Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Return of the Online Conference for Music Therapy

It's back! The Online Conference for Music Therapy (OCMT) is heading back to a computer near you in February 2014. This will be the third year that this conference has been held, and I'm looking forward to it.

If you have NO idea what I'm talking about, I'll be happy to explain.

In 2010, John Lawrence, a music therapist from Canada, sent out an email on the music therapy listserv asking for people to talk about starting an online conference. I was interested in learning more about streaming media, so I responded. Lo and behold, I was then part of the founding committee for the first and second OCMTs.

Do you know what I like about this conference? Pajamas!! I love that I have a chance to spend time with music therapists from around the world without having to leave my home. I enjoy the opportunity to soak in knowledge, experiences, and new relationships during an international conference. In addition, I get a chance to earn CMTEs. What a great deal.

Now, if you have only attended a conference (any type of conference - live or online), what you may not realize is that there is lots of work that has to happen before, during, and after the conference. There are decisions to be made - venue, cost, budget, format, theme, presentations, invitations, keynote speakers, deadlines, schedule - so many decisions! There is lots of work in bringing a conference to fruition.

Being on the Board of OCMT gives me a new perspective on the amount of work that members of the planning committees in our regions and our national association go through. OCMT has the advantage of being available without needing to be held in a physical place. We do not have to figure out which hotel, city, and state to send folks for the conference. We do not have to arrange for multiple rooms. The folks at AMTA have so much more to do that we should really be very, very grateful that they are able to function during the annual AMTA conferences every year. I know I am...

Anyway, back to the return of OCMT. If you are interested in attending, save February 8-9, 2014 and check out this website:

We are currently taking presentation proposals for the conference. Consider submitting a presentation proposal - we'd like to hear about what interests you about music therapy. The deadline for proposals is August 15, 2013 (Greenwich Mean Time). (Here is a link to a time conversion website so you know what time your deadline is based on where you live: ). For me, it is 6pm on August 15th, so I'd better get going!

This is a great conference. As I have been involved in OCMT as a planner, presenter, and attendee, I have met so many music therapists from all around the world. I know music therapists in Bahrain, India, Canada, Australia, all over the United States, and folks from many other places. I have learned about the challenges of being a therapist in places where therapy is not culturally accepted yet. I have heard about the parent's perspective when it comes to working with music therapists. I have learned about music therapy technology, and about going back to basics.

I can truly say that I am thankful that I took a huge step into the unknown three years ago and answered John Lawrence's request for help. OCMT has been and continues to be a challenge, a pleasure, and an enriching experience!

I hope to see you there!  

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Let's Get Over Ourselves, Folks

I am a member of a Facebook group for music therapists. This group is a good thing and a bad thing. Currently, there is a MAJOR discussion going on about censorship, thread jacking, attacks, purpose, and the way we are with each other.

I've noticed that whenever there is a post that sparks controversy, there are three or four people who take it that direction. They seem to love arguing and will criticize every little thing that someone says. If a person asks for assistance in using a resource, song, or material with a client, we all of a sudden start conversing about conformity. "Why is the therapist forcing this client to participate in an experience that requires conformity with others." No actual consideration of the client, the client's goals, or anything about the client in the discussion. That was not the original intent of the postee. she just wanted an idea about how to use something with a client. The thirty-plus comments about whether we should make clients conform to a patterned series of movements completely changed the subject and was not helpful to the original postee. When the original postee requested a change of thread to eliminate the extraneous comments, the three or four people who typically take over had an absolute fit!

The second instance of this behavior occurred earlier this week when a friend of mine made a decision to remove a post that she did not like. Oh my goodness! The flap that removal has caused has been immense, and, not a big surprise to me, centered around the same three or four people who are in the center of all of the controversies.

I suspect that some people prefer conflict to peace. I am not one of those people. I prefer polite interaction and respect for the opinions of others in professional arenas. Now, that does not mean that I am perfect - FAR FROM IT - but I do prefer to air my opinions in less public forums. So, I come over here and vent my spleen all over the posts of this blog. I figure that you have the option of reading this or you can completely ignore me. You can comment, if you want, and I have the ability to communicate with you as I wish. It's my own little ranting post, and I like this format so much better than the more public one in the Facebook group.

