How many students in total at your school? 153
How many students participate in music? 116
Is the music program run by a musically-trained teacher? No. It is run by a Registered Music Therapist (who is musically trained).
How long has the music program been running? 12 years
Is your school urban, regional, rural, remote? Urban, within Melbourne’s Northern region.
Croxton Special School, a multi-campus specialist school for students with an intellectual disability, has a main campus with 90 students, aged 5-18, and 60 students enrolled in off-campus programs at mainstream primary and secondary schools.
The school employs a music therapist (0.6EFT) who runs groups on a weekly basis for all on campus (excluding PALS) and primary mainstream classes. The DRUMBEAT (Discovering Relationships Using Music, Beliefs, Emotions and Thoughts) program is delivered to the four off-campus secondary programs (one term per annum). There are two lunchtime groups: the school choir (open to all on-campus students) and a drumming group (open to all on-campus students who have attended DRUMBEAT).
The music therapist assesses individual needs of each student and tailors group sessions accordingly. The outcomes, whilst educationally focussed, are not limited to music tuition but are based on increased self-esteem, enjoyment levels, and positive socialization goals reached whilst participating in a group music experience.
The music therapy program provides a structured space where students can creatively express and connect with peers, learning positive behaviour patterns through the medium of music. Music therapy groups are designed to meet cognitive, communicative, social/emotional and physical needs of students, and educate how music and music experiences can be used in everyday living.
The primary years’ key focus areas include:
- development of pre-academic skills (active listening and turn-taking)
- appropriate group socialization
- addressing peers and teachers appropriately
- songs for greetings and farewells
- taking turns to play large percussion instruments
- ‘instrument conversations’ between two students (large percussion instruments played in turns, each student using eye contact to indicate when it is the other person’s turn)
- multi-disciplinary techniques focussing on core strength and balance (during action and dancing activities) and requesting various instruments (through reading sentence strips).
As students progress through their schooling other group music making activities are included:
- playing instruments in various styles and dynamics
- dancing to music
- singing/playing instruments in front others
- demonstrating being a respectful audience member.
During the senior years, students solidify their music experiences through:
- singing into the microphone
- strumming and learning open chords on the guitar (using coloured stickers to identify chord shapes and create visual cues for students)
- learning notes on the keyboard
- playing drums and other percussion
- using music technology (eg Audacity)
- navigating the internet for online music resources, purchasing songs and downloading lyrics and chord charts
- participating in the DRUMBEAT program
Unique to the senior groups is the song writing project which further highlights skills gained throughout the year. Each group creates an original song on a topic relevant to their current collective lived experience. Students choose their favourite instrument to play/sing in the song recording and then perform in front of parents, teachers and peers at school assembly.
The music therapy program at Croxton is structured to achieve outcomes of increased feelings of self-worth and self-esteem. Students are expected to demonstrate positive, pro-social behaviour towards each other. The program is delivered with a strengths-based approach, drawing on students’ capabilities rather than their disability, indicative of the school’s attitude and reflective of the local Darebin community.
A variety of short, repetitive activities are used which are cued through visual schedules. Providing visual cues is essential for Croxton students who often lack the ability to maintain attention to task, at times struggling to grasp concepts delivered to them during the session. With visual scheduling and weekly repetition students begin to grasp routine concepts and develop better understanding of tasks requested of them.
The music program’s success is measured through children’s development of skills integrated within regular classroom time. As students progress through their primary years, success is noted through increased confidence in students (eg: presenting themselves to others within the school community through regular assembly performances and the annual school presentation night). The school’s culture for lunchtime music activities has begun a positive shift in student/teacher involvement with teachers joining the group for their own enjoyment, providing great modelling for our students.
The attendance of classroom teachers, during music sessions, creates a positive effect on student learning. Students notice their own teacher developing skills which adds to students feelings of success. As each year evolves and more students and staff have developed a positive affinity with the music program and this is reflected in school council and school community’s interest in supporting the program. Many of Croxton’s students are marginalised or under-represented though disability and low socio-economic circumstance. It is important to make continued efforts to engage students in meaningful interaction, maintaining flexibility and reflection on current practices. The students at Croxton thrive on structure and boundaries and the music room endeavours to provide flexibility within this model continuing to develop creativity within a structured environment.
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