Tommy never seems to stop fidgeting in his desk. One day he brings his Sony Walkman, and asks you if he can listen to it during his free time. At first you’re skeptical, but then you agree to a trial. For half an hour, while he’s plugged into his music, Tommy looks like any other child in your class, calm and relaxed.
Listening to music is an excellent mediator of children’s emotions and behavior. Mellow, easy-listening music can help excited and distractible children settle down and focus their attention. As well hard-core rock has a place in helping depressed, anxious, low self-esteem children surface their anger, and feel power and confidence in overcoming their problems.
Another musical outlet for children is teaching them how to play an instrument. Even learning how to blow notes on a recorder or hum a harmonica gives children a sense of control and mastery. I prefer letting children create their own style of music. For example, they can make their own instruments out of odds-and-ends like milk cartons, popsicle sticks, sandpaper, paper Mache, and cardboard. Children can do a number of things with their instruments: hold a jam session, put together a calypso band, stage a variety show.
Singing also helps children express their emotions and feel good inside. The more traditional form is everybody joining in, following the notes, and staying on key. This is a good way of helping hyperactive children pay attention, follow directions, and participate in a group. If you have children who need to come out of their shell, try setting up a karaoke stage where they can sing along with their favorite songs on the radio. In addition, a child who looks upset but doesn’t know why, or does know why but doesn’t want to say why, may be able to express himself better by writing his own music or lyrics. You can explore further ideas in P. Nordoff and C. Robbin’s book Music Therapy in Special Education, 1971.
A final idea for the performers in your class, although it’s a bit remote from music, is putting on a magic show. Performing magic tricks is an effective ego-booster, because it gives children centre stage, and the added bonus of knowing something nobody else knows.
I remember one Christmas the children I worked with put on a magic show for their parents. One child brought his black top hat, wand, and a suitcase full of tricks. He entertained everybody for nearly half an hour. Up until that time none of us knew he was a magician.
One example of a simple trick which can be learned in a few minutes is,
The Dangerous Egg Trick
You will need an apron, three raw eggs, one hard-boiled egg, one colorful handkerchief, one kitchen strainer, and a flat tray.
- Tell the audience that some magicians can read minds but you can read eggs.
- Say, “All these eggs look alike, but three of them are raw and one of them is hard-boiled. When these eggs are spinning, the hard-boiled egg will tell me where it is.”
- Select a volunteer from the audience to assist you. Tell the volunteer to spin each egg with equal force alone on the tray.
- Watch the eggs very closely. The hard-boiled egg will spin much faster and much longer. This is because the liquid inside the raw eggs causes friction inside the shell and slows the egg down.
- Pick up the kitchen strainer, hold it over the handkerchief, and say, “Now I will ask my assistant to break the egg that I point to over my mother’s best handkerchief. If I have selected the hard-boiled one, it will stay in the strainer. If I am wrong, my mother is going to be very mad.”
- If you goof and pick the wrong egg say to the audience, “Well, I told you that eggs talk to me. But I didn’t say that they tell the truth.”
If you’d like to explore some magic tricks with your students, look at Magic with Everyday Objects, by George Schindler, 1976.