This may be a manifestation of my current passion on finding out information about one of my personality traits - introversion. I have been spending time reading about introversion and about the characteristics of introverts. (I am VERY strongly introverted and find that it is a comfort that there are many, many others out there who are sitting at home alone enjoying their solitude just like me. I think that most of my reaction to the conversation on Facebook is that the conversation does feel like a personal attack, even when it is not intended to be an attack.

It is hard to explain what is wrong about this situation to a person who is not aware of how they are perceived by others. We all have our own ways of interpretation and they are often not shared by the remainder of the community.

I think it's time to take a deep breath, everybody, and retreat to our separate corners. I think I will stir the waters a bit with a post guaranteed to make things boil and bubble a bit. Gotta go think about that...heh, heh, heh!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Being an Introvert

Lately, I have been very much involved in the world of introverts. I have a friend who is a life coach specifically for introverts, several new communities of like-minded people, and an increased awareness of what it means to be introverted. It has been an interesting thing to contemplate.

I am an introvert. Every scale that I have completed has shown that I am as far on the introversion side of the scale as you can actually get. It is a bit of a relief to know that I am not alone out there in the world!

As I have been immersing myself in the world of introversion (it's a solitary journey, as we all prefer it!), I have found that many of the things that bother me and many of the things about me that bother other people are traits of the introverted tribe. It is completely normal for me to not want to go to social events, to get there and watch rather than jumping into social interaction with both feet, and to leave before the party really gets going. There are other people out there who feel the same way and act in the same manner. It's just that we are all at home rather than in the parties, so we can't find each other during stressful social events. There you go.

Whew! That's a relief!!

I am not abnormal as my high school youth group leader thought way back earlier. Ha, ha, Mrs. Haas! It is not abnormal to want to read a book instead of participating in raves! There is nothing wrong with me! (Can you tell that this still makes me upset, even almost 30 years after the fact?) 

One of the things that I have been thinking about in this entire situation is how I relate to my clients during music therapy sessions. I think I am good at being a music therapist because I am aware of the differences between introverts and extroverts. I know how an introvert may not want to engage in a Flash Mob. I know how an extrovert would not be as likely to sit and read a book when other people are around. I try to encourage each person in a group to participate in an authentic manner - the way they prefer to engage in music therapy.

So, as a therapist, it is my job to engage both introverts and extroverts in music therapy sessions. I have to allow my extroverted client to participate in large group Therapeutic Music Experiences (TMEs) where social interaction is expected and part of the fun. If they start to chafe under the stresses of TMEs that require solitary interaction and completion, I need to offer them opportunities to engage with others in a social setting. I also have to allow my introverted client to sit, watch, and choose when to engage in each TME. They need to know that opting not to participate is fine, but I need to make sure that their needs are addressed. If they don't want to play the cup game where they have to pay attention to all of the other kids in the group, I need to offer alternative TMEs that address the same goals as the initial TME. I may need to adapt the cup game to decrease the social expectations from all of the others in the group to one person. So, my job as a therapist is to offer TMEs that allow my clients to be authentic to themselves - always.

If you are an introvert, you may be interested in this Facebook site: The Introvert's Coach. It is the Facebook page of my friend and is dedicated to thinking about what it means to be an introvert in an extrovert-reinforcing world. Another Facebook site is Introverts Are Awesome. One last link:  

I'm off to spend some time by myself, reading a book, and snuggling with my cat. The perfect way to get ready for a week full of social interaction. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Advocacy - The Best Kind

Today I was sitting in a recovery room after having a CT scan done, and the very friendly gentleman sitting waiting for his wife struck up a conversation with me. It quickly evolved into a discussion about every part of my life and lots of information about him, his wife, and their lives. I had already gleaned some of the information about why they were at the hospital due to a conversation he had had with another person waiting for tests in the waiting room.

The conversation turned towards what I do for a living (he is a pharmacist and has worked at his business for 40 years - first job...absolutely loves it...there you go). I, of course, mentioned that I was a music therapist. We spoke a bit more and his wife entered the room to start her own recovery.

A bit later in the conversation, he mentioned to his wife that I was a music therapist and she asked the inevitable question, "So, what do you do with that exactly."

I answered her the way I always do, explaining that music therapists use music to address goals of whichever human being is there. (By the way, my words were more friendly and personable in the moment. I'm coming down off a contrast-dye something or other right now!) I moved on to discuss the use of music for wellness, relaxation, learning new skills, all of the things that I have learned to use to broach the subject of what it is that we do as part of our profession. The conversation ended after that since my recovery time was up, but I felt that it was a good little bit of advocacy for music therapy.

