Though there are many ways to classify different learning styles, educators tend to agree that students do not all learn the same. One popular method of defining different ways of learning is Howard Gardner’s concept of seven intelligences. Though this had been adapted in many ways and occasionally given different names, Gardner’s seven core styles can give you a solid base from which to analyze your students and adapt a musical curriculum to best suit their needs. Other individualized learning philosophy include those from Geneva Gay, Maria Montessori, John Dewey,and Robert J. Sternberg.
Implementing creative teaching styles will help you connect effectively with a vast student base. Get to know each individual’s preferred method of absorbing information, and you can deliver lessons in the most effective way possible.
Image via Flickr by Brandon Giesbrecht
Visual-spatial learners like to learn through illustrations and imagery. Find ways to visualize the music that you’re working on. Color-coding note patterns or using flashcards to quiz students on instruments, composers, or other topics is an effective strategy for these students. Visual learners typically fall into one of two categories: picture learners and print learners. A print learner will benefit from written information about a topic, while a picture learner will want to see it illustrated.
These students learn best when they can see the music come to life. Focus on visualizing the pentascale before playing it, and diagram the proper hand placement on an instrument.
The bodily-kinesthetic learning style is often referred to simply as physical learning. These students prefer to use their body to help them explore concepts and absorb information. Kinesthetic learners want to get up and move, and music class is an excellent place for them to do that. Let them stomp, snap, or clap the rhythm. Encourage participation in instruments where they can move, such as percussion. These learners will do well in a marching band or dancing show choir.
Incorporate dance and movement anywhere that you can for the bodily-kinesthetic learner. The more these students interact bodily with the music, the better they’ll internalize the lesson, whether they’re bouncing their hands off bongo drums or stroking them across the strings of a harp. Let them feel the music, and they’ll learn best.
The musical learning style is also referred to alternatively as an auditory or aural learning approach. Students who naturally learn through music will be star students in music class. They prefer using sounds and tunes to absorb and memorize information. These learners have a keen ear. Encourage them to hone this skill as they listen to different types of music, pulling out the different instruments that they can discern in an ensemble or identifying the subtle elements that distinguish one composer’s pieces from another.
Musical learners love to interact with the music. They won’t thrill to pen and paper tasks like learning to read notes as much as they’ll enjoy singing, playing, and actively making some noise.
Interpersonal, or social, learning relies heavily on group interaction and activities. In the music classroom, these students will do best in an ensemble. They’ll thrive in a choral, band, or orchestral environment where they’re working with others toward the same goal. Put them in small groups for activities that don’t involve the entire class at once. Even working with a partner will prove more effective for an interpersonal learner than trying to absorb musical information alone.
Encourage your interpersonal learners to explore how music impacts other people. If you’re studying a particular composer, have them quiz other students on how the music makes them feel or what imagery they associate with it. Emphasize how music is a uniting medium that can cross barriers and join people together.
Intrapersonal, or solitary, learners prefer to work alone. These students will improve the most not from group practice but from the opportunity to use a private practice room to puzzle out notes and hone their technique alone. Though the music classroom is often skewed more toward interpersonal learners, you can find opportunities to let these more solitary learners work alone. They’ll make outstanding soloists if given the time and space to work on their craft.
Linguistic, or verbal, learners do best with words. They like to read and write. A choral piece with words will make more sense to them than an instrumental ensemble. When you’re learning about topics such as composers or musical styles, these students will want to read a passage about the topic rather than simply closing their eyes to listen to the music.
Indulge linguistic learners by incorporating books, flashcards, and written content as much as possible in your music class. Exploring terms like legato, arpeggio, and crescendo may be both fascinating and satisfying to these students who love having a piece of vocabulary to assign to important topics.
A logical-mathematical learner likes ordered reasoning systems. This student may not improvise well with a piece of music, but they will appreciate the neat and predictable sequencing of the notes and movements. Sheet music offers an organized way to understand a piece of a music. When you’re listening to a piece by a particular composer, give your logical-mathematical students a copy of the score. They’ll quickly take to sheet music, enjoying its systematic approach.
Your logical-mathematical students will want to puzzle out the details of a piece of music. They’ll approach their practice systematically, experimenting with different approaches one at a time until they hit the perfect volume, note, or timber. Give them time and space to learn this way, and they’ll do excellent with music class.
If you’re excited about the idea of honing your teaching style to cater to the unique needs of different students, consider furthering your musical education with an online Master of Music in music education from Kent State University. This program will explore the many avenues to teaching your students in accordance with their unique needs, preferences, and learning styles.
With curriculum for general music teachers, choral music teachers, and instrumental music teachers, this program is easily customized to meet your needs. Brush up on your teaching skills so you can provide the highly personalized learning experience that your diverse student base needs.
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