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Four Classes, Five Teachers and a Huge Range of Abilities

This was my sixth year teaching Music and Movement in Youth in Arts’ VSA program, and I was lucky enough to be assigned to work with four amazing teachers, Rockne Beeman, Laura Becker, Meriam Grainer Cox and Jessica Leaper.  We had a wonderful time singing, dancing, playing and learning.

Rockne Beeman’s class of upper elementary students were a challenging  joy to teach. He has a class of students with a variety of behaviors and levels of engagement.  Some students would fully participate and sit in the circle and others would listen from different parts of the room.  What was most facinating this year was that the students who had worked with me previously would suddenly focus and fully participate when they heard specific familiar songs.  One such song was A Rig-a-Jig, a song that requires students to dance with a teacher and/or myself.  Their favorite song by far was “Goin on a Bear Hunt,” where we would practice phonemes that are difficult for the students while we marched around and dance.

Another discovery was that certain students who had previously been non-verbal are now speaking and even singing.  The photo below shows one of these students singing his favorite “penny game” song.

"Penny Game"

Laura Becker and Carla Victoria’s elementary special day classes were combined for a wonderfully large group every week.  They accomplished a great deal over the course of ten weeks. The biggest challenge with these two groups was the fact that their abilities were so vastly different.  Laura’s students need a great deal of assistance physically.  All were in wheel chairs or other supportive devises and were not able to move on their own.  Carla’s class was very active and needed to be constantly stimulated or they would lose focus.  The best strategy I found for working with these two classes was to pair Carla’s most active students with Laura’s most inactive.  They became “helpers” and danced and sang to the students who did not have the ability to participate in that way.

Meriam Grainge-Cox’s students were the most high functioning of my groups this year and they were able to perform quite complicated musical phrases despite the fact that they were 3 and 4 year olds.  My focus with this group was to create a class where they could learn to be autonomous and run as much of the class as possible. This was very successful, and the last day of class was almost completely run by the young students

Jessica Leaper’s class was incredibly fun.  They absolutely loved singing train songs and their favorite activity was dancing to Greg and Steve’s Choo Choo. There are a number of autistic students in this class, so I focused primarily on creating a clear routine over the course of the first couple weeks. As they grew more comfortable with the progression of the class. I was able to add more complex music and movement problems for them to solve.  By the end of the 10 weeks the class was at a point of running most of the activities themselves.

All in all it was a fantastic school year, and each of these classes and their teachers made it an exciting experience.

 

YIA Mentor Artist Hannah Dworkin

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