Music, a Tool for Unlocking the Dyslexic Learner - Horizon Academy

Music, a Tool for Unlocking the Dyslexic Learner

Sep 19, 2023

Music, a Tool for Unlocking the Dyslexic Learner

Did you know that music is the perfect tool to help our dyslexic students improve their reading?  At Horizon Academy students use all of their senses to learn.  Whether the subject is math, science, or reading we are up on our feet using songs, rhymes, or games to get learners actively engaged.  Students will be more likely to stay engaged and recall information when more senses are utilized.  This is where the music classes at Horizon support student brain development and offer a creative outlet.   

Studies have shown that a music education program that builds from simple rhythms and tones to more complex music throughout the school year is actually measurable in the student’s educational progress.  Here are just some of the benefits of weekly music education:

  • Music activates both the left and right brain at the same time, and the activation of both hemispheres can maximize learning and improve memory.
  • Improves vocabulary and language.
  • Increases self-confidence.
  • More self-discipline.
  • Increases motor skills.
  • Improves listening skills.
  • Enhances social skills.

Both music and language are highly structured sequences of sounds.  These sounds are complex and take place in time, requiring sustained attention and memory.  When we develop language as infants, it takes thousands of hours to achieve fluency.  To be able to make music, we need to practice in the same way that we learn to communicate.  We use repetition to gain our communication skills in both speaking and music-making.  When students practice music they are building their working memory and focus.

At the beginning of our school year, we begin with African drumming.  Students learn djembe drum calls that allow them to practice hand-eye coordination, listening skills, and self-control.  Throughout the year, the rhythms become more layered and complex with melodic instruments being added to the mix.  We sing songs every week adding to our memory bank of words and practice our recall with dance and movement.  We also connect with specific time periods and musicians in accordance with what students are learning in Social Studies and History.  

While academic achievement is satisfying and helpful, my favorite reason to bring music to our students at Horizon is to give them a chance to express their life experiences and their personalities through music-making.  It is a joyful thing to see a child who has to endure so much difficulty because of a learning disability, set free by a beautiful melody.  Music opens up new ways for dyslexic learners to express themselves, without the rules of language that can be so frustrating.  Music can bring laughter, joy, and tears without those pesky words that can cause so much frustration and anxiety. 

A school-wide music program also gives Horizon a chance to build community through shared music.  This year, the entire school will be learning a song called "Ode'min Giizis (Strawberry Moon)" by Tara Williamson, a singer-songwriter from the Opaskwayak Cree Nation and Gaabishkigamaag (Swan Lake, Man.) who works out of Victoria, B.C..  This beautiful song will give students a chance to sing in another language and learn about the Indigenous Tribes of North America, specifically Canada.  It is going to be an excellent song to share and sing together throughout the year.  I can’t wait for another year of joyful music at Horizon Academy.

Click below to listen:

Tara Williamson - Ode'min Giizis (Strawberry Moon)

By Mary Holzhausen

Music Teacher & Interventionist

Horizon Academy, Roeland Park, KS