I love those moments when you can start a conversation about what we do. Who knows if they will ever seek out a music therapist, but you know that they will remember that they met a music therapist once. I think that type of discussion leads to a greater understanding and awareness of our profession.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Sick Day...Sorta

Today, I am sitting in my home, waiting for a doctor's appointment rather than going to work. It's a sick day that was not expected, wanted, or appreciated, but I am determined to make the best of this time.

Lately, I have been having lots of problems with my intestines (Did you stop reading here? That's okay!), and I think I'm heading into a new round of issues. Blech. This may complicate things like my family's vacation to support me during some medical tests that may not be able to happen if this situation continues. This is causing additional stress in my life that is not good for the gut issues. It seems like a never-ending cycle. First, gut pain, then gut takes over everything that I am thinking about and everything that I am planning. My life goes on hold as I try to figure out things like, "Can I make it through an entire session without exploding?" and other such thoughts that pass through my head at random moments. Client concerns kind of go out the window when this happens - that is not good.

Hence, the sick day.

My specialist is not really all that accessible when I am having difficulties, so I have learned that you snap up ANY opportunity to get into her office when you can. When I called on Monday, I was offered an appointment at 8:45 today, so I took it! I arranged for my 11th sick day this year (it's been a BAD health year for me, almost all due to gut stuff!) and am now ready to spend the day away from work.

Today is one of those days where it is better for me not to be at work than trying to entertain clients during their sessions. My mind is not really focused on what is best for my kids, it is more occupied with internal issues. It is more beneficial for me to be away than it is for me to be sitting and watching as kids entertain themselves. Therapy time should be client-focused (always) and not therapist-focused. 

So, I am taking a sick day.

The first part of this day will be gut-related. Hopefully I will get some questions answered about my condition. Hopefully I will know more about how to prevent these episodes and can get myself a bit more organized as to gut health.

The second part of the day depends on what the doctor has me do. If I have to go get different medication, it will be spent waiting at the pharmacy. If not, I think I will go home and do some laundry. Either way, it is a change from the regular routine of being a therapist.

Ooh, maybe I will try making something new for my clients to use in their sessions next week. Maybe not. Maybe I will just watch television. Maybe I will work on some webinar ideas. Maybe not.

Tomorrow, I should be returning to my schedule, my sessions, and my clients. I think I will be a better therapist due to the time I take off today. We will see what the clients think.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Library - Looking Through the Songbooks

I haven't done much reading in my music therapy textbooks this week. Instead, I have been drawn to my TME files, my songbooks, and my books of poetry. I'm not really sure why I have eschewed all theoretical reading for more creative reading, but it may have something to do with the heat, with the things happening at work, and with nothing at all, just boredom.

I think one of the things that I am unable to pass by is a songbook. I love having music. I enjoy looking at the songs that others have composed. I want to know the stories behind their composition, and I use songbooks to help myself become more creative with my clients. It is amazing how many songs there are out there that can be adapted to help my clients meet their goals. With a little bit of practice, I can take those songs into sessions and use them.

My favorite books are Fake Books. If you don't know what a Fake Book is, it is time to look through one or two. I am much more of a guitarist than a pianist. I think in chords rather than in notes. If you can give me a melody line and a chord structure, I can fake an accompaniment. If you give me a written accompaniment, I will still figure out the chords and then fake the song! So, Fake Books are my favorite types of resource books. My favorite is a Disney Fake Book that I ordered with a gift certificate many, MANY years ago. I have lots of classic Disney songs in a format that is easy to use. I also like having high numbers of songs in one book - something that can be done when you are only printing the melodies of each songs.

Since these books are my preferred resources, I have avoided them this week in favor of some of the ones that are not as preferred. I have some vintage Sheet Music Magazine copies that have lots of songs arranged for keyboardists. Often, they also include guitar chords, so the songs are easy for me to play. Most of the songs are from before the 1980's, so many of them would not be familiar for my clients, but that could be adapted. The songs would also be completely new and novel for my kids - that would be a good thing when we get bogged down in the same old patterns...

