Showing category "lesson experiences" (Show all posts)

Not all lessons are pretty

Posted by Susan Bessette on Thursday, October 20, 2016, In : lesson experiences 
Willie arrived tired, after a bad night's sleep, and cranky, and uncooperative. Since it is autumn we walked around the yard noting the leaves still on the trees were green, but the ones on the ground were brown.  I explained some of my trees had leaves which turned red; THEN they would fall.  My goal is to know what Willy THINKS about.  The tactic is to get him to wonder.

First, I offered him things to think about.  Trees, leaves, colors, noting that they fall, wondering why they fall.  In th...
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When is a lesson a success or failure?

Posted by Susan Bessette on Tuesday, June 2, 2015, In : lesson experiences 
I left the lesson with Wild Willie feeling like a failure.  He will still not do as directed.  He mostly sits and looks at me and will not do anything unless physically manipulated.  He may or may not play the piano.  Willie does not seem to enjoy the songs or any part of music making.  Is he getting anything out of these lessons?  Why does his mother keep paying me?

Then while driving home I enumerated all the successes.  Willie connected with me casually, bringing me the chair, pen, pencils,...
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What are lines? What are spaces?

Posted by Susan Bessette on Wednesday, May 20, 2015, In : lesson experiences 
Donnie with Down Syndrome has been taking lessons for a while, and it is time to teach him to read music on the lines and spaces.  First step:  how do you teach one to read music who does not know what a line is much less a space?  And a line is a THING.  But a space is a NOTHING!
How clever of me to notice there were lines on his shirt.  "Look, these are lines."  "No" Donnie corrected, "this is my work shirt."
So I drew lines on paper.  "This is a line....this is a line....(etc).  How many...
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Talking with Willie

Posted by Susan Bessette on Tuesday, May 12, 2015, In : lesson experiences 
I began working with Willie about 6 months ago.  He has a full time "nannie" or "para" to keep him under control and help him along.  Without Para, the lessons would be impossible.
It is time to get him to talk.  What words does he know?  WILL he talk?  CAN he talk?

The first goal was to connect with him.  So I casually asked, "Willie, will you bring over the chair?"  And he did.
Next I held up items and said their names:  pencil, pen, ball, book.  He would usually repeat the word.
The key word i...
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Music for hand development

Posted by Susan Bessette on Saturday, October 15, 2011, In : lesson experiences 
I have begun the project of writing music for 2 or 3 fingers. 
This week I finally wrote out
The Woodpecker and Happy Frog, Sad Frog. 

The Woodpecker uses just 2 notes, C & D.  For the non-readers I just write the note names under the first 2 notes for them to know which is which.  The student chooses any 2 fingers that work and plays the song.  Then any other 2 fingers that work, etc., until all controllable fingers in both hands are exercised.

The students with CP have the most limitations, ...
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Cerebral Palsy and Hand Coordination

Posted by Susan Bessette on Saturday, October 8, 2011, In : lesson experiences 
Each of my lessons begins with hand and finger exercises.
We move the fingers one at a time.  We move the hand as a unit, and then large arm motions.  (Mamma bird feeding the babies, or butterflies in the flowers...)
3 weeks ago Lady K (9 years old with CP) could not coordinate 2 fingers.  Her frustration and defeat brought her to the edge of tears.  Privately I wondered how to teach Lady K anything at all on the piano.  But the next week she returned with control of 3 fingers, and this week sh...
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We measure success in smiles!

Posted by Susan Bessette on Wednesday, August 3, 2011, In : lesson experiences 
This summer's project is to test my online program on new students who face physical and learning challenges.  The local newspaper assigned me a coordinator, Linda Davis, who runs the Special Olympics program at the YMCA.  She arranged for 6 or 7 students to take piano lessons for the summer.  I come with my computer, each students comes with an aide, and we test-drive the computer lessons.
Some aides were parents who had the time and energy to work with the child.  Other aides were siblings, ...
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Whirling-Dervish Autism

Posted by Susan Bessette on Thursday, July 21, 2011, In : lesson experiences 
Today I had so much success it's hard to choose a particular student.

Let's talk about Barry, my whirling-dervish autistic 9 year old boy.  He arrived a bit sleepy so I had a chance to talk to Dad about diet.  Dad doesn't subscribe to the gluten and lacto effect, but I was adamant about "NO SUGAR".  The last thing a little body in hyper mode needs is sugar or any food coloring of ANY sort.

For those of you who don't agree to restrict the gluten and lacto, I ask you to reconsider.  Gluten is ass...
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Program Development

Posted by Susan Bessette on Thursday, May 19, 2011, In : lesson experiences 
My research for methods that are effective in teaching music skills to students with autism and other special needs yielded little or no results.  It seems nobody knows how to teach these children.  Thus my website mission:  to discover and develop methods that work with ASD, etc.

So far I have created 8 lessons introducing pre-reading skills.  It is now time to write the curriculum explaining the code of dots on lines and spaces. In other words, how to read music. But what makes sense to auti...
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The Unproductive Lesson

Posted by Susan Bessette on Wednesday, May 11, 2011, In : lesson experiences 
Most lessons with Ami (non-verbal asd) end on an emotional high.  She was engaged, did the exercises, seemed happy, and makes the same progress as my neuro-typical students.

Not this week.  Ami was distracted, uncooperative, and at one point yelled out, "broccoli and celery!"  Her grandmother was clueless, as Ami had a very productive pre-lesson practice session and has never displayed such behavior during piano lessons.

I asked her to play something.  No response.  I placed her hands..... read...

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About Me

Susan Bessette I am married with 3 sons and 4 grand children. I have been a teacher all my life, gravitating to the atypical student, teaching for 10 years in the L.A. juvenile prison system. Now retired, I opened Bessette Piano Studio and am developing a method for teaching music to Autism Spectrum Disorders students.






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Brain chemical tied to music enjoyment

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