University of Edinburgh

Creative and multi-sensory approaches to teaching music for pupils with additional support needs & MDVI

Presented on Wednesday 18 March 2009

Jill Reeves
Royal Blind School, Canaan Lane Campus

Young people at Canaan Lane Campus

  • Young people are described as having MCVI - multiple disablility with visual impairment.
  • These are a very mixed group - individual profile of needs with coordinated support plans and IEPs (Individual Education Plan) to meet each young person's educational needs.
  • In addition to a visual impairment, an MDVI child could have one or more additional needs ranging from physical disabilities, speech difficulties, behavioural difficulties and learning disabilities.
  • Many were premature and have cerebral palsy as a complication.
  • Others have genetic or degenerative conditions.
  • Some were normally developing children but contracted illnesses such as meningitis.
  • All globally delayed with sometimes complex medical needs.
  • Some young people have no vision but are remarkably able at getting around, eg; echo location.
  • Many have a visual impairment and are able to make use of residual vision; one side, tunnel, peripheral, light awareness.

Visual matters to consider in music lesson

  • Is pupil positioned in best possible way to maximise learning and enjoyment from lesson?
  • Should they be wearing glasses for all/part of the lesson?
  • Is the young person sitting in the right part of the room with respect to light from windows?
  • Is musical object/prop presented at optimum visual distance, direction?

Structure of music lessons for young people with MDVI

  • Most lessons taught as class groups 6-7 pupils plus staff team.
  • Some individual slots.
  • Class lessons 30-50 minutes long.
  • Much of school learning is 1:1 so very important to create opportunities for group work and establishing a class and school identity.
  • Begin with familiar 'it's music time' song which acts as a signifier for the activity. Many staff (and some children) sing it on their way to music lessons.
  • 'Hello' song - one for younger and one for older pupils.
  • Close with 'thank you for the music' - sung individually - and 'Music has finished'.
  • Content largely based on theme work or the 10 whole school assemblies (many based on RME curriculum).
  • Activities will include opportunities to use voices, explore sound-making objects and musical instruments, use switches and other forms of IT, body awareness activities, action songs, music and movement, dance, listening, individual and group activities and listening and responding to live and recorded music.

General approach to music teaching

  • When working with those with limited or no speech or limited comprehension of language, music can be a way forward.
  • Music engages people physically and emotionally and impacts on mind, body and spirit.
  • Music or noise-making is a universal and powerful means of communication and this is built into and encouraged at every point in the lesson.
  • Other components - fun, other sensory and child-centred learning - combine with music to form basis of teaching approach.

Cross-curricular approach to music teaching

This approach ties in very well to the guidelines for new "Curriculum for Excellence"

  • Themes. Cross-curricular planning around class topic work.
  • Whole school assemblies, eg; 'Robert Burns', 'Chinese New Year', 'Spring and Easter'.
  • Whole school 'Carnival Days' preceded by whole term of cross-curricular theme-based activities - Carnival (2003), Africa (2005), South America (2007), Homecoming (2009).
  • Annual 'Fiesta' - an inclusive class in the 'Edinburgh Festival of Music, Speech and Dance' open to school pupils of all ages, givein a public opportunity to perform.

Multi-sensory theme work

  • Curriculm structured around themed topics, eg;
  • The Physical world:
    'Volcano' sensory story and dance, 'Oasis' music and movement drama
  • People and Place:
    'Vikings' sensory movement drama, 'The jungle adventure' sensory story, 'The genie and the lamp' sensory story.
  • Christmas:
    'The star tree' sensory story.

Music and movement

  • Pupils generally enjoy the sense of movement and come to recognise and anticipate musical changes associated with floor patterns and sequences. Using a parachute and accentuate the meaning of actions.
  • Parachute dances ('Gay gordons parachute dance', 'Floral Dnace, 'Music tree') Often the technique of using voice over using Garage Band program to add verbal instructions over music. Helps staf and pupils' anticipation of actions.
  • Circle dances.
  • Creative dances ('Romeo and Juliet', 'The Osprey').
  • Free dance.
  • Fingertip dancing ('Spring' or 'Autumn' by Vivaldi).
  • Body awareness activities.

Class presentations

1. Class 3 present: