lessons since it helps the students know that the tutor cares about what the student is talking. From the above points, it is evident that a person learns through seeing tutors’ or peers’ performance work.

Participation

I learnt in various ways through doing several tasks on music with the tutors and peers. I participated by attending the lesson of music of the 20th the USA, especially on songs by Dolly Patron. I was able to learn of composition of these songs. I came to know the rhythmic patterns and phrases of these songs by actually singing them (Delienge, Davidson, Sloboda, 2011). During this lesson, the tutors actually told me to try to compose my own music work since this would improve my skills of composing music. We also studied music literature in order to understand the theory of a guitar. I came to understand different types of guitars that were built by different cultures (Carse, 2002). I also learnt from reading the literature with the peers on how to determine the pitches of the plastic boxes that we used as guitars. When I attended the lesson on how to play wind instruments, I was able to learn how to play this instrument. I also participated with my peers in dancing, and this helped me to maintain a good relationship of trust with the students. Through interacting with the tutors, I was able to learn the rights of the mentality deficient students. I came to learn that the law provides equal opportunities to the disabled, and that everybody in the society should respect their rights (Dimitrakopoulos, 2007). In addition to this, the other members of the society should respect their human dignity. I also learnt that they have a right to enjoy civil and political rights just as other human beings (Russo and Osborne, 2007). Furthermore, it is their right to receive designed measures that would enable them to become self-reliant. I also learnt that these students have a right to live with their foster parents and participate in all social and cultural activities.

I developed several thoughts from my participation with the tutors and peers. I found out that students learn better if they actively participate in the music lessons by actually playing the instruments or singing the songs (Lawson, 2003). When I participated in various music lessons with the students, I came to fulfill my inner desire to connect with people. I like bonding with other people and it is my hobby to socialize with people. In addition to this, we shared different ideas with the tutors and the peers, and this enhanced our understanding of the music lesson. I also felt that active participation helped me to build a deeper relationship with these students. Some of the students opened up to me and told me the challenges they face throughout their lives since they feel that the society discriminates them (Switzky, 2004). This method of learning is very effective since the students were always active throughout the lesson. I also interacted with the tutors and they told me of touching experiences that motivate them to teach these students every day. If I were a music teacher, I would allow the students to participate throughout the lesson, as this would make them understand better.

Evaluation

Evaluation is the act of examining carefully a certain method or procedure in order to determine the credibility, pertinence and accuracy of the procedure. This school used several methods of teaching mentally disabled students music. As the first method of teaching, the teacher would give every student a paper with lyrics on it. Some students would then listen to the whole song from a CD while others would dance. After this, the teacher would give the students an emotional card containing some emotions recorded on it. Some of the emotions on the card were angry, scared, relaxed, sleeping and happy. Lastly, the students would choose a card describing on what they felt after listening to the music. This method was effective for most of the students. Most of the students choose the card containing happy proving that they enjoyed this form of music lesson. However, some students choose the card containing sleeping and angry proving that they did not enjoy this form of teaching. During further investigation, I found out that some of these students did not like dancing and they preferred playing musical instruments instead (Spruce, 2002). This led them to choosing angry and sleeping cards. The second method of teaching required that the tutor would show the students a song from the 20th the USA and discuss with them topic about country music using songs by Dolly Patron and John Denner (Wolff and Duane, 2000). After the students listened to this music, the teacher would take an emotional card and ask them what they felt. Most of the young students chose angry, sleeping and scared. This was because they were not born during the time when this music was popular. In addition to this, some of the students were not familiar with the music composed by these artists. However, some of the older students chose relax and happy cards. I found out that these students liked country music. The third method of teaching was where a teacher would show the students a wind instrument like a trumpet or a horn. He or she would show the students how to play the instrument and then ask the students to try to play the instruments. After one week, the teacher would show the students how to play string instruments such as violin and viola. This method was effective since it helped students, who liked playing musical instruments, actively participate in the lessons. In addition to this, the students learnt the culture of different communities that were associated with these instruments (Baines, 1991). The lesson was fun to attend, and this was the liveliest lesson that I attended during my visits to this school. However, the students who did not know how to play these instruments seemed withdrawn throughout the lesson (Spruce, 2002). When I asked them what was wrong, they told me that they feared that when they tried playing the instruments and they failed, the other students would laugh at them. I suggested to them to practice playing the music after lessons as this would help them and they seemed to enjoy the lessons there after.

