Methods and Materials Used in Teaching Music Art and Physical ED in the Self-Contained Classroom Term Paper

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Teaching in the Self-Contained Classroom

Music, Art and Phys. Ed. In Self-contained classroom

In 1996, the United States Department of Education mandated laws that required school districts to create inclusive programs to integrate students with various disabilities into the general school population.

However, a study conducted by the National Council on disabilities in 2000 showed that most school districts have not transitioned into full mainstream classes. Instead, an estimated 20% of children with disabilities continue to spend their schooldays in self-contained classrooms, apart from the general school population (Wright and Wright).

Proponents of the self-contained classroom, however, believe that such settings can be advantageous, particularly for students with hearing impairments, mental retardation and those with physical or learning disabilities.

This paper examines how students in total or semi-self-contained classrooms can benefit from instruction in art, music and physical education. It looks at the challenges of teaching such classes and how educators have adapted techniques from existing programs and created their own class material.

In the conclusion, this paper makes recommendations on how educators can successfully design and implement music, art and physical education programs that address the unique developmental needs of their students.

School setting

Though the 1996 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandated the eventual mainstreaming of children with special needs, it nonetheless allows for the creation of "restrictive environments" that vary according to levels of intensity. The most restrictive environments are labeled as "Intensity 6," and involve complete residential placement entirely within the classroom. In many schools, Intensity 6 classrooms are thus located in separate wings or separate structures from the schools. Students in these classrooms can thus go from their bus directly to their classes without interacting with other students (MacDonald and Speece).

The staff members in these classes include certified, full-time teachers, social workers, crisis intervention specialists, instructor assistants as needed and access to a district-employed psychiatrist (MacDonald and Speece). This larger and more intensively trained staff provides a much-needed low teacher-to-student ratio to better address the students' needs.

Physical Education

This access to a team of specialists provides an invaluable resource for the special education teachers in a self-contained classroom. The IDEA law placed a great emphasis on physical education, mandating that this subject be part of all children's educational programs. Thus, students in self-contained classrooms must receive physical education activities, commensurate to their disabilities and as often as their other peers (Shapiro and Sayers).

Towards this, teachers in a self-contained classroom would do best to have access to various specialists who can address the myriad needs of the students. Physical therapists, for example, can help physically disabled students develop motor skills and balance control. Occupational therapists can assist students with activities to improve visual perception and movement. Therapeutic recreation specialists can assist in developing appropriate social play behavior (Shapiro and Sayers).

As an example, Shapiro and Sayers discuss the case of Rachel, a seven-year-old girl whose impaired motor skills cause low cardiovascular endurance, lower muscular strength and difficulty in manipulative control skills. During her physical education programs, Rachel was taught to use assistive devises such as weigh machines to help develop her posture. An occupational therapist used various blocks and toys of different textures to help Rachel develop a better ability to grasp, reach and release things (Shapiro and Sayers).

Furthermore, Rachel and her parents were taught various leisure activities such as modified gymnastics and bowling, which were helpful in developing social and interpersonal skills, as well as serving as physical therapy. The teachers also placed Rachel and her parents in touch with various community centers that provide further social activities.

All these activities could also be done by or in coordination with an adapted physical education teacher, who is also trained to work with children with special needs.

Music Education

Many occupational therapists use music to develop other basic skills, such as handwriting or other communication skills. For example, educators in a self-contained classroom for autistic kindergarten students used provided music for students who were unable to express themselves verbally (Boyer and Lee).

Activities during the music instruction ranged from singing songs, listening to CDs and, for more advanced students, playing musical instruments. When conducted under ideal conditions and with trained facilitators, such activities provided students with a vehicle for self-expression (Boyer and Lee). This vehicle is particularly significant for children with autism and those whose learning and emotional disabilities make verbal communication difficult.

Similarly, other therapeutic specialists incorporate dance therapy into the disabled students' therapy, a combination of both physical education and music. This helps provide the children with more individually structured programs that are geared to their specific needs. A combination of music and physical education training, for example, may prove beneficial for many children with regressed motor as well as communicative skills (Shapiro and Sayers).

Art Education

The visual arts provide a powerful way to further engage students in purposeful activity, particularly for students who are being groomed for mainstreaming into the general school population. Many schools and organizations have found tremendous success with relatively inexpensive programs such as painting.

The Harlem Horizon Art Studio in New York, for example, has created an art therapy program that could be easily adapted into most schools. The program starts simply by providing children with watercolors and paper, giving them the freedom to paint what they want for an indefinite duration. The only instructions are for the students to use their imagination (Wexler).

This study found that students would often have difficulty with the lack of instruction. However, given time, they will then learn how to work in an "inner-directed way" (Wexler). In the beginning, most students will paint imitate cartoon techniques but they will eventually turn out more personal images. Those who are ready can then be moved to painting on canvas.

There are numerous benefits to this simple program. First, many physically disabled students such as those suffering from cerebral palsy develop finer motor skills as they wield the paintbrush. Second, the lack of stringent instruction would be refreshing break from the stringently structured world of many disabled children (Wexler). Art therapy thus allows disabled children a freedom that is not always found in other regulated classes, such as physical education. In this case, the children are not told what or how to paint, and must then learn to develop their own solutions.

Furthermore, the instructors at the Harlem Horizon Art Studio found an additional benefit. The longer students stay in the program and develop their motor and cognitive skills, there is also a marked difference that appears in their paintings. Many children begin painting "hopeful imagery," which the instructors believe indicates important emotional and intellectual growth. The success of this program is evident in former students like Moses, who went on to be an artist and a psychologist after graduating from this program (Wexler).

The adaptation of such a program would necessarily vary according to the resources of the school district. The more affluent ones would be able to afford more expensive art mediums, such as pottery and clay. Others may have to make do with crayons and paper.

Regardless of the medium used, however, much of the Harlem Horizon Art Studio's techniques could be used to achieve the same success. The students could be given the coloring material and paper and simply be instructed to draw. For many students, art education would thus provide a much-needed opportunity to learn about making decisions on their own.

Further needs

Numerous studies have already highlighted the importance of physical education, art and music therapy in self-contained classrooms, particularly for children with severe emotional and physical disabilities. The success of these programs, however, remains dependent on other factors as well.

Because the teacher in a self-contained classroom necessarily teaches a variety of subjects, he or she must have access to a team…[continue]

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"Methods And Materials Used In Teaching Music Art And Physical ED In The Self-Contained Classroom" (2003, September 21) Retrieved December 7, 2016, from

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