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Here's a bit more about writing or adapting songs to help teach special needs kids what they need to know. This can include transitions, sound articulation, motor skills, body parts, and eye contact.
Most of the songs on the radio have a formula. Many songs are comprised alternating verses and choruses. All the verses of a song are quite similar to each other but are different from the chorus. The chorus is usually the same each time it is heard. The bridge section usually comes near the end of the songs and is a notably different but returns to the chorus and everybody says, “Ahh, back to our familiar reference section.” A song on the radio often follows a pattern similar to verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus.
Back to children songs, there are two main types: one has three repetitious lines (either lyrically and/or melodically) and a final contrasting phrase that is the same from verse to verse. The other has two repetitious lines, a consistent third phrase and a return to the first or repetitious line. The contrasting line in both these cases can consist of a general phrase that describes the purpose of the song, or a commonality within all the verses.
Examples of a same-same-same-different song include: Mary had a little lamb, This little light of mine, Kumbaya, The Wheels on the Bus, and London Bridge.
Examples of a same-same-different-same song include: The farmer in the dell, Old Mac Donald, Oh My Darling Clementine, and Oh Susanna.
How does this matter to you as an occupational therapist? It's simply a frame work in which to insert your lesson material or objectives. You may never have contemplated the musical structure of Kumbaya, but that melody can help your special needs kids do anything from wash behind their ears to learn math. There is a reason that song has lasted the test of time. I suspect these song formulas sit well with the human psyche with our need to push into what is new, but come home to what's familiar. Particularly the different phrases and new contrasting bridges as well as the consistent, familiar choruses that we all are happy to return to or join in.
If you are feeling confident in this, I want to point out that you want to be aware of the syllabic inflection of what you are singing and make sure your syllables have correct emphasis.
For older kids who learn through song, you can use melodies from verses and choruses of more current songs. Try to notice which tunes have you tapping your foot and have a repetitious quality to them either through the words (“She loves you yeah, yeah, yeah. She loves you yeah, yeah, yeah. She loves you yeah, yeah, yeah. She loves you) and/or the melody. Try to notice the patterns of repetition and newness. By the way, “I'm Yours,” by Jason Mraz is a great song to teach to the special needs kids and insert new lyrics.
Now go and sing!
About the Author: Margie La Bella has worked as a music therapist serving young children with special needs for more than 25 years. Her website, http://www.MusicTherapyTunes.com is full of useful information (music, videos, blogs, lessons plans) for parents, therapists, and teachers and just about everyone else.
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