Very Young Students

Rebecca said: Jul 28, 2011
Rebecca SchiblerViolin, Viola
24 posts

When one of my mother’s came to me and wanted to start her 5 year old and 3 year old daughters, I was sure I was prepared for young students. After all, I have started many students at 6 years old and never had a problem. :shock: 5 years old is MILES from 6 years old, and 3 years old may as well be a different species! ;-)

Although I exaggerate a bit, I am so surprised at how difficult I am finding it to reach and read these young girls. I have taken Book 1 training, read tons of material, know all the games and songs and steps… but that didn’t prepare me for the different challenge of communicating with a preschooler as opposed to grade school age.

It’s a little embarrassing admitting this, as young students are what the Suzuki method is known for! I feel like I am letting my mother down because I am struggling to reach and therefore teach her girls. (We haven’t had many lessons yet, so maybe it just takes time- we’re just on box violins and baby bows and daisy chains…)

Any advice or insights on how to approach young students would be deeply appreciated!

“Music exists for the purpose of growing an admirable heart.” -Dr. Suzuki

Patricia said: Jul 29, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Martinsville, NJ
58 posts

Can I ask you some questions? do you have children yourself? why did you start your suzuki training? what kind of college classes have you taken? I don’t mean to be disrespectful—I am just wondering—why would you want to be a suzuki teacher if you didn’t already want to work with young children?
I have 25 years teaching and—well I have been playing all sorts of instruments ever since I was 2 years old and I don’t have children of my own…. except for the 4 legged kind.
One of the reasons I started my Suzuki Training was because I knew young children had such great potential… but they can’t be taught like a grown up.
If I am teaching the skills needed to play Twinkle to a 4 year old—it looks more like we are playing instead of a music lesson… if I teach the same skills to a 7 year old—we are still having fun—but I am teaching the student at his level of understanding and physical capabilities.
It seems like your question—isn’t really a question as it is more a statement of discomfort working with children that young?
I know a few really great suzuki teachers in my area—that don’t want to work with students of a certain age. You owe it to anyone who is paying you to be upfront, honest in your desire to be a good teacher?

Rebecca said: Jul 29, 2011
Rebecca SchiblerViolin, Viola
24 posts

While I do not have children, I have a lot of experience with kids of all ages- babysitting, nanny work, siblings and family etc. I was a Suzuki student from childhood too. I started volunteering at a local grade school when I was 20, and realized that knowing how to play is not the same thing as knowing how to teach, so I invested in the Suzuki training. Who wouldn’t want Suzuki training? :)

Of course young children have great potential, but so do not-so-young children and teenagers and adults. While the Suzuki method was uniquely designed for the very young, in my experience it is of benefit to students of every age.

That being said, for various reasons my teaching experience has been entirely with grade school age children and above- and I’ve been teaching for almost 8 years now. That’s a lot of “practice” with older kids, and no practice with the way young students learn violin. I am not uncomfortable working with the girls, far from it, and we have had lots of fun in our lessons. But I feel like I am not reaching them in the same way I reach my other students- perhaps my expectations are off because I haven’t worked with children of this age before. But many Suzuki teachers have more experience than I have had with the way to approach young minds, and I am hoping to gain the benefit of their experience.

“Music exists for the purpose of growing an admirable heart.” -Dr. Suzuki

Patricia said: Jul 29, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Martinsville, NJ
58 posts

I don’t know you so I am just going to make some funny suggestions? I would make sure you have a little chair to sit in with them…. I have preschool furniture at my school as well as grown up and I switch chairs alot during the day…..
then I would approach the lesson not so much from the standpoint of “oh, we need to do this and that today” But, Instead from a standpoint of “let’s see what we can do today?”
My pre-K students love the fact that we always do something silly to begin with and to end with…. at the beginning—I play a game where we stand still and make funny faces at eachother without moving out of place….. then that is replaced with can you sing to me…. and then that is replaced with can you hold the violin…. and then can you watch the violin…… with the bow—I start with making bunny faces on their hand—if I even look like we aren’t going to do that—my students laugh and “yell” at me for forgetting to visit mr. bunny…. then the bow is placed and then we do bow games….

