It’s been way too long since I’ve sat down to write something here. The past few weeks have been a complete whirlwind. Brad and I moved into the condo that we purchased together, and almost everything is finally out of boxes. We’re adjusting to and loving our new home.
On the other side of that newness token, I began teaching at my new school! I teach 5th grade composition and 6th grade guitar, and everything has been going so well. Of course I have days when I think to myself “that could have gone so much better,” but I keep telling myself that I’m still new and that I will get better over time, learning how to improve my lessons.
One of the struggles I am having is with differentiation in the classroom. We train hard in college to differentiate instruction, but when we go out into the world, it’s a whole new ball game. Currently, I have three students with special needs in my 6th grade classroom, and I will not go into detail on their special cases or their names. I struggle with getting them to listen to directions I give, and when they play the guitars (just strumming), they play so hard that I’m afraid of them breaking strings and hurting themselves.
I spoke with one of their aides in my room who told me that the kids do not have enough activities, so there’s too much idle time, and she said they needed music to listen to while they did various activities. Unfortunately, music websites are blocked on the Chromebooks that the students come to class with. They cannot access YouTube, Pandora, or Spotify.
Needless to say, I did what any teacher would do and went home to work on things my special needs students could do. I ended up adapting some of the pages in the guitar book so that the aides could try to explain it to them to the point where they could perform. All three of those students are now able to play each individual string and tell you what note it plays. I was even offered autoharps to use with these students! They have not been tuned in years, so that is my next project!
Sometimes, I fail to realize that these students just want to be a part of what you are doing with everyone else. Being specials teachers, it is not always easy to accommodate, especially considering how daunting guitar performance can seem, but being specials teachers, we can either make it the best class of the day for these students or make it the class they dread attending. I hope to continue to make it the class they love.
If you have any recommendations for differentiation for special needs students in your guitar classroom, please send them my way! I am always learning and looking for more I can do!