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!

This fall I completed the first book in the Suzuki flute method, as a classically trained flutist I had some tools in my belt prior to taking this course. After taking the course, I recognized some of the limitations in engaging young students, such as the younger siblings (anywhere from 3+) of students in beginning band (generally ages 9-10) . In this post I will be sharing a combination of methods that can be used to support new flute students of any age.


Spitting Rice

Starting with a Suzuki method technique…

This is a relatively inexpensive tool since one bag of rice can go a long way. The largest benefit of this method is that the student is directing the instruction: you don’t need to lecture them or walk them through the hows and whys. Simply modeling and having them copy you is enough to get them started.

Furthermore, this tool can be build on for the students as the advance: making a game out of spitting rice at a target/picture will inadvertently teach the students how to direct their air without a long explanation. Plus, the students get to navigate what works for them with minimal exposition from the teacher,

Mimicking Sounds (“mm” “pah” “poo”)

Sounds that engage the lips particularly using fricatives which are a hard constant sound (for example, a common choir warmup is singing with a “ffffff” or “zzzz” or “vvvvvv” sound).

You can find a variety of online content that reference about their preferred sounds; some work better depending on the individual – generally the “mmm” like M&M, “pah” with an emphasis on the pop ‘h’ at the end of the sound, and “poo” with an emphasis on the ‘ew’ ending sound are successful for forming the flute embouchure shape.

Breathing; Organizing Air

For early wind students learning how to organize and control their air is most likely a completely new concept. Isolating this skill before introducing the instrument can help avoid headaches and bad habits later on when the students have to worry about assembling and holding their instrument, forming the embouchure, and having enough air to play.

The system used for teaching breathing really depend on the student’s level – regardless of age. Some students are ready for an exposition on understanding inhaling and exhaling, while other students would just rather observe and copy, another group work better in a natural, less pressured environment, etc.

The most important take away is that you isolate the skill of breathing before adding the flute; and then you can play games to build on that foundation.

For young students using bubble wands or balloons, to see how long they can exhale, what they notice about needed to in take more air, and how that results in forming a bigger a bubble or balloon.

Visual Tools

Not all students have the same learning style, some students benefit from seeing what they need to do and building on that some of these students prefer to teach themselves.

Two tools you can provide these students to enable their learning style are coffee straws and a mirror. The coffee straw can be placed between the top/bottom lip, no more than 1 centimeter in the mouth, at a diagonal where the higher point is pointed towards the roof of the mouth. This tool allows the students to see how large the aperture (or the shape between the top and bottom lip) should be. The mirror allows for self-assessment, with or without a coffee straw, the student can see their own lips and observe what they are doing with guided questions to help them notice what to look for.

Eliminating Variables/Distractions

Rarely would you teach a young student to do several things at once. As a general rule, you would want to establish small foundational steps that you continue to build on as they develop. While it is important to hold students to a high standard, allowing them the space to succeed with realistic goals and expectations is paramount.

When introducing the producing first sounds on head joint (after successfully forming the embouchure and exploring air organization), bringing the head joint to the student and asking them to just focus on breathing and forming the sound/articulation will provide the least distractions and eliminate any potential bad habits. By bringing the head joint to the student, they don’t need to adjust their body, move their head, etc – remind the student to let the flute come to them. Early on this could be a game in group lessons where the students “deliver” the flute to another student.


What do you do for getting the first sound on the flute? Have you seen any Suzuki flute teaching incorporated into the classroom before?