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SOUNDING OUT – THE TOOLKIT FOR MUSIC PRACTITIONERS WORKING WITH DEAF STUDENTS

We’re really proud to share with you the Sounding Out Toolkit – a FREE resource for music practitioners and teachers working with deaf children written by our teacher Tiziana Pozzo and Katie Mason.
It has been designed following a 3 years Creative Futures project called ‘Sounding Out’.

Creative Futures has now completed its three year Youth Music ‘Fund B’ project with primary and secondary deaf children, called ‘Sounding Out’. 3 schools (2 specialist secondaries and one mainstream primary with a deaf unit) were involved in the project, receiving in total more than 200 workshops. 16 music leaders were involved in delivery and our partners included Music and the Deaf, local Music Education Hubs, and researchers from UCL.​

“Our data suggest that the Sounding Out programme has been a success musically, with clear evidence of virtually all pupils achieving more advanced musical behaviours as their academic year progressed. This is very commendable and provides a solid evidential foundation from which to argue that all deaf pupils should have access to appropriate music education provision, whether in Primary or Secondary schools to support learning in and through music.”

Professor Graham Welch & Dr Jo Saunders, UCL Institute of Education, 2018

At the end of ‘Sounding Out’ our music delivery team met to reflect and share ideas on the overall success of the project. The collective decision was made to document our findings and share our research through a toolkit which is freely available to teachers and music practitioners looking to work with deaf students. One of the key elements for us was that the toolkit illustrates what we noticed as being the main differences between making music with deaf children, compared to hearing children.

We highlighted specific moments that occurred during the sessions which changed our perspectives as practitioners and which became the foundations on which we built the activities employed during the course of the project. For example, we observed that the children were very visual based learners and so we created musical games based on clear visual cues that all the children could follow (see previous related article in this blog).

The toolkit consists of two sections, a theoretical guide and a practical section with activities accompanied by videos. The theoretical guide is intended to help teachers in areas such as communication, working environment and examples of potential difficulties that can arise during sessions.

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It also highlights two key areas of learning (inclusion and the relationship between music and movement) that underpin the activities. The practical section includes step-by-step guides to creating activities such as warm-ups, musical games aimed at improving musical skills, and main activities.

The video examples support the practical elements and provide visual based learning information.

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The process of writing this toolkit has been a fantastic opportunity for us to go deeper into our way of teaching and has allowed us to shape and improve our methodology and approach. To have a framework that better informs our learning and decision-making will give us a platform to provide better musical education opportunities for deaf children in the future, and we hope will encourage other music practitioners and school teachers to embed more music in their teaching of deaf children.

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Example of warm-up activity

The toolkit has been written by Tiziana Pozzo (leader of the weekly sessions) and Dr Kathryn Mason (UCL), thus giving the Toolkit input from two different perspectives: leader and researcher. Both were present at the sessions, allowing them to observe the children from different perspectives as well as monitoring their changes and development over the course of the project. This led to a continuous discussion about the musical approach and gave the delivery team greater flexibility when trying out different methodologies. This regular insight helped provide the foundations on which this toolkit is based.

The Toolkit can be found on the Creative Futures website here:

https://www.creativefuturesuk.com/resources

My three words for music therapy

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Flexibility is a good word to describe music therapy.
Improvisation is another good word.
Unpredictability another one.

Today I run a session with H., my 3 years old autistic patient. 
Today he needed the mum inside the room. 

This was not in my plans but I knew it could happen due to his young age. So she joined the session, coming into the room followed by her second little boy, younger than H., that was playing in the waiting room with her.

H., mum and brother, all of us making music together.

I had to change all my plans for this session. We discovered new musical games that H. seemed to like and we followed his needs.

It wasn’t the easiest session ever but we were there for him, all of us, and he gave us some big smiles and eye contacts. The mum is a pretty special mum and the baby brother as well. This helped me a lot.

The music therapy setting needs to be a safe place for the patients, especially in cases like this one, with really young children.
So it doesn’t matter if this kind of session goes out of the schemes, if I haven’t read about it in my books.
I felt that including the rest of the family was the right things to do, today.
I’m sure that little by little he will be able to stay alone with me again, as he did before.

I learnt something new today and I will keep remembering those three words in my future practice:

Flexibility – Improvisation – Unpredictability

Improvisation with a 14 years old student

When I arrived in the UK I had to change completely my way of teaching piano.
My students basically don’t practice piano in between the classes, especially teenagers. I don’t assign them “homework” because they barely have the time to relax: English school keeps them really really busy. But they love music, they love to express themselves through it and eventually they learn how to play by composing their own pieces or improvising, even when they are really young – not repeating the same pieces for months.
I enjoy teaching piano a lot more now and while I help them to discover their creativity I also rediscover mine (which has been forgotten for so looooong after 17years of Conservatoire in Italy).

Here, me and my 14 years old student, improvising on a Christopher Norton piece.
Thank you, music.