To be real honest—the 4 & 5 years olds are really smart—it’s just that they approach things with how fun will this be and will it feel good…… once you understand that—things get easier…..
But, as I said before, several of my close colleagues here don’t like taking students than young either and they are good teachers. Good Luck! I’d make a silly face for you if you were here.

Tim Eckert said: Jul 29, 2011
Tim Eckert
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools
30 posts

I have had some 3- and 4-year-old piano students.

I use stuffed animals a lot, and have them pass on my instructions, and help with hand position, etc. References to numbers and colours help, since the young ones like to practice those things. The animals “like to help” with repetition games.

I find I must ask very few questions at this age.

Even though I have 2 pianos in my studio, I usually spend more time sitting right beside the younger students; they can understand more easily, and usually listen better than when I am sitting 2 metres away.

And some young students need just 15 minute lessons: there’s no point going beyond their limit of concentration. They have learned a lot just with that short period of time.

Irene said: Jul 30, 2011
Irene YeongViolin
160 posts

My daughter started violin when turned 2. We have an interview with the violin teacher before we decide whether she can start formal music lessons. Simple things like listening to the instruction, whether she is willing to follow or not.

In the beginning she has her lessons with shoes off, socks on sitting on the carpet. Her teacher sat on the carpet with her. When she is ready, stand up, take a bow with the violin in rest position. Learn to hold the bow and the violin. She was doing fine in the beginning, till she started on fingering on the fingerboard, she started jumping around in lessons like a monkey. We tried all sorts of idea to make her pay attention, finally what worked for us was, I stay out of the room and watch her from outside while taking notes. When I am not there, she knows the teacher is in charge and listen attentively to the teacher.

Rather than shouldering all the responsibility, parents play a vital role too. Are they making sure the young child practice at home? Too many extra curricular activities, the young children are too tired to pay attention during lesson time? My daughter’s lesson , now she is 35 months old is half an hour. Sometimes, she learns the violin throughout the whole 30 minutes, sometimes when she is too tired, her teacher lets her play with magnet and put the magnet on the staffs. identifying G-clef and all.

http://www.storiesformydaughter-reei.blogspot.com

Rebecca said: Jul 31, 2011
Rebecca SchiblerViolin, Viola
24 posts

Thank you all for the insights and advice!
Patrizia: That is a great way to approach these mentally for me- what can we accomplish rather than what MUST we… that may be part of my frustration with these lessons! Instead of having a “plan” this week, I am just going to have a list of activity ideas and see where the girls take me! It is great to be reminded that even standing still is a learning step at that age- and if that’s all we get done, it was still a worthwhile lesson.
Irene: Thank you for the parent perspective! Maybe asking mom to step out so I can be an authority will help- especially with the 5yr old- we’ll see what happens this week.

“Music exists for the purpose of growing an admirable heart.” -Dr. Suzuki

Elizabeth Friedman said: Aug 2, 2011
Elizabeth Friedman
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
49 posts

Hi! I teach kids starting around 3 1/2, if they’re ready. (As we all know, some 3-year-olds are ready, while even some 7-year-olds aren’t!) I find that the best thing about teaching young ones is that they like repetition and tend not to be self-conscious, and so they learn things more slowly but also more thoroughly. But, patience will be required—for both you and the parent. Parents especially should be cautioned not to worry about whether their three-year-old is bored… the parent might very well get bored, but a three-year-old, who loves to hear the same story over and over, will be content to do the same rhymes and games over and over, too.

A three- or four-year-old will take months to go from beginning to Twinkle—so you have to be prepared with plenty of rhymes, games, and songs. Some motor skills will take longer to develop than others, and you will have to practice rest position, feet, bow hold, violin hold, left-hand coordination, concentration, etc. much more than with an older student. But a five- or six-year-old can, if they’re ready and practicing regularly, be playing Twinkle in a much shorter span of time, and they don’t have to do all the exercises that a three-year-old would, since they’re already doing things like writing, etc., and have developed motor skills.

I also start them on a box at the beginning. It seems to help a lot, and avoids disaster in that inevitable moment when the attention fails and the violin falls down. I’ve learned the hard way, with a current four-year-old student, not to take it away too early. (Here I thought she was excited to move on, and really her new violin has just produced a ton of anxiety!! It would have been much better to have stayed on the box longer!)

I’ve got a bunch of games up my sleeve for young ones… let me know if you’d like some!

