In the Key of ADHD
I don't know about you, but I expend a lot of energy trying to get Natalie, my daughter with ADHD, to focus on her homework. As a second grader, Natalie's homework is limited, thank goodness, to practicing spelling words for a weekly spelling test, and reading aloud (Natalie reading to me, and me reading to Natalie) nightly. I gravitate to the reading part. Don does better than I do with the spelling. He makes it fun.
Don doesn't realize it; it's instinctive for him (he's such a great dad!)--but by making homework fun, he's providing some pretty specialized instruction. He's appealing to a variety of learning styles --auditory and kinesthetic, in this case.
As soon as spring sprung in Iowa, Don began taking Natalie outside to practice spelling. He pushed her on the swing as they worked. Sometimes they sang; they at least recited the words' spelling in a rhythmic manner. The movement and music seemed to do more than just avoid the ADHD "Sit still!" homework battle . They appeared to actually facilitate her learning.
Music and rhythmic activity have appealed to Natalie from the time she joined our family, and probably before. I deduced that music accompanied daily routines in Natalie's orphanage days, because at first, Nat would sing a repetitive two-note song every time I tried to sit her on the potty: "Yah, yah. Yah, yah. Yah, yah." She loved singing during group time in preschool. And later, she learned, with the help of Mrs. Tesdahl, a teacher's aid who is a certified music teacher, to spell her name by singing the letters: "N-A-T-A-L-I-E. That is how you spell Natalie."
Here's an interesting dilemma, though. Nat and Don came home from the park one night. "She's got 'em down!" Don said, and started quizzing Nat on her spelling words to show off what she'd learned.
She couldn't remember them. I bet they would have come right back to her if she was swinging. Do you think I could add: "All testing will be done while Natalie swings" or "Natalie will be allowed to sing answers to tests" to Natalie's IEP ? I doubt it.
But I will try to stress that Natalie benefits from a multi-sensory approach to learning whenever possible. By the way, reader Anders Ronnau commented on my post, " Learning New Words ," recommending the book Rediscover the Joy of Learning , by Don Blackerby, as a resource to find out more about auditory learning.
And, I believe strongly in the power of music as an early literacy tool. When I worked at Ames Public Library, I was "instrumental" (bad pun--couldn't resist!) in adding sets of rhythm instruments to our public library's collections. Ames Public Library now offers sets of three instruments--each makes a different sound and is operated via a different small motor movement--in convenient zippered bags, for check out. They carry sets for ages six months and up, and for ages three years and up. They also offer sets containing enough of one instrument for groups of 10; 10 pairs of rhythm sticks, 10 rainmakers, and so on, for use by teachers, daycare providers, and other groups. Why not see if you can sell this concept to your public library?
For more information about music and early literacy, visit Saroj Ghoting's website, earlylit.net . I also recommend Kindermusic classes ( kindermusik.com ) for young children. And, a great source for purchasing durable instruments for home (or school, or library) use is westmusic.com .