Planning For Independence



Music is an excellent vehicle for self-development, self-expression, and social interaction. It can help students develop feelings of confidence and achievement and can be used to stimulate other areas of learning. Moreover, participating in musical experiences is fun. The primary goal of the music program is the same for all learners - to develop aesthetic potential through the processes of performing, creating, and responding to music.

Students should experience music through singing, listening, playing, creating, moving, dramatizing, and performing. It is by means of these activities that the basic elements of music (dynamics, form, melody, rhythm, texture, timbre, and tonality) are taught. Active participation and enjoyment are the key ingredients of music programming for all ages.

Because music is a social activity, it fosters growth in social skills. Such skills as responding to leadership, accepting responsibility, sharing, participating, and taking turns are easily incorporated into the music program.

Music plays an important role in school activities (e.g., "0 Canada" is sung during opening exercises, special assemblies, and school concerts; cheers are heard in the playground and during sports events) and thus provides many opportunities for all students to participate as members of the school community. In the early grades particularly, music can be used to teach basic concepts, improve co-ordination and psychornotor abilities, and increase speech and language skills. Older students will benefit from a program that actively teaches leisure activities related to music.

Teachers should ensure that music programs allow for active participation, are enjoyable, increase students' aesthetic response to music, allow for positive participation with peers, and build on students' existing strengths.

Providing music education in the regular class is a challenge that requires the co-ordinated efforts of regular and special class teachers along with music specialists. With this kind of team effort, music programs and approaches can be modified and expanded so that all students reach their full potential to appreciate and love music.

The Planning Cycle

Assessment and Development

In the first two phases of the planning cycle, educators need to:

  • plan music programs co-operatively with regular and special educators and music teachers;
  • plan music programs that are enjoyable and that allow for maximum participation with other students;
  • ensure that singing, chanting, and dance activities will be appropriate to the age of students;
  • plan activities that will motivate students and in which they will experience success;
  • take into account students' language and cognitive skills, social skills, motor abilities, and attention span when designing specific program goals;
  • consider students' hand dominance, fine-motor control, range of motion, and eye-hand co-ordination when planning activities involving musical instruments;
  • when planning movement or dance activities, consider students' physical abilities, body awareness, and coordination;
  • encourage parents to become involved (e.g., to discuss their own preferences in dance and music with their children, to help them choose tapes or records, and to take their chidren to musical events in the community);
  • where appropriate, plan opportunities for singing in which hand signing is taught to students and their non-handicapped peers.

Implementation and Evaluation

In the last two phases of the planning cycle, educators need to:

  • adapt instruments for students as required;
  • consult with music specialists as required;
  • expose students to a wide range of musical and dance styles (e.g., popular, classical, folk, jazz, electronic);
  • strive to maximize student participation in special music events in the school (e.g., Christmas concerts, special assemblies, choir groups);
  • use students' particular interests and strengths to increase their involvement in the music program;
  • emphasize popular music in order to heighten enthusiasm and motivation;
  • provide additional opportunities for those students who display a particular talent or ability in dance or singing;
  • help students develop leisure skills related to music (e.g., operating a tape or record player, selecting records or tapes, reading music magazines);
  • teach older students about music in their environment (e.g., where singers, dancers, groups, and ensembles perform and how to obtain entry to such events);
  • evaluate the music program continually, paying particular attention to students' responses;
  • when evaluating students' achievements, take into account the enjoyment that students experience as well as their growth in appreciation of musical activities.


Ontario. Ministry of Education. The Formative Years: Provincial Curriculum Policy for the Primary and junior Divisions of the Public and Separate Schools of Ontario. Toronto: Ministry of Education, Ontario, 1975.

_____. Music in Action. Curriculum Ideas for Teachers. Toronto: Ministry of Education, Ontario, 1978.

_____. Music Is Special, Children Are Special. Curriculum Ideas for Teachers. Toronto: Ministry of Education, Ontario, 1981.

_____. Music, Senior Division. Curriculum Ideas for Teachers. Toronto: Ministry of Education, Ontario, 1983.

Case Study - Elementary Level

Student Profile Six-year-old Claude is just learning to identify with his peers at school, His interactions with others have been limited, and he has had little exposure to non-disabled peers. His response to his name is inconsistent, and his teachers note that he avoids eye contact. In spite of his poor balance, he is able to stand for short periods. He is not yet able to walk. His eye-hand coordination skills are beginning to improve.

Learning Environment Claude is in a special education class in a regular school.

Expected Learning Outcomes Claude is expected to:

  • develop a pleasurable leisure activity from his participation in the music program;
  • become acquainted with his peers (a special effort will be made to encourage regular interaction with one or two students).

Student Program Claude is being provided with opportunities to:

  • improve his ability and desire to respond to sounds in his environment while he follows the activities of his peers;
  • respond to music through body movement and the use of musical instruments as he observes and imitates other children;
  • experience the rhythm of music as he sways to the beat and claps along with songs;
  • develop an appreciation of the dynamics of music by learning to identify loud and soft sounds;
  • improve his ability to manipulate objects as he experiments with musical instruments;
  • learn to respond consistently to his name when it is sung;
  • increase the length of time he can stand up by experimenting with table-top games and electronic instruments;
  • interact more often with his peers as they assist him in the music activities and routines (e.g., joining the circle, accepting a musical instrument when it is handed to him);
  • improve his ability and desire to take turns in small group activities;
  • develop body awareness through songs with actions that review body parts;
  • improve his balance as he learns to "move" to music;
  • develop a sense of the kind of music he prefers from exposure to a variety of musical styles;
  • increase his awareness of letters and numerals by listening to alphabet and number songs regularly.

Case Study - Secondary Level

Student Profile Diane, a fifteen-year-old with Down syndrome, is shy and reluctant to initiate conversations. She finds it difficult to articulate clearly and speaks in short sentences. She is learning to follow simple directions, has acquired basic word recognition skills, understands sound-symbol relationships, and is learning to read short passages. She is being encouraged to keep herself well groomed and to decrease inappropriate behaviours (e.g., rocking, murmuring to herself, covering her eyes).

Learning Environment Diane is in a special education class in a regular secondary school. She is integrated for music and physical education.

Expected Learning Outcomes Diane is expected to:

  • improve her singing, sense of rhythm, co-ordination, and movement skills;
  • increase her self-confidence as she participates in enjoyable activities;
  • choose musical activities during her leisure time.

Student Program Diane is being provided with opportunities to:

  • attend special music and dance events in the school with her friends;
  • improve her behaviour and personal grooming as a result of the influence of peers;
  • improve her speech by participating in songs and chants;
  • improve her co-ordination and self-confidence through dance and movement activities;
  • develop her independence by learning to get to her music class on time and with the necessary equipment;
  • use sounds in creative ways by playing instruments and participating in rhythm activities;
  • participate in dance and movement activities;
  • appreciate a variety of kinds of music;
  • improve her ability to follow directions by following the instructions of the music teacher and her peers;
  • increase her repertoire of musical leisure activities;
  • develop an interest in popular music as a result of increased exposure to her peers and their activities;
  • learn to operate a tape player and radio;
  • learn to identify a favourite radio station and to locate the station on the dial;
  • identify music that she prefers and learn the names of singers and performers;
  • learn to use the library to borrow records and tapes;
  • accompany her friends to a record store and purchase records or tapes;
  • become aware of special musical events in the community.

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