How color can help dyslexic students

music and dyslexiaColor is pretty cool, right? It adds visual “flavor” to the world. And it keeps our everyday life from being bland. But color has some practical use in the classroom, too … because it can help students understand and retain important information.

You might say color is like a silent megaphone that emphasizes key points. Or it’s like an unspoken language that quickly communicates special meaning.

the secret power of colorHowever you might describe it, color can be your secret weapon when teaching music. So here are some different ways you can utilize the power of color in the classroom—especially when you have a dyslexic student:

1 – To relieve visual stress

Many dyslexic students experience “visual stress”—because of the way their eyes scan the page, and how their brains process information. So even a few lines of music notation can be difficult to read.

When they read a page of sheet music, some students might see swirling lines or blurred notation. Or sometimes, they might perceive the spaces between the notes as white “streams” that distract from the music.

So to relieve this visual stress, consider covering the music with a colored overlay … that is, a thin piece of plastic dyed a certain color. This reduces the white glare of the paper and can really help some dyslexic students. In fact, your student may already know which color tint will do the trick for them.

2 – To clarify song structure

For other dyslexic students, you might keep a box of highlighters handy. Some teachers use colored markers to highlight a particular part of a song, or to even draw lines to connect the end of one row of measures with the next.

Teachers also sometimes color-code repeated bars for easier recognition. Or they might highlight different dynamic signs in sheet music … or designate each verse with one color, every chorus with another color, and so on.

3 – To help read pitch

The last—and honestly most powerful—way to use color is to help in reading pitch. By color-coding each note, some music teachers are able to help their students navigate and master any new song.

For many students, reading pitch in music notation is a nightmare—because all the little note heads look identical. So by using color, you can show students exactly which notes to play.

There are several color methods in use today, but the ColorMusic system alone offers all of the following benefits:

  • Distinguishes all 12 notes in the chromatic scale
  • Reveals the true relationships between all keys in the circle of fifths
  • Shows at a glance the structure of any song (repeated measures, song sections, etc.)
  • Makes it easy to see the connection between notes on the page and finger positions on any instrument
    • Explains music theory for masterful improvisation

Depending on your student’s needs, you can use color in different ways to help them learn. Try these different approaches to find out what works best.

How have you used color in your music lessons? Does it help?!

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