I wanted to create a motivating activity for a small social skills group of two adults with developmental disabilities. I suspected that my small therapy group needed a change of pace to increase motivation and spark some conversation and engagement in each other’s interests. Both of my clients love music, so I thought Pandora, the music app was a natural solution. It’s free, easily accessible with my phone and easy to use.
One of my clients loves blues and jazz and my other client loves R & B and hip hop. We gathered a list of favorite artists and created a bingo board with various artists’ pictures using Boardmaker. If you do not have Boardmaker, you can create a board using Connect Ability. We reviewed each artist by discussing who they were and what type of music they played. My bingo board was originally set up with 12 artists (each box included the artist’s picture and name). I then created a station for each artist on the bingo board. I began the game by choosing one of the artists on their bingo board and playing a song. My clients had to guess who the artist was. Whoever filled their board up first won the game. As my clients improved and became increasingly motivated, I created new boards with all different types of artists and music genres that were both familiar and unfamiliar to them.
My clients loved the game and were extremely motivated, which is what lead me to writing this article. One of my clients who rarely engages in conversation and interaction, stood up and began singing! I also started using the game with other groups and clients who were equally motivated. As a side note, be aware of any lyrics that may be inappropriate in a therapy session. I was careful in choosing particular songs from artists that I thought might have inappropriate or foul language.
Another thing that I love about Pandora is that you can view the lyrics and genres, which is extremely helpful for several reasons listed below. Here are some speech and language goals to work on with the app, Pandora:
1. Social skills: My clients naturally started appropriate conversations about the particular artists. The music served as an excellent conversational starter. For example, when listening to Frank Sinatra my client asked his peer, “Do you like Frank Sinatra?” Each client learned something new about a different artist which helped expand their vocabulary.
2. Visual and auditory recalling of information: My clients had practice with recalling the names of particular artists. They also improved their ability to recall information upon hearing a particular song.
3. Abstract Language: After we listened to each song, we discussed the lyrics. I read the lyrics and we defined and reviewed some terminology that was more abstract, such as “break my heart”, “my life is like a storm”, etc.
4. Literacy: For a teen or adult working on literacy, printing out the lyrics of a favorite song can be extremely motivating. This can also lead to work on improving literacy and reading comprehension. Learning the artist’s names can be another literacy activity. The key to learning is motivation. If music is motivating, learning the artist’s name can be a wonderful and engaging activity.
5. Emotions: Discuss the melody of the song and if it is a sad or happy song. Ask them “wh” questions, give choices, etc. Discuss how the song makes them feel. Music is such a powerful tool to discuss emotions because it can bring up memories and evokes emotions that you wouldn’t otherwise discuss in a therapy session.
6. Answering “wh” questions. Ask your clients, “What is the song about?” etc. This music activity can be an ideal opportunity to ask and answer questions and work on comprehension. Discuss the similarities and differences between the artists. This can lead to another goal of describing (e.g. “the song is loud and fast,” “the song is slow and soft,” etc)
7. Expanding vocabulary: With the lyrics in hand, it is easy to work on expanding vocabulary. Discuss and define new words within the lyrics. Write the words down and review them for the next session. Create sentences with the new words to improve carryover.
8. Phonemic awareness: Many songs naturally rhyme. Using the lyrics for a phonemic awareness activity can be motivating and engaging.
9. Categorization: Print out a list of different types of music. Explain and define the difference between pop, rock and roll, jazz, etc. This can lead to categorization when discussing specific artists. Here is a list of genres. Another way to play the game is to play a song from a certain genre and have your client guess what genre. You can set up your board with 12 different music genres.
10. Turn taking: With a bingo game, turn taking will occur naturally. Turn taking as a goal can also be targeted during conversation.
I hope you find these helpful! I’d love to hear any suggestions you all may have so please comment below!
Rebecca Eisenberg, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist, author, instructor, and parent of two young children, who began her website www.gravitybread.com to create a resource for parents to help make mealtime an enriched learning experience . She discusses the benefits of reading to young children during mealtime, shares recipes with language tips and carryover activities, reviews children’s books for typical children and those with special needs as well as educational apps. She has worked for many years with both children and adults with developmental disabilities in a variety of settings including schools, day habilitation programs, home care and clinics. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can follow her on Facebook; on Twitter; or on Pinterest.