Whether a student has a formal IEP or 504 or not: there is not just one cookie cutter student. And as teachers we have varied ideas of how lead specific teaching points; just as our students will respond differently to various teaching strategies.

Here are some ideas of reaching students with mixed visual, auditory, logical/analytical, and kinesthetic strengths…


Visual

  • Pictures

Performers – Referencing Posture/Embouchure

Games – Aiming air at a specific target (great for younger students)

  • Diagrams

Inside of mouth or torso to help visualize tongue placement, lung expansion, and posture/support.

  • Videos

Encouraging the student to record themselves to be able to assess and compare what they are doing.

Videos of performers for students to visualize an end goal.

  • Mirror

Same as video recording themselves; the mirror is great for more nuanced assessment such as the apperture/ambouchure.

  • Using the space

Combined with kinesthetic: having pictures or even tangible spots in the room to aim the air (high v. low) is great for both visual and kinesthetic learners.

  • Colors

For early music readers, associating a note with a color can be a great way to reinforce and develop music literacy.

Combined with logical/analytical: colors can be a good tool for comparing similar and different – such as loud and soft.

  • Size:

Similar to colors, using size to contrast and comparing more nuanced musical ideas.

Also for learners that are part of the blind community, having the contrast and enlarged print makes music reading more accessible.

  • Shapes

Useful for both younger and older students; the shapes can be used to reinforce dynamics (such as hairpins). The shape and body of notes (ie. quiet entrance, loud sustain and release OR loud attack with a quick decay)/

Auditory

  • Modeling and Imitation

Review and repetition is great for all students; and the I Do then You Do concept is ideal for auditory learners because they will mimic what the hear.

  • Singing

Being able to connect their voice to their playing will allow the student to internalize the music and begin to audiate (or hear before they play).

This can also be paired with modeling or call and response on both the voice and the instrument to help the student bridge the connection between their voice and their instrument playing.

  • Recordings – Playlists

Having a reference recordings of professional flute players will help students internalize the music they are learning. The Suzuki method especially is based on this reinforcement of listening to tracks and playing from memory.

  • Memorization

Playing for memory can be a difficult thing to do if you already are ingrained in visual intaking music. However, every musician can benefit from taking a bite size piece of music and memorizing it (using the Listen and Response technique as well as having Recordings to listen to). Memorizing music takes away visual input and allows the player to focus on two things (1) the sound and (2) their body. Therefore, auditory and kinesthetic learners will have the most luck with memorizing, but for the rest of us it worthwhile to pursue.

  • Recordings – Listen back and assess

You don’t need to stop at just listening to professional recordings; encouraging the student to record themselves and listen back.

  • Duets/Chamber music

Chamber music (more so playing with other people) are engaging for auditory learners because they get to rely on their ears to match and respond to other musicians. Including duets in lessons are a fantastic way to engage students and have fun making music.

Logical/Analytical

  • Patterns

Both auditory and visual learners can engage in identifying patterns (whether that be by listening or looking at the music); giving the student a specific goal to listen for “the same” or “different” will help reinforce that there is structure in music.

  • Comparing (Same v. Similar)

In that same vein, comparing things that start the same and end differently is more nuanced. By using leading questions – where you are guiding students to a specific answer – the student is able to differentiate things that are slightly varied.

  • Connections

Review and repetition; students will have experience with scales and arpeggios. Referencing a single note (the tonic) and asking the student to make a game out of it:

  1. Finding all the (ie. A) notes in a piece OR
  2. Omitting one specific note from a piece to hear what that might sound like
  • Student-Led Discussion – Observation

Logical and analytic students tend to be adept at finding these patterns in music; therefore, giving them a safe space to led a discussion “what do you notice” or “what do you think” to gauge how they are internalizing the piece.

Kinesthetic

  • Movement for rhythm/time

Having designated time in the lesson for students to use their body is important for kinesthetic learners. Particularly for rhythm and timing based activities such as using scarves or balls to keep time and internalize the pulse.

