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Music as Motivator, Communicator and Teacher

For some students with learning challenges, music-based interventions might help them progress in educational areas where conventional teaching methods have not had much success. Music-assisted learning aids in memory, focus, interaction and communication, and music itself, can be the key to unlocking the door to new ways of learning for some children. The U.S. Department of Education recognizes music therapy as a legitimate addition in some students' Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). Here are four strategies for using music as a teaching tool for difficult-to-reach students and special learners.

1. Combine Music With Visual Supports to Increase Comprehension

Music is an effective tool for learning in part because it stimulates and focuses a person's attention. Though music on its own is effective as a memory cue, some students perform better when the auditory stimuli of music are combined with visual supports. Support song selections with flash cards, pictures and story books depicting objects or other elements from the song. These visual cues, along with physical gestures, can help increase a student's understanding of the lyrics heard or sung.

2. Engage Students Through Use of Favorite Songs

Creating a lesson plan centered around a favorite song can engage students who have limited interests or are difficult to engage in most learning activities. Song lyrics provide a central theme for language arts lessons for children who are able to read; students can read lyrics aloud from printed sheet music, point out unfamiliar vocabulary or identify key words. Advanced students can discuss the song's meaning and complete a writing activity related to the lyrics' themes.

Instead of lyric sheets, give younger or less literate students pictures related to objects, characters or actions in the song, and request that they find the correct picture when you sing the song. More advanced students can be asked to recall the order of the pictures from the song.

3. Use Rhythm as a Teaching Tool

For some students, processing verbal input overwhelms them, and they find it difficult to filter verbal instructions and dialogue to identify the important information. Rhythm can be useful for those students challenged by verbal processing. Rhythm adds a predictable beat and helps emphasize key words. Rhythm also naturally syncs the body with the activity. A number of scientific studies conclude that rhythm stimulates and organizes muscle responses, thus helping children with neuromuscular disorders while also helping to improve physical skills. The rhythm in music also stimulates different neural pathways in the brain and provides a path for nonverbal communication.

4. Music as Motivator

Music allows students of varying skill levels, with different physical and verbal capabilities, and experiencing a range of learning challenges, to participate in a shared experience. Contributing to the making of music is not only a learning lesson but a social activity, involving communication and sharing. Students' successful participation in such a group activity is often motivating, building confidence and inspiring challenged students to pursue additional efforts.

Musical therapists compose educational songs and learning chants, as well as use musical cues to help students with special learning needs aim for goals they find difficult to meet. Parents and teachers alike can take lessons from these musical interventions and use music to motivate the child, enhance memorization, encourage communication and participation, and engage the child in new ways.

How Brain Balance Uses Music

Sound in the form of music has a very powerful effect on brain activity. Our musical compositions have been designed based on the knowledge that the hemispheres of the brain process certain types and frequencies of sound differently. The qualities that make one musical piece different from another are processed in different sides of the brain. The composer, Taras Tkachenko, is an innovator in musical scoring in the Los Angeles, California, area. Taras has created original compositions with all of our program requirements in mind and these musical compositions are available exclusively to enrolled Brain Balance families.

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