Rebecca said: Aug 2, 2011
Rebecca SchiblerViolin, Viola
24 posts

Thank you so much! Repetition for the 3 year old is good to be reminded of- she LOVES Thumbkins and we could probably spend her entire lesson doing just that.

I am always on the lookout for game ideas- like I said above I have lots of practice with older kids, where the goal is to make the learning fun. With these young ones, I think the goal is to make the fun full of learning! Thanks again!

“Music exists for the purpose of growing an admirable heart.” -Dr. Suzuki

Allison Sargent said: Aug 2, 2011
Allison SargentViolin, Viola
Pflugerville, TX
13 posts

I would love to hear how you teach your first few lessons with the
little ones and hear some games you use.

Sent from my iPhone

On Aug 2, 2011, at 8:45 AM, “SAA Discussion”
wrote:

Allison K. Sargent
http://sargentstrings.com

Elizabeth Friedman said: Aug 2, 2011
Elizabeth Friedman
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
49 posts

Hi! Sure! Here’s the rest position song:

(In rest position, sung to Twinkle)

Rest position, feet in line
Scroll out front, that’s mighty fine
Check your bridge ’cause it should be
Peeking out at you and me
Now it’s time to take a bow
One, two, three, and so, that’s how.

The first lesson: (A caveat: this is totally from Pat D’Ercole, who was my teacher trainer.) I start by drawing their foot chart. I use red for rest position, blue for in-between (penguin feet, as someone just told me!), and make a green foot for the slightly-forward left foot. Then, we take a bow, and I explain how this is how we start and end every lesson, and how we say hello before playing and thank you after playing. Then, I draw a violin on their violin hand, and a bow on their bow hand. Then we sit on the floor. I sit beside them and, with hands behind our backs, we play “violin hand, bow hand”—I ask “where’s your violin hand?” and they pull out their violin hand (and I do too, after them), etc.

Bow Hold
I put a dot on the inside corner of the bow thumb, and dots on fingers 2 & 3, at the first knuckle line. We start by giving a thumbs-up:

Stand up, bow thumb. (Thumbs up)
Take a bow. (Thumb takes a bow)
Open your hand.
Match your dots. (Match the dot on the thumb to the dots on 2 & 3, making sure the thumb has a ‘bump’ on it, and isn’t ‘wrinkly and old’.)

This usually takes awhile, and with a little one, just getting the thumbs up might take some time. In the first lesson with a young one, I usually don’t introduce the bow; but with a five-year-old or older, take the bow and slide the stick along their thumb nail until they get to the silver part of the frog; they then put their thumb there. I usually put a small sticker where the dot is supposed to go, so that that dot is matched. I also put a little piece of tape where the pinkie goes, which is usually enough. Eventually, the child can do this themselves, but with a young one, it can take weeks.

Violin Hold
Rest position comes first. I hold the violin (I use a box with a ruler taped to it) out to them, with the back of the violin facing them and the scroll up. They take the violin by the violin’s shoulder, fingers on the front and thumb on the back, and put it across their body into rest position. Repeat many times, perhaps chatting with them about something else while you guide them. Then see if they can do it for themselves.

Then, putting up the violin: I say, “shake my hand backwards,” and we shake hands with our left hands while I take the violin by the shoulder. I hold the violin, scroll up, facing them, and say “look at me,” then, “look at your violin,” and then I place the violin for them on their shoulder, and place their violin hand on their bow shoulder. We talk about the heavy head, etc. etc., and having them put their violin hand on their shoulder helps create a flat space for the violin without any tension. I put a sticker on the box violin so they’ve got somewhere to look, and then we see if they can hold it and look at the sticker while I play all of, say, Twinkle A. Eventually, they should be able to hold it while I play the whole thing.

Other games for other lessons:

Soapy Arm
Have your student sit on the floor or in a chair and put their violin arm straight out with their hand on their knee. Have them rub their arm with their bow hand from elbow to wrist with their bow arm, ’soaping’ their arm in rhythm, like to Var. A, B, C, etc. This forces the bow arm to move from the elbow. If they’re having trouble with the rhythm, which they will at first, see if the arm can “say” pepperoni pizza, or whatever you use.

