What are integrated music classes and What do they look like at Coyote Music Studio?
Music Education and Music Therapy For All.
All classes at Coyote Music Studio are open to students of all abilities. Lessons are integrated with music education and music therapy objectives so that students with different needs and abilities can learn music concepts together.
Different schools and teachers use many different methods for teaching groups of students with different learning needs but one thing they have in common is diversifying lessons. This includes using a variety of activities to teach each objective so that students have a chance to learn in ways they’re already familiar with as well as ways that might motivate or challenge them. At the same time, the teacher has a chance to reach those who would be left behind while still helping others progress. Music is the perfect vehicle for this type of teaching. In fact, I often tell people that preschool IS music therapy since good preschool teachers spend most of their time teaching letters, numbers, colors, social norms, and other concepts through music and dance.
Descriptions for classes at Coyote Music Studio may list an age but those are just suggestions. If students would be more successful in a younger or older class, they’re welcome to join that class instead. Consultation between me and parent/caregiver can help determine the appropriate class or you can schedule a Music Therapy evaluation for a recommendation. Parents and caregivers are invited to join in class activities if that will help the student participate more fully. (Parent/caregiver participation is a requirement for all students in the Baby and Toddler classes.)
I’m not currently offering the Social Music class for children with special needs separately. (Dayhab Social Music Classes for adults are still ongoing. Call or email for more info on scheduling a class where your group meets). Students from the children’s Social Music classes are encouraged to join one of the Early Childhood Music classes or schedule private Music Therapy sessions until they’re ready to move into a class.
Preschool Polyphonics, Fall 2018
Many of the daily objectives for my music classes are not musical in nature. As a music therapist, I’ve learned and successfully used a variety of music strategies that are designed for everyone to increase fine and gross motor skills, social skills, communication skills, academic skills, and others. I feel it’s important to incorporate these strategies in my lesson plans for all students and many of the lessons included with our curriculum accomplish these goals even though their main goal is increasing musical understanding and ability.
Tuneful – to have tunes in their heads and learn to coordinate their voices to sing those tunes.
Beatful – to feel the pulse of music and how that pulse is grouped in either 2s or 3s.
Artful – to be moved by music in the many ways music can elicit a feelingful response.”
The musical objectives when teaching Frog in the Meadow are for children to identify and tap the beat, sing So and Mi (with a passing Fa), sing as a group, and move artfully (using fingerplay). The last one obviously doubles as a fine motor skills objective. A lot of the music in our curriculum is like that, almost built-it non-musical objectives. That’s because the authors have researched child development. They know what children respond to and the best methods for successfully teaching specific concepts in fun ways.
I also use Frog in the Meadow as a social skills activity. I have a frog guiro that we pass around the circle while we sing the song. Each child gets to play the beat with the frog and choose where the frog “jumps” next. Passing it on to someone else is difficult for the younger ones in the class but after a couple weeks they begin to have fun making the frog jump around their heads, shoulders, knees, and toes. 😉 So of course, this ties in beautifully with the song and we can work on gross motor movement as well as cognitive skills. Here’s my favorite version. It goes through many more body parts than the traditional song, getting kids all tangled and giggly by the end.
Since I'm a music therapist, why don't I offer separate classes for people with special needs?
Originally I did.
Social Music for Children and Young Adults with Special Needs is a group music therapy program in which people with special needs could have fun playing music and learning with their peers. Unfortunately, the program’s enrollment was always low due to scheduling issues and I began to feel the children’s class didn’t fit with the vision I had for my studio – a place where people of all abilities could have fun learning music together no matter their musical abilities or possible limitations. It also didn’t fit with my teaching philosophy. You see, I firmly believe that students are not just receptacles for information: they shouldn’t be sitting passively listening to lectures or just memorizing what teachers put in front of them. Students should be actively involved in their learning and to do that properly, they need to get to the 4th Level of Learning: Teaching. I describe this in a previous post but the short version of it is that there are 4 levels to learning and truly understanding any concept: Observation, Do with Help, Do Alone, and Teach. We’re often satisfied if students can demonstrate their understanding without help but we shouldn’t be. They should be able to describe it so well that they can teach it to someone else. Unless they can do this, students don’t completely understand the concept. In an integrated music class, I have many opportunities for students teach each other as they begin to progress at different rates.
