Didactic differentiation: Offering increased structure

What does it mean to provide more structure in a classroom situation?

How can music education professionals provide more structure in music class?

Visual structure

Visual structure in notes

    • use colours, contrasts attract attention
    • make everything larger, make copies from A4 to A5, use a larger font
    • choose a clear font that provides a lot of white space, e.g. comic or arial
    • never use an italic font, pupils do not see the difference between straight and italic; replace it with bold or underlined
    • use high contrast white/black or yellow/blue
    • always put titles at the top of the page
    • draw text boxes, make words bold
    • make use of white space, add white space between paragraphs
    • do not overload with unnecessary drawings and visual details

Visual structure on the blackboard

    • write legibly and large enough
    • use a recognisable and standardised handwriting font
    • read out everything you write so that pupils with dyslexia know what it is about and can write it down by memory
    • support your words with visual aids on the blackboard: a drawing, a title, new concepts
    • avoid a blackboard full of notes and loose words, wipe the blackboard regularly enough

Visual structure for music education

    • enlarge the staff
    • add extra colours, e.g. the third line in another colour or the notes between the lines in another colour
    • mark the words under the notes
    • add bar lines to the words

Auditory structure

Auditory structure for assignments

    • talk calmly and pause in between the instruction sessions
    • use short instructions
    • repeat instructions and add other supportive means: displaying, writing, drawing
    • repeat or paraphrase what a fellow student says, the student with learning disabilities will often not fully understand the other student
    • face the student and repeat the instructions with direct eye contact, possibly also touching lightly, ask the student to look at you
    • ask questions and check whether the student did understand your explanation
    • allow the student to repeat the instruction or explanation himself
    • provide a simple explanation of difficult words, and repeat the explanation regularly
    • ask if the student can clarify a particular word

Auditory structure in music class

    • repeat a certain passage several times, play it on demand
    • first practise the rhythm, then sing the melody using “na or noe”, then name the notes
    • learn to memorise a musical phrase as a full sentence, do not work one bar at a time
    • have the rhythm and the melody written down separately, first the rhythm then the melody
    • use auditory practice material at home (CD, DVD, Spotify, Youtube, …)

Structure in the organisation

Organising the environment

    • offer fixed seats, taking into account problems and needs
    • vary seats regularly
      • at the front: students who are easily distracted, students who need a lot of individual interaction with the teacher.
      • at the back: students who constantly watch their backs to see what is happening there, students who need control
      • on the side: students who need control, students who are easily distracted by environmental noise
      • alone: students who distract others and cannot control this, students with a need for control or students with autism
      • next to a student with good note-taking skills: students with dyslexia, ADD and NLD so they can use the notes to complete their own notes
      • next to a student that is good at explaining things patiently: students with learning difficulties, students with learning disabilities
      • do not place a student with ADHD or ADD close to a window or in a place exposed to sunlight
    • introduce a little tranquility at the start of the lesson: whisper, write what you want to say on the board, start with a recognition melody or starting ritual, …
    • make sure there are enough moments when you can rest during the lesson: relaxation exercises, listening, …
    • make it varied, more than 7 to 10 minutes of doing the same activity is the maximum for children, alternate listening with practising in pairs, practising in class with practising individually, …
    • structure the workplace of students with ADD, ADHD, autism, dyspraxia, indicate what is allowed and monitor this. Provide an extra pencil set for forgetful students especially those with ADHD and dyspraxia

Organisation of homework

    • encourage homework by providing a reward system
    • involve the parents, provide clear typed instructions
    • support homework with adapted materials such as musical accompaniment, CD or DVD, …
    • design a day-to-day activity sheet and record the amount of time the student can practise ( take the individual situation into account), have this signed by the parents
    • make a questionnaire with potential points for repetitions and exams
    • practise the performance as specifically as possible: with an audience, in front of a mirror, etc.

Stepping stones and problem solving strategies

  • develop pathways for complex processes, each step is an action, a question or an answer
  • allow the use of a step-by-step plan
  • dont do everything at once, make sure all steps are clear, demonstrate, show what you are doing for example with your hands, show what you are doing with your feet, show what you are doing with your eyes, show what you are doing with your breathing, show the posture, show how you are doing everything together
  • practise fractional processes and then practise the whole, e.g. first read the rhythm, then the notes, then the notes in the required rhythm


  • announce clearly what is going to happen, make the sequence clear in a visual way.
  • discuss what you expect explicitly, write down the agreements on paper and read through them together, draw attention to the consequences of what is written on paper, e.g.: exam on 4 April, this means that you will repeat the exam in the week of 30 March
  • make the implied agreements or rules explicit e.g. repeat this means that you can explain all these words in your own words, pay attention now means that you watch the board and don’t chat with your neighbour
  • give explicit notice if a certain behaviour is disruptive, name the behaviour and indicate the sanction to be applied
  • in the case of disruptive behaviour, explain the behaviour you would like to see, name and demonstrate the desired behaviour

Read more:

How to adapt your didactics for students with developmental disabilities?

Didactic differentiation: Adapting time and number of exercises


BVBA, Zenjoy. ‘Sticordi DKO · Eureka ADIBib’. Eureka ADIBib.