His general education classmates were learning to play the recorder, which requires moving air through the instrument while simultaneously reading music and quickly moving their fingers along the notes. Because of his disability, Austin doesn’t have the fine motor skills to play the recorder.
Austin wasn’t alone There were several other students whose motor skills or cognitive abilities got in the way of learning the recorder. There were also a couple of general education students who couldn’t play the recorder because they don’t have the lung capacity due to asthma.
Austin and his classmates who had to sit out were unhappy about missing music. And so were Mrs. Phelps and music teacher Judy Lamb. The teachers applied for an Education Foundation grant to buy musical instruments that Austin and his friends could play.
“Our goal was to include all students in learning music,” Mrs. Phelps said. “Musical instruments enhance motor skills and also aid in reading and math. Students learn to read music and understand what quarter, half and whole notes are and how they work together. They’ll have a better chance understanding math lessons as they get older.”
The grant was used to purchase bongo drums, eight-bell handsets, xylophones, tambourines, wrist bells, handbell cards and keyboards. “Students who were unsuccessful with the recorder were given the chance to try the different instruments,” Ms. Lamb said. “Once we identified an appropriate instrument the student was instructed using it. Most of the new instruments are percussion instruments so children can learn about rhythm and how to keep time.”
The results are exciting according to Mrs. Phelps and Ms. Lamb. Special Education students, who come to Northwood from all over the school corporation, are included in lessons with their general education classmates. They learn the importance of working together to play the different instruments and create a song. They learn to wait patiently to play their favorite instrument in music class.
For Austin, there was another lesson. Before the music class, he had trouble following instructions. The discipline in following along in music, helped him focus and he can follow instructions.
After the success of including Special Education students in the music lessons, Mrs. Lamb started using the percussion instructions with K-2 classes to give them a head start on music, so the original intent of the grant has expanded.