Bunny Chin
Do stand-up, bow thumb exercise. Then:
Bunny chin, bop bop (touch the ‘bump’ to chin)
Bunny teeth, chop chop (make the bunny’s teeth bite)
Bunny nose, wiggle wiggle (wiggle thumb & fingers as if the bunny’s nose is wiggling)
Bunny ears, flop flop

Beehive
Have the student make their violin hand into a fist with the thumb on the inside.

This is the beehive
Where are all the bees?
Stuck inside where nobody sees.
Here they come, flying out to play
One, two, three, four, they all fly away. (Take off the fingers in order one by one, then the hand pretends to fly.)

Elevator
Place a tape on the bow where the student’s arm forms a square, and another one on the box where the bow should go. While holding the box violin, and with their bow in a beautiful bow hold, the student matches the bow tape with the tape on the box. Then they pretend there’s a little man (or woman) sitting on the bow, riding the ‘elevator,’ and they go “up five floors” (count to 5) and “down 5 floors,” to match the tape again.

Then, of course, they can bow their rhythms on the box violin, etc. I usually don’t have them place their own violin for a long time…

Hope this is helpful!

Connie Sunday said: Aug 2, 2011
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

Elizabeth, I’m sure these games work for most children. But let me tell you a story about myself. When I was two, my mother and I were in a department store—I sort of remember this—and this lady saw me, headed in my direction, and started saying, “oh what a pretty baby,” and trying to hug and kiss me. Mother picked me up, and she said that I turned toward the lady and said: “Would you please not touch me?”

I remember thinking, more than once, that baby talk (”Bunny teeth, chop chop …Bunny nose, wiggle wiggle”) was not only profoundly insulting but idiotic. (I’m not saying you’re idiotic; please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying). So, how do you deal with very bright children, how do you teach THEM?? I don’t think your methods would work.

Free Handouts for Music Teachers & Students:
http://beststudentviolins.com/library.html#handouts

Elizabeth Friedman said: Aug 2, 2011
Elizabeth Friedman
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
49 posts

Hi Connie,
Yup, you’re right—the bunny chin thing is one I don’t do with every child. Since it’s not a first-lesson exercise (or an every-lesson exercise), I get to the point of reading the child ahead of doing this, and can figure out whether they’d be up for it. It’s the same with the beehive… if they’re too old for it, and/or if they’ve developed the motor skills already, there’s no reason to do those exercises. Those are the optional ones. But I’ve got four-year-olds who absolutely love these rhymes and ask to do them in their lessons well after they need to do them anymore, and a couple who wouldn’t be caught dead doing them!

And, the foot chart is good for, I’d say, up to 6-year-olds. Past that age, we just talk about a having a good, solid stance, because they can understand what “hip-width apart, left foot slightly forward” means. They get stickers throughout their lessons (again, if they’re young and/or want stickers) and can decorate their foot charts with them—it also gives me a place to have them stand when they’re having trouble staying in one place.

Surprisingly, the stand up bow thumb thing seems to work even with older beginners, and even with older children whose bow holds I’m correcting. And, I’ve done it with adult beginners to help them get an idea of the proper bow hold. They don’t do it forever, obviously. I do take the counting out of the elevator game… it turns into a pre-collé exercise, seeing if they can set it on the string without making a sound, if they’re older.

Basically, the bunny chin, beehive, etc. etc. is filler for younger students who need specific work on certain motor skills AND who I discern would enjoy it—I’d never say they were benchmarks that must be passed! But even very bright students enjoy being silly sometimes.

Another winner is Up Like a Rocket—everyone loves that one… and if they’re really good at it, stick a small hair tie on top of the tip and see if they can keep it there throughout the whole thing. And then, just after Up Like a Rocket, there’s

Big Ben/Empire State Building (bow on top of head)
Pinocchio (bow sticking off of nose, screw on tip of nose)
Beard (bow sticking out from the chin)
Shark (bow on back of neck)
Puppy dog tail (bow wagging in back)

This is a hit… especially the puppy dog tail, with groups.

