Rocking Dan, teaching man

Primary school teacher Dan Colquhoun’s songs are inspiring a generation of children to embrace learning through music.

With an international following for his successful musical lessons, it comes as some surprise that the YouTube star known as Rocking Dan Teaching Man had a learning difficulty and struggled in the classroom as a child.

Dan Colquhoun said he wants to help all children succeed with learning, which was one of his motivations for writing songs to help the children in his classes learn numeracy, social skills, and literacy skills.

“I struggled at school because I’m dyslexic, which meant I had trouble blending, segmenting and manipulating individual sounds which results in difficulties with reading and writing,” he said.

Writing songs to provide a different approach to learning seemed an obvious way to find an alternative for those kids who are challenged when learning the building blocks that the rest of their schooling is based on. Creating animated videos adds a visual component to the music which aids in helping the children learn the educational concepts of the songs.

Doing things differently

“It’s about finding a different, engaging and multisensory approach. Being creative is a great outlet, and music and movement really helps oral language development, phonological and phonemic awareness. It also helps children self-regulate so that they find the optimal balance of alertness and calmness and be ready to learn. I struggled to learn in a conventional way so I tried to find a way to help all children learn concepts they might have difficulty understanding.”

By taking a multisensory approach to teaching children of different abilities, Dan is trying to motivate and engage children through the use of music, movement and visuals in a fun interactive way.

“I want to help foster the creative, intellectual, and emotional development of the children I teach through the use of music and collaboration across the curriculum,” he said. “I also want to help them feel success as learners by helping learn literacy and maths concepts.”

Small fans, big reach

Not only do his small charges at St Declan’s Catholic Primary School in the Sydney suburb of Penshurst love his musical creations, but so do their parents, other teachers, and a swathe of Google + and YouTube followers around the world.

Most of the hits for the 47 songs Dan has written and recorded come from Australia, Britain and the United States. The YouTube channel has had more than 2.1 million hits, and when he did his first animation, it was seen in more than 100 countries.

“I’ve Skyped with and sung songs to a number of schools from different parts of the world,” said Dan. “It’s amazing to hear children from Delaware, Nashville, Missouri or somewhere else in the world singing every word of one of my songs live via video link up. I know that I have helped them learn a concept.”

Dan Colquhoun studied postgraduate education at ACU.

Find out more about studying education and teaching at ACU.

Photo courtesy Sydney CEO