New class introduces Lakota students with special needs to music

The world of music is being opened to special needs students at a Lakota school through a choir director’s collaboration with their teacher.

Thanks to a fellow teacher, Jennifer Akers at Hopewell Junior School saw an opportunity and took on the extra work to set up instrumental music lessons for the students and the reactions have been overwhelmingly positive, according to Lakota officials.

Anne Broshear, a Hopewell special education teacher, recently approached Ankers about including a few of her students with disabilities in a music class.

Akers had an open class period due to scheduling changes in the new semester and the two instructors worked together in creating an adaptive music class for students.

“I thought the kids would get more out of an adaptive class than coming to a (traditional) chorus class,” said Akers.

Now, between 10-15 students from both multiple disabilities and social communication classrooms happily head to music class for 30 minutes every school day.

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“It’s amazing to see how much the kids really enjoy a class where they can participate through singing, rhythm and instruments,” said Broshear.

For the new adaptive music class, Akers taps into her training in the Kodály method of music education created by Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály, who developed a method of teaching aligned to child development, said Lakota officials.

The learning process introduces students to the easiest musical concepts first and then progresses to more advanced concepts. Akers has seen firsthand how successful this method can be when teaching rhythm and pitch to students.

To help the students focus on music class before they even enter the room, each student knocks on the door and Akers answers while singing: “Who’s that knocking at my door?”

Each student then says their name while tapping the syllables on a drum.

“I’m trying to teach them that words have rhythm,” said Akers. And, if their smiles are anything to go by, the students love it.

“I love their enthusiasm,” said Akers. “They are so happy to walk in my room.”

Once in class, the students sing songs and play instruments, with Akers incorporating learning games along the way.

They may use classroom instruments or body percussion, such as clapping and patting their legs, as well as singing.

“I’ve been amazed at how much they’ve been able to do,” she said.

Hopewell Principal Jeff Rouff praised the new approach for special needs children.

“This has been a tremendous experience for both our students and our adults working with our kids,” said Rouff.

“The power of music knows no boundaries, and the smiles on our students’ faces tell the entire story. We are so appreciative of all the hard work that has gone into creating this unique experience.”

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