Oh, and pre-twinkle songs… I treat every pre-twinkle song as a way to get to Twinkle A, and then use the other variation rhythms with the notes when they’re learning the rhythms. So…

The Flower Song
Do you see the flower (A)
In the pretty garden? (E)
Yes, I see the flower (E)
In the pretty garden. (A)

The Pickle Song
Do you want a pickle (A)
On your ice cream sandwich? (E)
Yes, I want a pickle (1 on E)
On my ice cream sandwich! (E)

The Monkey Song
See the little monkey (A)
Climbing up the ladder (1)
Reaching way up high to (2)
Pick the pink banana? (3)
It is very tasty! (4)
See the little monkey (3)
Climbing down the ladder (2)
Reaching way down low to (1)
Eat the pink banana. (A)

If they’re too old for the words to be any fun, then I talk about how they’re learning how to cross strings, learning their first scale, and learning the beginning of Twinkle. But usually they think the words are a good time!

Laura Nguyen said: Aug 2, 2011
Laura Nguyen
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
4 posts

I am a piano teacher and so am sad I can’t use all these ideas, but I love these pre-Twinkle words! Thanks!

I was interested in doing general music pre-Twinkle classes and came across Alfred Publishing’s “Music for Little Mozarts” class curriculum. It is a lot of fun and features two stuffed animals named Mozart Mouse and Beethoven Bear. I started using “Mozart Mouse is my Friend” for the variation rhythm with kids I had introduced that curriculum to.

Rebecca said: Aug 2, 2011
Rebecca SchiblerViolin, Viola
24 posts

Elizabeth those are some great ideas! I can’t wait to see the girls tomorrow and try some of that out!

On a related note- this is one of the things that drew me to Suzuki. The cooperative and supportive community structure, instead of competitive. Suzuki isn’t perfect and there are always things to dislike about anything, but it is so nice to have a resource of experienced and caring teachers to reach out to when I need help. :)

“Music exists for the purpose of growing an admirable heart.” -Dr. Suzuki

Brenda Lee Villard said: Aug 2, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
Edina, MN
27 posts

I’ve been teaching the “babies” (ages 2 to 5) for nearly 25 years now. In response to Connie’s question about working with the kids who don’t like the “baby stuff”….it is true that I change my vocabulary according to the child in front of me. As a child, I too, remembered hating baby stuff and thinking I was being talked down to, so I’m very careful to feel each kid out and make sure that I’m at the level that they are most comfortable with. I’ve seen way to many teachers talk the baby talk and want their students to hug them after every little thing—-I can’t stand that! My students do love to hug and snuggle up to me—in particular my tweeners and teenagers (go figure) but I let them make the move to reach out to me. I make it a point to work hard at finding the right words for the right age and for the right child. Tanya Carey always said that if a child isn’t “getting it” then it is the fault of the teacher and not the child. She always insisted on having several ways of explaining something and having MANY tricks up the sleeve for the same idea. I think of that advice often when I’m teaching and so I do try to be creative and have lots of different ways to teach the same technique. Some kids just want the facts and others love to develop long (drawn out) make believe stories about each finger and what their job is and what their name is and…..you get what I mean. And I don’t think it’s an age thing or an intelligence thing— some kids love make believe and some kids are realists, just like some are tactile and some are visual.

Rachel Schott said: Aug 6, 2011
Rachel SchottViolin
Harrogate, TN
127 posts

Hello Becky! I’m re-reading Mr.Starr’s “The Suzuki Violinist” and have found (why I didn’t remember this I’ll never know) a solid three pages of Suzuki’s Group ideas as geared toward beginners and very easily adapted to private lessons.

Just thought of you as I was reading and thought you might look again at this fabulous book we all know so well :)

Rebecca said: Aug 6, 2011
Rebecca SchiblerViolin, Viola
24 posts

Elizabeth~ the girls both had so much fun with the violin hand/bow hand game! We spent 5 minutes each playing that and it was a great time! I really appreciate the many ideas- I just had a list of “possible” activities and went with what the girls seemed able to do. It was so exciting to seem them excited! I am hoping to try the thumb bow this week too.

Rachel, thanks for the reminder to read the Starr book again- I carry it in my teaching bag but hadn’t reread it in a while :) Wonderful ideas! I also love “Teaching from the Balance Point” by Kreitman.

I am starting a 3 1/2 year old boy in September- we’ll see if the little boy variety is completely different!

