Using A Differentiated Rhythmic And Melodic Notation System For Special Learners In All Musical Settings Brian Wagner

NYC Department of Education

different types of symbols, images, shapes, letters, and languages - this can be a problem for some students. Many types of learners, including special and typical learners, might have a hard time con- necting with the new language of symbols. Music literacy is a crucial and important part of the music cur-


riculum. This includes: general/core music, instrumental, and choral settings. Moreover, reading music connects to skills that are devel- oped in ELA, such as: reading, writing, discrimination, analyzing, and tracing. Special learners can consist of students who: receive special

education services, are classified as gifted and talented, are labeled at-risk, or receive ENL (English as a new language) services. Ad- ditionally, many students might enter the classroom with an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) or a 504 plan.

Basic Strategies For Special Learners

There are three important words that need to be mentioned when discussing special learners. These three words are: adaptation, modification, and differentiation. Adaptation refers to, “instruc- tional tools and materials used to accommodate children based on their learning needs.” Modification refer to, “adaptations used with different curricular goals in mind in order for the child to achieve at the highest possible level.” Lastly, differentiation refers to, “consider- ing the variant needs of students.” (Hammel and Hourigan, 2011). For some students, less information is more. Some students need time to process information that might be given to them. A solution would be to incorporate task analysis. Task analysis refers to a “system for breaking down a task hierarchically into basic skills and sub-skills.” (Woolfolk, 2004). By taking chunks out of the mu- sic, students are allowed the opportunity to process less information. “Since making music is a form of sensory input, it is important to understand your student and what causes him or her to struggle with sensory issues.” (Hourigan and Hourigan, 2009). One resource that can be utilized is using a Pocket Chart with flashcards. Differ- ent types of rhythmic/melodic flashcards can be created and placed within the Pocket Chart. For students who need less information, the cards can be taken out so they have less to process. (Fig. 1) shows an example of a Pocket Chart with rhythmic flash cards.

TEMPO 24 Many students learn through incorporating different types of

modalities. The four types of learning modalities include: audi- tory (listening), visual (looking), kinesthetic (moving), and tactile (touching). While auditory and visual modalities are already com- mon in the music classroom, incorporating kinesthetic activities and tactile materials might help build stronger foundations. Addition- ally, having students using tactile materials to feel a specific concept (ex: soft, rough, short, long), will help build a stronger foundation as well.

Lastly, incorporating various types of entry points for all stu-

dents is important. All types of learners experience the world and sensory information in different ways. “Adapt the goals or outcome expectations for the student, while using the same materials for all students. Success for one student might be playing on the beat, while success for other students might be to master a more difficult synco- pated rhythm.” (Adamer, 2001).

Wagner Approach To Rhythmic Literacy

As mentioned above, not all students will immediately connect with the icons and symbols that represent traditional music nota- tion. These icons and symbols, such as: notes, rests, articulations,

MAY 2017

ne of the challenges that music teachers encounter is that many students do not automatically connect with traditional music literacy. While music contains many

(Fig. 1)

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