I also started through my All-Time Favorite American Songbook. I have been giggling at the themes of all of the songs included in the songbook. Most of the songs from the colonial times dealt with either murder or death due to horrible illness. The songs are mostly bouncy in nature, but deal with horrible themes. I find it morbidly funny.

It is time to get back into reading about the ethical considerations that all music therapists should take into account. I think I'm ready...or maybe not.

We will see.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Week in Review

This wasn't a bad week. In fact, it was pretty interesting and quite intriguing.

Music therapy sessions went well. I am in light schedule mode as I am organizing my last summer of individual sessions before the renovation. Next year, my plan for individual and small group sessions will be vanishing. There is a problem with being based in a closet that puts a crimp in doing individual therapy... anyway!

This week we explored songwriting lyrics. I am trying out a session series with my older kids who need lower levels of support to complete activities of daily living. Last week, we improvised a simple summer song. We talked about the rules of improvisation (there are none) and then started. Groups were receptive and did everything that I asked - without protesting! This week we completed a fill-in-the-blank song about preferences and non-preferences. The song, I Like, is one that I composed a long time ago, and it lends itself well to song and phrase completion. Once students had completed the eight blanks, they had the option of singing the song with guitar accompaniment or completing sentences that I sang. It always amazes me which kids will sing and which ones will refuse. They do not often sing with me - I think they don't want to interrupt me, even though I want them to sing all the time. They always look at me askance when I ask them to sing - like I can't possibly mean what I'm saying! So, I am always amazed when I hear kids follow melodic contours and replicate complicated melodic phrases with limited exposure.

I had what I initially thought of as a productive meeting with my supervisor. Now, based on some other things that have occurred, I am not so sure. Being an optimist, I am still hoping that the meeting was genuine and not just a way to placate and pacify me. The future will show me whether the meeting was a good thing or not.

I read from my library everyday (but yesterday...I've got to catch up this evening on that reading...come to think of it, I haven't had my special dessert for last week either. I guess cheesecake is in my direct and immediate future!). 

I got paid today! This is good, but not good enough. I have to find some more cash this month since both AMTA conference registration and car registration fees are due right now! I also have some emergency room bills to pay still. I guess I will be eating small amounts of inexpensive starchy foods for the next couple of months.

So, a mixed bag of things.

I am very glad that it is Friday. Tomorrow is Saturday!! Hooray!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Trying to Revision the Future

So, yesterday my principal called me into her office for yet another chat. This one, unlike the ones that have happened before, felt appropriate, professional, and respectful on both sides. I left feeling like my concerns about our upcoming renovation and subsequent relocation of the music therapy room YET AGAIN were not only heard, but being addressed. The meeting also left me feeling challenged.

She seemed to realize that a 7:30-3:30 schedule was not always the most effective schedule for clients in treatment and challenged me to think about my role at the facility. This was a good sign as I have been trying to communicate the idea of therapy as a separate type of intervention - removed from education but supportive of the same goals - for several years now. It was nice to hear that there could be some appropriate changes in my future as a music therapist.

I was thinking that this meeting would end up differently than it actually did. I am relieved that it took the turn towards thinking about what is best for my KIDS! That (in my opinion) is where the focus should always be - not on teachers, not on therapists, but on the clients!!

I admit that there are times when I think of myself before I think of my clients - I am human after all. When given an opportunity to think about what I do in a completely different way, I have to think not only about what is best for my students, but what is best for me as well. Then, I have to think about what will work for my interns when they arrive. How will they fit into the therapy model? Lots of things to think about.

Open-ended challenges are something I really enjoy. I love problem-solving and designing options. It is a chance to dream big.

So, here are my thoughts.

  1. I am a person who does better with a set schedule, so I would want clearly defined times for working: 7:30-5:30 or 8:30-6:30. Those times could change based on the day or the week, but a set time would be better for me than just showing up to pull kids whenever.
  2. Our students deserve active treatment throughout their treatment day. That includes time outside of the school day. 
  3. It is important for students to have coordinated treatment and therapy between all of the professionals that provide those services. So, therapists, case workers, and direct service folks should be working together to help kids get to their goals.
  4. There is no reason why therapists should be the only folks giving teachers planning time. The situation appears to be that teachers expect the therapists to babysit students in order to get their planning time. This is a situation that has been encouraged by the administration but has not been the best format for therapy. (This has irritated me since I do not get the same amount of planning or preparation time as a classroom teacher even though I am supposed to do so! (It is just difficult when I have to provide every other teacher with 2 hours of service per week. Grump!)
This has been a week of surprising revelations at work. There may be other therapy positions opening up at this time at the facility. This was an interesting development as the residential side of things has been resistant to an actual therapist providing recreation services. This idea stimulated my thinking about moving away from school back into the residential side of things. This new opportunity has me rethinking this plan...