“Music exists for the purpose of growing an admirable heart.” -Dr. Suzuki

Cynthia Faisst said: Aug 6, 2011
Cynthia Faisst
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Irvine, CA
127 posts

Its so wonderful to see all of you sharing these ideas. I think we could easily fill a forum just talking about ideas for teaching PreTwinklers. I wish their was a way to organize something like that. A kind of PreTwinkle summit for each instrument. I think I spend about 25% of my teaching time just looking for and thinking up ideas for teaching PreTwinklers.
Its hard to wander through Target, the grocery store or the hardware store for my own needs with out subconsciously searching for something that will create a solution for my latest teaching challenge. Am I the only teacher like this.

Ms. Cynthia
Studio:
Talent Education Center: Suzuki Violin
Director of Santa Ana Suzuki Strings located at the
Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center
Volunteer, bring music to under-served communities around the world. Create Sound Investments and Futures.

Barb said: Aug 6, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Ms. Cynthia—no, you’re not the only teacher who does that! :lol:

Becky—I have not taught younger than 5 yet, but in my experience, boys and girls are almost from a different planet. Maybe it’s just the students I’ve had. My experience has been that when we first start, I could keep the boys’ (ages 5-6) attention for about 20 minutes, then I would start to lose them if I didn’t really switch things up with a new game or something. (I would forget to give them chances to get up from sitting with the cello until then too—poor boys.) I always knew when we were down to the last 10 minutes. The first girl lesson I taught (age 6) I accidentally went 45 minutes often, and it seemed she would have been happy to sit there even longer! Never really needed games or stories (the realist as Brenda noted?), but we played a lot of easy easy (open strings etc.) songs. My other girls have started later, so I can’t compare more.

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Rebecca said: Aug 7, 2011
Rebecca SchiblerViolin, Viola
24 posts

The boy/girl divide has been my experience with older students as well- but I have found that when little boys want to play the violin, they are so committed to it that they are just a joy to teach. Of course, at 3 years old, commitment is probably a few years off :)

After children have done a year of formal education, whether they’re home school or go to a public/private school, they’ve learned how to learn- how to focus, remember, recite, respond to the teacher etc. What is striking me about these youngest students is that a good deal of our work is on gaining these learning skills. And I think that is what threw me off at first- I expected them to be able to learn in the same way as my older students, but they hadn’t gained those skills yet. Taking a step back and getting some great advice has helped immensely!

“Music exists for the purpose of growing an admirable heart.” -Dr. Suzuki

Irene said: Aug 7, 2011
Irene YeongViolin
160 posts

Do you reward them with stickers after lessons? Have a variety of stickers to reward the young child, smiley face, princesses, Thomas train. It helps in lesson and in home practice, I just keep reminding that my daughter that if you practice the violin everyday at home, your teacher will know and she will reward you with sticker. It works for her. :)

Deirdre Ann Nutter said: Aug 8, 2011
Deirdre Ann Nutter
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Zelienople, PA
1 posts

I just sent Elizabeth Friedman a big thank you for taking the time to post all her helpful information. I can’t wait to use some of it on my two new students (3 1/2 and 4 1/2 yr old boys). This will be a new exciting challenge, as I have only taught age 5 and up so far.

Elizabeth Friedman said: Aug 8, 2011
Elizabeth Friedman
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
49 posts

Thank you, Rachel Schott, for recommending The Suzuki Violinist! Interestingly, I’d never heard of it… but I just ordered it. Three pages full of pre-Twinkle games will definitely come in handy!

Rachel Schott said: Aug 9, 2011
Rachel SchottViolin
Harrogate, TN
127 posts

Why YOU’RE WELCOME!

It’s been a game-changer for me. I’ve been searching for the heart of Suzuki in my 6 month sabbatical from teaching and re-reading some fantastic books. Of all, this one is my favorite and provides an exciting step-by-step description of many aspects of Suzuki’s private (meaning, Matsumoto’s huge center) teaching.

Deanna said: Aug 11, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
90 posts

Thanks, Elizabeth for all the songs and ideas! I can never have too many different ways of working on the same thing!
I have the Suzuki Violinist—I’ll have to look at it again. It’s been months since I’ve opened it.