Children also seem to know how to communicate with each other better than adults do with children. If I have a student who is having a real hard time understanding or doing something new, they often “get it” when one of their peers explains it - sometimes in what sounds like the exact same words! Seeing this happen time after time, I began to feel uncomfortable separating my classes my ability. Both classes were missing out!
This is also why my music classes are small: classes max at 8-10 in the Early Childhood and Homeschool classes. In large, public school classrooms this is often a frustration for teachers: they have too many students with too many different learning styles and they simply don’t have the time for everyone. Many schools still separate students by ability as well because in large classrooms it's easier to teach a group of students at the same level. I feel lucky to have the chance to teach small classes so that everyone has an opportunity to progress, even if it’s at different times. As one mother of a Preschool Polyphonics student said, "It's important that children interact with people of different abilities early. It instills compassion on one side and a feeling of acceptance on the other."
Where did the concept for integrated music classes come from?
After receiving my Master's in Music Therapy from TWU, I worked for many years as a contract music therapist in North Texas for senior care facilities, special education programs in several ISDs, and in private homes for people with a variety of special needs. One of my contracts was the Odessa Stroke Camp. The camp is a weekend retreat for stroke survivors and their caregivers run by Retreat and Refresh Stroke Camp. It began in Illinois when Marylee Nunley and a small group of caregivers began meeting to support each other and grew into camps all over the US. They believe in the power of music therapy so they always have at least 1 music therapist at every camp. I felt lucky to be their music therapist for 3 years in a row. Though we only saw each other for 3 days of the year, it’s an experience that builds lifelong friendships. I began thinking on that experience as the vision for my studio was evolving. One of the reasons the music therapy groups were so powerful was the interaction of everyone together, no matter their needs and abilities. Communication and social interaction through music is less demanding as well – no one has to struggle to make themselves understood. I wanted to bring this type of experience to all my clients and students.
Odessa Stroke Camp (2012) A weekend retreat for stroke survivors and their caregivers.
In public schools when students are moving from self-contained classrooms to general education, they often do it slowly (1 or 2 classes at a time) and usually begin with “specials” classes: music, art, and PE. As a music therapist, I was often in ARDs where we discussed the benefits and special needs each child would face in “transitioning” to general education settings. Later as the music teacher in a large school, I often found myself on the other end - trying to teach music concepts in ways that 25-30 students with different learning needs could understand, demonstrate, and have fun with. Then I had to repeat that process with 7 different age groups throughout the course of a day. My background as a music therapist often served me well.
It was this experience that directly led to the Early Childhood Music Program at Coyote Music Studio. A change in administration and a change in the educational system as a whole had me reevaluating my future as an educator. For a variety of reasons that I’ve detailed in other places, I needed a change. My plan was to return to music therapy. I was recertified and began seeking new contracts. There were a number of road blocks and changes to the new studio immediately.
There was only one organization seeking to contract with a music therapist for one hour a week in Denton and I couldn’t take back the contracts I had given to other music therapists when I went to teach. Even if it didn’t make me a completely terrible person, it’s against my Code of Ethics. Yeah, we have a Code of Ethics, Scope of Practice, a Certification Board, a Professional Association, and everything. Music Therapy is legit, yall. 😉
I couldn’t go back to practicing in the same manner that made me burn out so fast. I was determined to build a practice in Denton and not drive 400-500 miles each week (this is not an exaggeration). Since funding for music therapy is minimal outside the large cities, I had to find a different way to do it. Music therapy is no more expensive than Speech, Physical, or Occupational Therapies but it isn’t covered by many insurance plans like they are. I had to find a way to make it affordable for families on a regular basis - music is learned through repetition.
I love teaching music and it’s completely different than practicing music therapy. Even if I could build a solid music therapy practice here in Denton, I knew I would miss this other aspect of my life. In the early years, children essentially need to develop similar communication, motor, and social skills whether or not they have special needs. I knew music therapy strategies could be adapted for groups of children with a variety of needs and abilities while teaching musical concepts. The right curriculum was needed.
I chose Kindermusik, applied and was accepted to open a franchise. I was very excited but soon realized the costs were going to be too much for my small studio and its families. I was trying build affordable music therapy and music classes but Kindermusik required the families who joined my studio to purchase materials every month. The first lesson in our franchise business class was how to determine the ideal location based on certain client criteria, such as income. Kindermusik feels their ideal customer is in the upper middle class bracket and there’s nothing wrong that. It’s good that they know this and are upfront about it because it helps them market correctly. However, some of my families struggle to pay even my low costs. I didn’t want anyone making the choice to drop music because they couldn’t afford the cds and booklets (even the digital option is not an option for some of my families). At the time, my studio wasn’t supporting me fully and I had to take part time jobs to fill the gaps so this just seemed overwhelming. Had I not quit the program, I would be finishing this month and getting ready to begin classes. I stayed on that timeline anyway. Classes for babies and toddlers begin January 5th!