Ooh, lots of new things to ponder. I love this type of challenge. What could my job look like in two months??


Sunday, June 09, 2013

Random Thoughts About Nothing...and Everything!

So, I completed a week's worth of reading this week - on to a GREAT dessert! My next reward is a book from I'll need to go shopping in about a month.

I ordered checks the other day, and they only sent me 25. I guess I didn't look carefully at the order, but I was REALLY excited about the price! That shows me.

My cat is enjoying her new climber, a hand-me-down from my sister whose cat died 16 years ago. Bella seems to like looking down on me. Aaah, cats!
I really need to move back towards the West Coast. Visiting home two weeks ago emphasized how much I miss the attitudes, the opportunities, and the whackos that live out there. (I'm totally talking about family members, all!) Kansas is fine, but things out here have not gone as planned, so I am ready to escape from the Midwest in favor of more sunshine, beaches, and mountains. How do I ever leave?
It simply boggles the mind, doesn't it?

I am getting started on some songwriting adventures with my students - this week's challenge? Improvisation based on summer ideas and experiences. The only class that actually arrived for music this week seemed to get into the experience (with the exception of 2 kids who refused...oh well.). Let's hope that the other classes are just as receptive to the idea of writing songs...

Nothing else really going on out here. I hope others are having more exciting lives than me at this point!

Talk to you soon.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

The Library - Starting Over Again

It doesn't seem possible that I wasn't here at home a week ago. I was hurtling across the great states of New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas in an attempt to get home after visiting with my family. Since I have been back, I have been busy but not overly so.

I have made an effort to get back into my reading challenge. This week's selections have included Ethical Thinking in Music Therapy (I am REALLY looking forward to this month's book club discussion) and the Therapeutic Music Experience (TME) files of my former interns. I also dove back into Baker and Wigram's text on Songwriting. I went back to work on Thursday inspired to try something a little bit differently.

One of my assignments for interns is the development of a Therapeutic Music Experience file. I require that my interns write 25 original songs for use in sessions, and I also ask them to write down 50 other things to do in sessions with clients. I have found that this file is a challenging task for my interns to complete, but I find my own file to be invaluable, especially when I am bored with what I am doing with clients. So, because of that, I make every intern start a file.

This is a holdover from my undergraduate days when I had to start my own file. My file continued during my own internship, and I have been adding to that file of ideas ever since. One of the things that I really like about having my interns write original music and share their TME files with me is that I have access to their ideas even after they graduate. I then have an opportunity to use those TMEs with clients long after my interns have graduated and moved into their professional lives away from me and my program.

I have found several songs that will augment my current lapbook projects. I will not be publishing these songs since I do not own the copyrights, but I can use them as supplementary songs to help me reinforce the lapbook theme. I firmly believe that clients respond to many different experiences centered around one theme - the more options, the better when it comes to assisting clients in accessing important (or even trivial) information.

The songs that my former interns have written are interesting to read. They are sometimes awkward, much like my own songs. Sometimes they have seeped into my music therapy practice without a conscious awareness of where the song originated. That is another reason that I keep all of their TME files forever - original source materials and proof of intellectual property. If I am using a song and another person asks me who wrote the song, I can look it up in my TME file and give them that information. Huzzah!

My concern with copyright protection and intellectual property stems from a situation where I heard someone take credit for a song that I had composed during my internship. She was presenting at a music therapy conference and had videotaped herself leading a song with a bunch of preschoolers. I was thrilled when I heard the song - I had written it during my internship. Someone asked her where she had completed her internship, and lo and behold, she was the intern that had started her program right after I had left. We were interns at the same facility, with the same supervising music therapists! After her presentation, I was standing in line with others to comment on her lecture when one of the other attendees complimented her on my song. She said, "Thank you. I wrote that song during my internship." I was dumbfounded. I actually had proof that I had written that song six months before she even started her internship! I was shell-shocked and left the line. I now try to be a fierce proponent of copyright protection.

