One thing that I love about working with lots of different kiddos is the opportunity to create adaptations! These allow me to use the same songs with many different students and clients, all of whom have unique strengths and needs. Being a music therapist has made me even more creative; I am constantly inspired not only by my kiddos, but also by their teachers, therapists and parents.
I have been approached countless times by those I work with to incorporate different themes or important topics into my music therapy sessions or music classes. Often times, I will use a song that I already know, and adapt it to accommodate other goals.
When creating adaptations, I always think about my end goal: what do I need this song to accomplish? Because I like making things easier for myself, I look at the resources I already have, and adapt those songs. So often, my adaptations are simply just re-writing lyrics, but other times, I’ve changed the chords of songs, switched out the instruments, or changed the melody.
There are endless things you can do to adapt songs, and below are a few adaptations that I have come up with along the way!
Some of the goals addressed in these songs:
- Improve auditory discrimination skills
- Improve fine and gross motor skills
- Increase impulse control
- Increase ability to identify objects
- Increase hand-eye coordination
- Increase sustained attention
Recently, one of my classes needed help distinguishing between fast and slow, so I adapted “I Hear A Train” for just that purpose. I played and sang the song in a very dramatic fashion to demonstrate fast and slow, and encouraged the kiddos to play their rhythm sticks just like me.
The teachers were impressed with how quickly the children improved their auditory discrimination skills, and I was impressed with how a super small tweak can make a huge difference!
Impulse control is an important skill for all children to master, and my favorite song for working on that skill is “Lollipop Start & Stop”. I first began using this song with children who were learning about safety signs, so I created a stop/go visual, and changed the word “start” to “go” so that the clients could make the connection between the song and what they were learning in their classroom.
Once the children were able to start and stop appropriately, I added a verse of humming while the participants were all stopped to encourage waiting, which increased the challenge but also made it more fun, as they had to pay close attention to what I was singing, and what the stop/go visual displayed!
For some clients, lollipop drums are so motivating, they just need time to explore. Often, before I even begin asking clients and students to start and stop, I just encourage them to play and explore. For this purpose, I created simple lyrics about everyone playing their drums as a group, and over several sessions, provide short intervals when they stop playing, and increase those intervals appropriately.
“Shaky Fruit” is by far the song that I have adapted the most! One adaptation that has worked well for my clients and students is simply taking out the name of the fruits in the verses of the song and encouraged participants to identify the fruit by the clues in the lyrics only (i.e. “yellow and sour”, a lemon!). It is fun to watch the participants listen so closely, and the look of victory on their faces when they’ve figured it out!
Just last month, one of my preschool groups was learning all about fruits and vegetables, so I changed the lyrics to include vegetables, and encouraged participants to shake fruits or veggies, depending on what they heard in the lyrics. This was surprisingly harder than I expected, but with a little repetition, the kiddos were able to discriminate between fruits and vegetables!
I hope my “greatest hits” of adaptations will inspire you to take a song and make it your own! I’ve learned that the more I adapt songs, the easier it gets, so I encourage you to give it a try and see what you come up with!
Let me know in the comments below: how have you adapted songs for your clients and students?
You can listen to all of these songs in their entirety right here. Lyrics, chords, mp3, and instrumental track for these original songs are available for download. As is the case for all Listen & Learn Music creations, we invite you to adapt these songs as needed to best serve your students and/or clients.