Music Room Ramblings

Monday, August 7, 2017

And This Is Why I Am Directionally Challenged!

When speaking to an audience or teaching a classroom full of children, do you gesture left to right OR right to left? 


A long time ago, I learned from a child psychologist that any time you stand in front of a group of students, you should "mirror" all of your hand motions. And even though that's difficult, I learned how, and the results are amazing.

When children are facing you, they need to see left-right movements, which means you must do all movements from right to left. Even though there are children whose dominant hand is their left, we read from left to right—letters, words, books, and yes, music. And we want to reinforce this very important skill in the music classroom.


For example, when you say, "Raise your right hand," you raise your left. Children will automatically mirror your movements. Without thinking. Most of the time, you don't even have to say, "Be my mirror" or "Pretend I am your mirror."

Try this. Picture the map of the continental United States in your mind. Without thinking, point to New York, Florida, California, Oregon. You probably pointed to the right for New York and Florida and to the left for California and Oregon. Now, imagine that you are facing your class of 3rd graders. And you are talking about the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. They will immediately pull up that imaginary picture in their mind, but if you point to your right for the Atlantic and left for the Pacific, they will become confused.

Practice that with your family or friends and see what happens. Just make up any scenario and reverse the map in your mind, pointing to the right for the Pacific Ocean and the left for the Atlantic. Chances are, they will not even notice unless you point out that you totally reversed it for yourself. But if you try it again, and do not reverse it for yourself, they will definitely notice what you are doing.

Now, apply that to the many things you teach in the music classroom—phrases (draw long arcs from right to left in the air), counting, sign language (ASL—use your left hand so students will sign correctly with their right), any motions that go with songs, mallet technique (instead of the barred instrument facing you, turn it around), other instruments, etc. The only thing that I did not reverse was recorder. By the end of 3rd grade, students are able to reverse, even though it's a little difficult still.

Instrument Placement—Low to High, Left to Right Aurally

Have you ever seen a handbell group play? The bells are arranged on the tables facing the audience high to low, left to right. And if that seemed odd to you, think about the players. It's very important that the players hear the low to high sound, left to right. This applies to Boomwackers, choir chimes, and other pitched instruments. Try to position them Low to High, Left to Right, for the players. This is important in the development of hearing and identifying High and Low sounds.

Even though this is very important for children, the reversal theory also applies when speaking or teaching any age group. If you notice a speaker motioning from right to left, you notice something is not right. And now you know what it is!!

Yes, my family teases me because I really am Directionally Challenged. But I insist it's because, for 30 years, I reversed everything in my brain for my students!



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