How do you learn best? Are you more of a visual person? Or do you prefer learning by doing? Or maybe you like hearing something new before trying it yourself? Everybody has their own unique style of learning.
But the most effective way to teach is to engage all the senses. For both dyslexic and non-dyslexic students alike, multi-sensory learning is the best method around.
As a music instructor, it’s tempting to teach the way you personally prefer to learn. But be careful. It’s far better to bend your teaching style to the way your students actually learn. To develop a true multi-sensory environment, just ask these three questions during each lesson:
1 – What can you HEAR?
Music is sound. So help your students develop fine-tuned listening skills. When learning any new song, get them to identify the beat. Can they pick out the rhythm, with eighth notes, quarter notes, etc?
Reinforce the auditory aspect of music to maximize understanding. Regularly listen to recordings. And make sure students practice songs on their instrument—dissecting the sounds into small, simple units. Well-developed ears are essential for any good musician.
2 – What can you SEE?
For many students—especially those with dyslexia—the visual part of music can be confusing. Traditional notation isn’t friendly, so you’ll have to be creative. But there are some effective ways to reinforce visual learning.
Try using color to simplify music notation. The uniform black-and-white symbols of traditional sheet music can wreak havoc on your student’s eyes. So use images as much as possible. A picture truly is worth a thousand words. (And a video is worth 10,000 words!)
Also, limit any writing as much as possible. Keep handouts clear and uncluttered, using nice, large fonts. Dyslexic students tend to prefer san-serif fonts that are left-aligned on the page. Also use lots of bulleted lists, bold headings, and plenty of white space.
3 – What can you DO?
Music is motion. So be sure to incorporate movement into your lessons, as well. Have your students tap their foot to the rhythm, or move their hands with the melody … or whatever.
And, of course, have them regularly play songs on their instrument to truly reinforce understanding—always emphasizing proper technique. By focusing on the motion of music, you can help each student master any song more quickly.
For the best results, be sure to incorporate multi-sensory learning into your music lessons. Your students will win when you broaden your palette of teaching styles. And it’s a lot of fun!
How do you reinforce multi-sensory learning?