I feel that being an ethical therapist (or professional of any type, actually) means that you protect, not only yourself, but every person who engages in creativity and product development. (Did you notice the link with Ethical Thinking in Music Therapy??) We have a responsibility to fully acknowledge the creators of all of the music that we use in sessions. We need to know that the song, Wake Up Body, was written by Mary Jane Landaker while she was in her internship at the Center for Neurodevelopmental Studies in 1992-1993. It is important that we promote the creative endeavors of our fellow artists, professionals, and therapists.

Whew - what a tangent and rant! Sorry about that. Most of what I read this week really reminded me of one of my biggest pet peeves - sloppy source work. Okay. I think I should probably stop writing now and start to focus on other things.

I have some intern-composed songs to practice. ;-)

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Back to the Grind

It is time to go back to work. Sigh.

Now, I am not complaining! I enjoy working, but I really feel that I need substantial amounts of time to refresh and renew my therapeutic resources after a long stretch of working. This break wasn't nearly long enough to accomplish my cycle of enjoyment, boredom, and refilling my bag of tricks. Oh well.

Today was originally supposed to be a day full of meetings, packing, and moving from my big, beautiful music room into a closet office to accommodate the upcoming school renovation. That plan has changed. We will now be starting off with kids from the get-go. I have no problems with seeing kids first - I ABHOR days without clients, but I am not sure about this whole renovation thing. I found out several weeks ago that the plan is to take the big, beautiful music room that I helped design and was assured would be my room throughout this planning process and place me in a smaller space after the renovation. Today, I will be starting to communicate my concerns about this plan to my administrators. I'll probably be called into the principal's office for this, but I really feel that I need to talk to folks about this situation. It has left me feeling like my needs for a music therapy space are no longer relevant in the interest of others. That may be true, and it will make decisions about my future easier to make. It may also be untrue and just a function of missed communication. Who knows.

My clients will be working on songwriting projects this summer. I have been inspired by my readings in Baker and Wigram's text on Songwriting to continue to use songwriting with my clients. This exercise will be interesting as I will try to get my adolescents to engage in a meaningful experience rather than just going through the motions. We will see if and how it will work.

Now it's time to get ready for the day. It will be good to have a break from some of the snarky people who will not be in the summer session, and it will be GREAT to see clients again.

Off we go!

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Intern Webinar Series Starts Tonight...

...and I am excited!

This is the second set of webinars that I host for music therapy interns. We have a chance to talk about internship-specific things, and I get an opportunity to network with interns in various stages of their training process. Tonight we are going to talk about the rights and responsibilities of music therapy interns.


(Can you tell that I get REALLY excited about these types of topics?? Do you think that is sad?? I often wonder...)

As the chairperson of the Association Internship Approval Committee of AMTA, it always surprises me how little interns know about what they should be doing and receiving during their internship. Most interns do not seem to know that they can file a noncompliance report if they need to do so. They don't seem to read the documents that are developed just for them. It's kinda sad, but I don't remember reading anything about being an intern when I went off into the great unknown 21 years ago. My internship director, Sheryl Kelly, ran the internship by the book, and I am very grateful to have had such an exemplary model as a supervisor. It has made my job as internship director much easier!

Our other topics will include developing things to do in sessions (Therapeutic Music Experiences), Time Management and Organization, The Therapeutic Triad, Marketing Yourself, Learning to Lead, and Self-Care for the Music Therapist.

I enjoyed the last series of seminars and hope to enjoy this series of seminars with a completely new crop of music therapy interns.

If you know any interns, please let them know about this opportunity!

Monday, June 03, 2013

Music Therapy Lapbooks

Okay, my new passion is music therapy lapbooks. I enjoy making things to use with my students, and these are just plain old fun!

Basically, a lapbook is a visual aid designed for use by an individual. I first got wind of the idea when I was trolling around the education board at Pinterest. It seems that many teachers and homeschoolers use lapbooks for learning and reviewing specific materials and topics. They are often very complex - lots of flaps, pockets, pictures, and information. The music examples are all based on music theory - something good to know, but not something that is really relevant to my clients. So, I have started to adapt the idea of lapbooks into books that are relevant to my kids.

So, I bought a package of file folders and got started.