I found the curriculum I was already using for my Preschool Polyphonics class has another series for Infants and Toddlers. It’s not a franchise but a classroom curriculum with lesson plans and 6 books worth of songs and other activities. As a music therapist and music educator, First Steps assumes I have enough training to use their materials properly instead of requiring I go through their training program. I plan to take their workshops to become a Certified FAME Teacher but the beauty is, it’s not required to use the curriculum and the cost to my students remains the same. As someone with a Bachelor’s in Music, Master’s in Music Therapy, and 3 teaching certifications, I’m glad to finally save myself some time and money.
It's Elementary: Sing, Dance, and Play!
My experience teaching in public school was also the inspiration for It’s Elementary: Sing, Dance, and Play – the homeschool music class. I have friends who homeschool their own kids and I noticed that even though there are groups that meet for a variety of activities, there weren’t any opportunities for elementary aged homeschoolers to learn music the way public school students do. They can take private lessons and there are even homeschool bands and choirs for middle and high school aged students but elementary music teaches things students can never learn in a private lesson. In elementary music classes, students are singing folk songs, common children’s songs, and choral music with 2, 3, and 4 parts, dancing complicated partner dances, and learning harmonies and counterpoint by playing Orff xylophones and recorders – the basics for middle school band and orchestra programs. While private lessons are important for mastering an instrument, music is a social activity and theory should be learned that way. It’s difficult to understand harmony and counterpoint when you’re the only one playing.
When planning lessons, I use a variety of sources from my years as a music teacher and therapist but the following are the main curriculum for the classes and a few reasons why I chose each.
I truly believe everyone can sing. I used to make my public school students shout it because I never met a child who couldn’t sing and I needed them to believe it before I could teach them. There are definitely some that instinctively seem to know how to use their voices musically while others are merely able to hit the right pitch, but they still can. When does this stop? When does someone go from being able to hit the right pitch to being “tone deaf”?
I have 2 theories. It’s my belief that some people are simply too shy to sing in front of others, stop practicing, and forget how to make their voices respond the way they did as children. Voices need practice just as wind, string, and percussion instruments do. Learning music is about repetition.
Some people were shamed into staying silent and, again, they stopped practicing. “Eeew you’re no Frank Sinatra. Let’s leave the singing to him.” But why? Just because some people are paid for it, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t all have a chance to enjoy music more than as consumers of someone else’s talent. Even mediocre singers should be able to take joy in singing for themselves or their families.
John Feierabend, the founder of the Feierabend Association and author of First Steps, says it best:
Musical behavior is basic to all cultures, both primitive and sophisticated. And yet, in our enlightened late twentieth century there appears to be plenty of evidence that many are losing this basic dimension of expressing themselves. It should not be unreasonable to expect all adults to be able to clap their hands in time to the cheering at a sporting event. Dad should be able to sing “Happy Birthday” to his son or daughter without hearing, “Don’t sing, Dad.” A couple should be able to dance in time to the music at their wedding. A person should be able to sing at a worship service without persons in the row in front turning around. An audience member should possess sufficient sensitivities to be moved by a nuance in an orchestral performance. A mother or father should be able to soothe their infant with a lullaby and rock to the beat of that lullaby.
Still many persons have not developed basic sensitivities which would allow them to function musically in society. Most adults should be able to demonstrate basic musical behaviors including:
comfortable and accurate singing;
comfortable and accurate moving;
expressive sensitivity when listening and/or responding to music.
I can’t believe they pay me to play music with babies either. A 95 year old lady I work with was surprised that people would pay me to host music classes that teach them how to interact musically with their babies and toddlers. She said, “But that’s what I did with my 4 kids. Don’t they sing and dance with their kids? I had so much fun.” I told her that “many people simply don’t know enough songs and aren’t confident in their musical abilities. We’ve replaced a lot of arts education with more academic time in schools. I’ve met children who don’t know many of the common folk and children’s songs that we grew up on, much less more sophisticated music, because they only listen to pop radio or watch The Voice. There are also people that feel children’s music is beneath their children, that they should be listening to ‘cooler’ music without understanding the important concepts those songs can teach us.”
