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The Power of Color! Teaching Piano to Students with Dyslexia.



It all began unintentionally. I was at the beginning of my teaching career, and I was unsuccessfully teaching my student who had dyslexia flashcards in an attempt to master her notes.


She was an intelligent girl and was blessed with an excellent musical ear but no matter how I tried, I couldn't teach her how to read notes.


I can't explain how much of a failure this made me feel, and what I needed at the time was to read what I am about to write now.


We were preparing for a recital and she wanted to participate, and to enable her to join the recital, I used the alphabet instead of note-reading and rewrote her song with A's, B's, and so on. For some reason that I can't remember, I gave each letter a different color, and my student successfully played in the recital.


We used this technique whenever we encountered a challenging piece that was causing unnecessary stress, and it was only much later that I realized that the colors were helping her progress more than the letter names of the notes.


I researched using color as a teaching tool and learned how color can be a powerful communication tool that influences mood and signals action. It is scientifically proven to enhance comprehension, retention, and engagement.  It provides additional cues and contrasts, and when incorporated strategically into educational materials and activities it significantly improves learning outcomes by making information more accessible, engaging, and memorable for students of all ages and backgrounds.


To save you a lot of trial and error and a lot of research, I will explain in detail how you too can in simple 6 steps, successfully teach piano to students with dyslexia.


  1. Assign different colors to different notes.

  2. Play enough pieces with this color code until it is memorized.

  3. Choose your method books wisely, use only color, and don't write any letter names on the score.

  4. Lean on color to teach, and linger enough in this stage until all basics are mastered and progress flows easily.

  5. Mark the G and F lines with respective colors, use less color on individual notes, and use circles only when and where needed.

  6. Let the student decide which of the above tools is needed and use it when necessary.


 


Let me now go into detail, and with illustrations, into every one of these steps.

1. Assign different colors to different notes:



In this step, you want to give different colors to different notes, decide which note gets which color, and stick to this system. You need the student to see the association automatically to make this method work.


You will need to work on preparing some material to build this association. This probably will be the most time-consuming step on your part. You have to prepare enough songs and exercises to make this happen. Keep things simple at this stage, you're not trying to teach technique or musicality, your goal is to make sure your student has no problem finding his notes on the piano and associating every note with a different color.



 


2. Play enough pieces with this color code until it is memorized:




Now the fun begins, you have all your material ready and you are prepared to teach your student the color code you created. Above is a sample of how the material should look like, you can also prepare some worksheets to go along and make the learning process faster as shown below.





This process may take a couple of weeks, a couple of months, or sometimes more depending on the age and skill of your student. It is probably the most important step to make this whole method work.

What if your student is an older student already playing more complicated pieces, and what if you think that this looks too childish for your student? It doesn't matter, make it a fun 10-minute part of your regular lesson, you don't have to replace your lesson completely with this material, discuss it with your student and consider it an experiment, then watch the magic happen.



 

3. Use only color and stop using the letter names on the music score:


This is the step when you choose the method book(s) that best serve your student, I don't use the same method books for all my students, I have 2 or 3 different method books that progress at a different pace to choose from.


You can safely rely heavily on the color without worrying that you will ruin your student's ability to read music. But do not write any letter names on the book, completely rely on the colors.


This is how the books should look like:


Correct way to color code


and not like this:


Wrong way to color code


 

4. Lean on the colors and progress through the book:


This is when you get to relax and enjoy the stress-free progress. It's alright to stay here for as long as needed. Use this relaxed learning stage to teach technique, rhythm, and everything your student will need to progress to the next stage. Now is the time your student learns to draw the circles around the notes while you watch. By the end of this stage, your student should be able to independently have the sheet ready with all the colored circles around them. Otherwise, stay in this stage longer and don't move on until ready. This is very crucial for this method to work.


 

5. Mark the G and F lines on the score:


This is a major threshold you need to cross together, during this step, your student will mark the G and F lines and only some of the notes. The book will look something like this:


Marking the G and F lines

During this stage, use fewer and fewer colors around single notes, and let the student decide when and where to use them.

Before you teach a new piece, give your student 5 minutes to prepare the sheet. The student should independently be able to mark the lines and any other note he deems challenging.


I have stayed on this stage for years with some students, your student might want to stay here indefinitely, which is fine, sometimes, with other students you can move to the final stage.


 

6. The student decides if and when to use any of the tools:


This is when you both reap the fruit of your hard work. Your student has all the tools to use on a bad day or during a challenging piece.


Expect to go through good days and bad days. On bad days, your student seems to have forgotten everything you taught, this is fine, rest assured, they haven't. Just go one or two steps backward during these days and take it easy and slow, these bad days will pass.


I hope this was helpful, if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me, I read and answer all my emails.





2 comments

2件のコメント


Tracey Twa
Tracey Twa
4月05日

This is amazing! Thank you so much!

いいね!
Dima Tahboub
Dima Tahboub
4月07日
返信先

Thank you! I'm happy you found it useful.

いいね!

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