  • Different spaces in room

Combined with logical and analytical, having the student move to a different spot in the room when they hear a different section (ie. same and different) or when they are playing different sections.

  • Move around chair (each repetition)

The chair circle – good for repetition – each time a student plays a different repetition correctly they can move to the next face of the chair. Repeat until they have come full circle.

  • Clapping – Body Percussion

Making use of the body to respond and create music through clapping the steady beat, syncopations. even combining auditory learning by singing and clapping at the same time.

  • Connect body to register

Singers often use hand sings or even high/low hand gestures to indicate pitch – this is great for kinesthetic learners. And either using the head to toes; or physical moving the arms up to the sky and ground helps reinforce music as having shape and contour.


These were just a few ideas to differentiate teaching points,

share your own ideas in the comments below!

7 months into this ever evolving pandemic teachers continue to search for stability and familiarity in their classrooms. Both veteran and new teachers alike are on a new – unfamiliar – playing field where there are far more questions than answers. Outside of the public school teaching scene, being an instrumental studio teacher is just as uncertain. There is a lot that gets lost without being able to be in the same room with students. Many families and even teachers have tried to make accommodations to replicate in-person lessons, but these past months have been completely new terrain as everyone has different levels of comfort and concerns when it comes to their healthy and safety.

The purpose of this article will be ideas regarding instruction methods, ways to keep students present, and foster positive classroom relationships with students and studios.


1. Encourage time away from screens.

  • Students are spending the majority of their days in front of computers – whether or not they are physically attending schools. In their free time they may be adding to their screen time; therefore, it is important to reinforce activities that either don’t involve technology or are low tech.
  • If there is a way to have the student listen to you (rather than be sat in front of a computer) and be physically doing something or exploring the space around them.
    • For example, you could send your student colored construction paper to represent musical notes and have them practice improvising songs by assigning notes to colors. Rearrange the order of the color papers and see what types of combinations you both come up with.
  • If you are comfortable meeting somewhat in person, drive up/outside duets or chamber music, are nice change of pace in these isolating times.

2. Spend more time on establishing that safe classroom environment than forcing them to work.

  • Let the students lead the discussions. Prompt them with questions that will get them talking; if you have to start with a game to ease them into the lesson.
    • Some games I have seen are “This or That” similar to “Would You Rather” or you can ask them to pick an object/toy in the room that represents them or they find interesting.

3. Encourage activities or listening that can occur away from the instrument.

  • Recently, I have been taking Suzuki courses where daily activities are used to relate to instrument playing. Mental practice for older students – having them do simple analysis (noticing what the accompaniment is doing or outlining the dynamic arch) or for younger students, doing a coloring exercise while listening to music can be another way to get students away from screens and engaging with the lesson materials.

4. Be a cheerleader for the student.

  • Reinforce what the student does well, even if it is a small step.
  • You may never know exactly what is going on that can impact a student’s work or motivation; maintaining a safe and positive classroom environment can help with this. However, sometimes students still won’t feel comfortable sharing and that’s okay, you don’t need to have your student be an open book. Observe when the student starts to close off, and note their limits to start working within their comfort zone.

5. Be mindful of how you phrase criticism

  • While constructive criticism is completely necessary for improvement – ask yourself if there is a better way to communicate what you want the student to do:
    • For example, instead of saying “Don’t rush”… Have the student play it slow (half tempo), and ask them what they notice compared to how they played it before.
      • This can be effective because you are walking them through good practice techniques: slowing down muddy passages (and you can direct the student to gradually bump up the tempo). Then, prompting the student to lead the discussion with their own observations.

6. Don’t be upset if you get off track or you don’t accomplish as much as you planned.

  • The saying “it’s not the destination, but the journey” applies here – during these times you will most likely not see the progress you were expecting for a number of reasons. That’s okay.

How are you engaging your online students? Let me know in the comments below.