Again, Feierabend says it best:
One hundred years ago many families instinctively engaged their very young children in activities that were ideal for developing musicality. No one studied early childhood music education, and there was very little need for classes to be offered to infants and toddlers with their parents.
Today we are discovering that during the past hundred years the musical sensitivities of each generation have been gradually devastated by the side effects of an increasingly sophisticated technological environment. Instead of making music, most only consume it-and the nutritional value of much of that musical consumption has become increasingly empty. While research is piquing our interest and is supporting a variety of reasons why music and movement experiences are important in the earliest years, it is interesting to note what previous generations did. Long before research advised us about what might be appropriate musical stimulation in the early years parents were naturally sharing musical activities with their infants and toddlers. These activities provided ideal experiences for nurturing a healthy neural network which is so necessary to fostering musical comprehension, coordination, and expressive sensitivity.
During the past 100 years families have been redefined. Where once there were large families living in close proximity, now the nuclear family is smaller and more geographically dispersed. This shift in family community has strained the continuation of aural traditions. The playful songs and rhymes, once shared by generations of adults with children, are gradually being forgotten. Those songs and rhymes that demonstrated community affection and endorsement-and were orally transmitted from one generation to the next-are being replaced by commercially imposed “ear candy,” literature that provides a temporary rush but lacks long-term nutritional value.
Promoting musical development in infants and toddlers is necessary if the neural pathways are to develop for later musical sensitivities. If we expect audiences in the concert halls in 30 years, then we had better pay attention to the musical nurturing of our infants and toddlers. Songs and rhymes which were traditionally shared 80-plus years ago continue to be a most appropriate means of nurturing musicianship. Today’s infants and toddlers could greatly benefit from the natural play and the wonder-full music and rhyme literature that our grandparents intuitively shared with their children.
This is just a snippet of what he has to say on early childhood music education. Please go to his website to read more about his philosophy on music education and examples of this curriculum used in real classes. The research that went into developing this curriculum has led to lesson plans that not only increase musical ability but do so in developmentally appropriate ways, making this the perfect curriculum for a music therapist teaching music to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers of all abilities.
The following are all used with It’s Elementary: Sing, Dance, and Play, the homeschool music class for ages 6-11.
I love this curriculum for teaching music theory, vocal exploration, and instrument play to young students. Almost every song and musical activity has at least 2 videos; one for demonstrating how to teach the lesson and a fun one for students to interact with the music. Students really enjoy the “Concept Videos” that go with most lessons. The website has endless activities for reading, singing, and playing music both in Western notation and Kodaly, understanding and playing rhythms, active listening activities, and musical games that kids ask for over and over (Poison Rhythm). All activities include hands-on learning, active singing, or dancing. This is very important because elementary aged children still need physical movement and multicolored visuals to engage their brains for learning.
My only fault with Theme and Variations probably comes from the simple fact that she is Canadian and we live in Texas. We have different traditional music, different folk songs, and dances, and the music sometimes seems a little “young” (Kinder lessons seem more appropriate for PreK and this is true for most of the grades). My training and years working as a music therapist with children and seniors taught me plenty of folk songs that are appropriate and regional so I supplement with those.
Theme and Variations is the brain child of Denise Gagne, who is incredible at designing it the way teachers need. She actively takes feedback on her Facebook groups and looks for suggestions before making major changes. She listens to what teachers say works in their classrooms and what doesn’t.
2. Music K-8 by Plank Road
I can’t express enough how much I love the children’s choral music in Music K-8. Every issue has music that can be used with either beginners or advanced choral singers and most issues are themed so there’s less time planning recitals. I also like using their recordings for listening activities. Children love hearing other children sing and these recording feature some wonderful choirs.
3. Chimes of Dunkirk and manuals by New England Dancing Masters
This series of instruction manuals teaches the history of folk dances and has dance steps that are easy for children to follow. The series begins with Chimes of Dunkirk, a longways reel adapted from a French circle dance, that sets beginners up for more challenging reels like Alabama Gal. I’ve used this in my public school classroom, in the homeschool class, in Social Music with young adults with Autism, and with typical adults at a company party. It’s simple enough for everyone to learn and yet still fun. Everyone always wants to do it again at the next class!