As a music therapist, I am always looking for ways to use music to assist my clients in achieving non-musical goals. Composition and music theory are fine topics for some of my clients, but many of them are unable to understand the abstract concepts needed to use composition visual aids independently. So, I started looking through my Therapeutic Music Experience (TME) file for TMEs that could be easily replicated by my students or by the paraprofessionals that attend music therapy sessions on a regular basis. (Remember, my goal is for my clients to use this visual aid independently - WITHOUT ME!)

The first and most obvious theme for me was Manners. Several years ago, I had my students write piggyback songs to remind us about specific manner expectations. We wrote about washing our hands, using our inside voice, and raising our hands. We also wrote songs about personal space and covering our mouths when we coughed, sneezed, or burped. Each song is based on a traditional US children's melody, and we sing them occasionally. I had made some Powerpoint presentations along with recordings of students singing the songs, but it seems that teachers have not used those files in their classrooms. Sigh. Anyway, I decided to trot out these songs for use in my first lapbook.

The next step was to conceptualize my lapbook. I had a couple of stipulations: 
  1. Every surface has to be laminated.
  2. All materials have to be original due to copyright issues.
  3. Clients (or fellow music therapists) need to be able to access all of the information needed to finish the tasks on the lapbook. So, everything has to be present - TME plans, sheet music (if needed), and elements of the task (pictures, moving pieces, and other things that may have a place in this task).
Off we go!

I started with a regular file folder (I always start my projects with the cheapest materials so I can experiment without wasting too much money if everything goes horribly wrong!), and started to play around. I cut flaps, rounded corners, cut out small pieces of paper, and started gluing. I decided to print song words and fill-in-the-blank questions on address labels. I put together a lapbook and laminated it. I thought it looked pretty good, but I found some difficulties with my design once I took it in to my sessions (more on that in a little bit).

I was excited to take it into music therapy sessions with my students. I used the lapbook with an entire group (difficulty #1), reading the fill-in-the-blank questions to all of them, and they shouted out the answers. They did really well. The lapbook was pretty difficult for folks to see, so I will make more. Then, small groups of clients can share a lapbook and follow along with me. I quickly found that I couldn't really control the flaps of the lapbook when I was using it with kids (difficulty #2). I needed to use Velcro to close the flaps, but I had placed my song lyrics in the place where Velcro would be best. So, back to the drawing board with lapbook design.

The next variation on the theme turned out better than variation #1. I cut out each individual set of song lyrics, leaving a significant space for Velcro. I used a colored file folder (more expensive). Variation #2 should be better for some of my clients and worse for others - too much visual stimulation is distracting for some of my clients.

I am now making some new lapbooks for my students. I have an idea for a series of lapbooks centered around the five senses - I'm not sure how I can use them in therapy yet, but I can see some good ways to use them outside of music therapy. I also like the idea of linking the lapbooks with Smart Notebook files during calendar time in the classroom. Kids could follow along on the lapbook while either one peer or the teacher uses the SmartBoard to demonstrate the task. That increases the amount of interaction that each individual would have during calendar time, something that is truly lacking in our use of SmartBoard technology at this time.

Oh my. The ideas keep flowing. If you are interested in learning more about how to make lapbooks, please check out my website, /products.html. I would also like to hear what others are doing out there with visual aids, lapbooks, file folder activities, and other TME ideas. Let's share, folks!

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety-Jig

I am back to what resembles "normal" again. After a week of "vacation," I am now back at my house, trying to get ready for the summer session of school. This may prove to be somewhat difficult as I am also preparing to be displaced from my big, beautiful music room as soon as the summer session is complete. Sniff, sniff, WAAAAH!

Okay, enough of that.

It is good to be home. The cat greeted me with non-stop chatter and cuddling - I suspect that I awoke at midnight because she wanted some attention since I do not generally awaken during the night. This morning I moved a new cat climber into our house and she is currently sitting in it, smiling at me. We seem to be at peace.

There is something quite nice about being at home. I know that there is really nothing all that pressing to do, so I can experiment with some things around here. I have an idea for a new lap book format to play around with. I have a webinar to complete and another to publicize. I have started a new book club that I hope will be successful. Lots of things to do these days. I like that.

For now, however, I am just going to enjoy the day off, at home, and with nothing else to concern me. Maybe I'll make cookies. Maybe I'll go shopping at the Dollar Tree. Maybe I'll just sit and watch a movie. Who knows!