The fourth method that the teacher used to teach the students was showing them the theory of a guitar. In this lesson, the teacher prepared different plastic boxes of different sizes with rubber bands. The teacher would ask the students to play the rubber bands on the plastic boxes. This method of teaching was effective because the students learnt of the different pitches that musical instruments could produce (Carse, 2002). Furthermore, it improved the creativity of all the students since they knew different methods that they could use to make their own musical instruments (Hoffer, 2005). The students also knew how to play the guitars, thus, improving their musical skills. The fifth method, the teacher used to teach these students music, was through the concept of dynamics. In this method, the teacher would write on the blackboard the word “loud”. Under it, he or she would write words such as motorbike, bell, explosion, aeroplane, fireworks, drum and trumpet. The teacher also wrote the word quiet and under it, he or she gave examples such as whispering, triangle, mouse and ants. The students would then play a game where the teacher would hide a ball in the corner and ask the students to find it. If the distance between the ball and the students were close, the other students and the teacher would clap very strongly. If the distance was big they would clap quietly. This lesson was effective since the students came to understand the concept of dynamism in music (Write, 2010). The game improved the concentration of students through active participation, and, thus, they came to understand the concept better. Some students did not like this method of teaching since they felt that the clapping was too loud for them. The last method that the teacher used was showing them how to play musical instruments such as a drum using hands only and he or she would not explain to them using words. The teacher would show the students how to play hit while sitting down or standing up. The students were required to practice playing the instrument from what they learnt from their teachers. This method of teaching music to the students was effective since the teachers came to know whether students were sharp in observing the instructions offered to them by their tutors (Snowman, McCown, Biehler, 2011). In addition to this, the students came to know how to play a drum.

Reflection

My ideas and perceptions changed during the module after I visited this school. I learned that the mentally challenged students could also participate in music education (Masami and Hoshizaki, 1983). I was surprised to find out that some of the mentally challenged students knew about country music more than I personally did. One of the students could actually name all the songs sung by Dolly Patron. I also learnt the rights of the mentally challenged students. I came to learn on how to communicate with the mentally challenged students. I was surprised to learn that a teacher has to adopt a certain form of communication in order to offer instructions to these students. I did not know that a teacher had to maintain calm and low volume when speaking to these students. I also did not know that it was important for the teacher not to mimic the voice of the mentally challenged students, as this would give the students an impression that the teacher is sensitive to the disability of the student. Moreover, I did not know of the many rights that the disabled students have. From my visit, I learnt that they have a right to enjoy civil and political rights as other students (Russo and Osborne, 2007). What is more, I came to learn that they have a right for economic and social security and a decent living. From my visit, I was surprised to find out that many instruments that mentally challenged students could comfortably play. My perceptions of them changed since I saw how well they could play drums, guitars, violin and viola. I did not think that mentally challenged students could play games well and actually enjoy them at the same time.

Analysis

From my visit to this school, I discovered the parameters of music education suggested by Swanwick (1979). He suggested that music education contained five mnemonics that include composition, literature studies, audition, composition skill acquisition and performance. According to Swanwick (1979), composition is the act of making musical object by assembling sound material in an expressive way. The tutors tried to explain to the students how different country musician composed different songs using different techniques of composition. They also taught the students the importance of considering music notation, music ensembles and sound production during music composition (Hoffer, 2005). The school also considered literature studies during music lessons. Swanwick suggested that every music student should understand the cultural traditions underlying meaning of music in order to understand it better. The tutors utilized literature content in teaching these students the origin of different dancing styles. Furthermore, they gave these students books describing different ways of playing music instruments. This really improved their skills of playing musical instruments. The school also provided students with a good environment for audition. The classes were mostly quiet with minimal disturbance on most occasions. This enabled the students to understand better the instructions that their teachers gave them enhancing their listening skills. In addition to this, they used the concept of skill acquisition to give the students musical education. Most teachers have discovered that students understand better if they actually practice what they have learnt. The tutors taught the students on how to play wind instruments such as trumpets. In addition to this, the students learnt how to play drums while sitting or standing. They also danced to songs that teachers gave them in the course of the lessons and, thus, they acquired different dancing skills. Lastly, tutors taught these students how to perform music. During musical lessons, the tutors taught the students how to boost their confidence on the stage in order to perform music better. Students were taught how to maintain a good posture while performing music.

To conclude, I learnt many things about music through interacting with the tutors and peers of Jane Lane School. I learnt through observing the work of the students since I was able to know if the students were comfortable with the teaching methods that were adopted. Through participating in dancing and playing music, I was able to know the challenges that these mentally deficient students go through while learning music. From my evaluation, I found out that most of the methods that the tutors adopted in teaching these students music were effective. Most of my ideas and perceptions about how to be a teacher of music for mentally challenged students changed after I visited this school. Lastly, from my analysis I discovered that this school followed most of the parameters of music education suggested by Swanwick.

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