Nancy Brown said: Oct 31, 2011
Nancy Brown
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Charlotte, NC
7 posts

I agree with MsCynthia, we need a forum just for pre-twinkle ideas for each instrument. I teach piano and ECE, and also have used Music for Little Mozarts, and the little stuffed Mozart Mouse and Beethoven Bear usually sit on the music shelf of the piano during the lesson. I could do more with them, I am sure, and the series uses lots of storytelling with these two.
I can’t say enough about Suzuki Early Childhood Education training, it’s great working with the very youngest and seeing how they learn. I sing a lot and find it carries over to my grandchildren and also my young students.
I have also used for very young piano students, lots of Michiko Yurko’s Music Mind Games ideas, but usually from her first book, No H in Snake, and make lots of cards for them to take home and use.
We sit at the piano, since we don’t have a small size instrument like the violinists do, for only part of the lesson, then we go to the floor to play card games with musical alphabet, in all different ways, and there seems to be no end to what you can do with homemade card games. I let them sit on a carpet square if they want, but they will usually work at the piano knowing they will have time for games.

Some early workbooks I like and have used many times are:

Schaum—The Keyboard Alphabet Workbook-with simple flashcards
Clark—The Music Tree Time to Begin workbook, before ever starting with the lesson book
Noona—Music Magic Pre-Primer Duets ( I keep the book myself)
—Music Magic Pre-Primer Workbook-with flashcards
Tap, Clap, and Sing Bks. 1 & 2- have to order them from Amazon or wherever I can find them now- also good for strings

I hope these ideas may help someone.
Nancy B

Karen said: Nov 1, 2011
Karen Huffman
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Portland, OR
28 posts

Nancy-

Wow thanks for all these book ideas!! I had forgotten about No H in Snake. I actually use Music Tree a lot and not just the beginning book but for site reading with older kids. I had not thought about using it for pre-twinklers! I am REALLY interested in doing ECE work and I happen to have a Mozart Mouse and Beethoven Bear decorating my studio haha! I have Music Together certification which is based on the Suzuki ideas but I have found that, while the kids coming out of that program have great ear-training and love music, it is a little bumpy trying to transition them to the Suzuki repertoire because of the difference in the type of music. It is not impossible of course, but I have felt multiple times that kids would go much faster and enjoy it more if they were already familiar with at least a few Suzuki tunes before they ever started pre-Twinkling. I think I am also making assumptions about ECE and have not REALLY looked seriously into it yet… But like someone has said on here, I know the kids LOVE to recognize the music they are studying. I even had a 5 year old come back from Disney World and he was hardly through the door before he had to tell me about how they played Claire de Lune on a piano while the kids were waiting to meet one of the princesses. Not sure if I am being a bit disjointed here… but now I am excited to get to the music store!

Thanks again!
-Karen

Celia Jones said: Nov 4, 2011
 Violin
72 posts

I found this discussion interesting as a parent. My 4yo daughter learnt from age 3 from a lovely teacher who has traditional training and uses Suzuki repertoire and ideas. Since that teacher retired in June she now learns from Elizabeth Friedman.

While my daughter was at the pre-Twinkle stage I searched for everything that could help her and read all the books I could get my hands on. The Suzuki Violinist as has been mentioned is one of my favourites, and just about everything else by William Starr too!

The one thing that I looked for and did not find was a record by a Suzuki parent or parents about what to expect, what sort of progress could be achieved. The book “Diary of a Suzuki Parent” is about a 6-year old, and the author only touches on the subject of 3-year olds. So I feel there is a gap there that ideally would be filled by a video or book which records the teaching and progress of several very young beginners. I made a YouTube video titled “Climbing Twinkle Mountain” which I hope provides some insights, although I think a book is necessary to really explain what we were doing. I think it would be great if others could make similar videos and perhaps if some teachers and parents could work together to write a book.

Jennifer Visick said: Nov 4, 2011
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

I don’t know if this is what you’re looking for, since it’s from a teacher’s perspective and not a parents’—but Elizabeth Mills drew up a chart called “Parents’ Guide to What to Expect by the End of Each Stage in the Development of a Beginner’s Ability to Play ‘Twinkle’”.

She divides learning Twinkle into different stages and gives the stages names analogous to the planting, growth & tending of a fruit tree. For each stage, she’s listed an estimate or an average range of months or weeks that a parent can expect that stage to take, and then lists “musical & psychological” points and “physical & technical” aspects a student may exhibit in each stage.

Obviously, the estimate of how long each stage takes varies wildly from student to student, depending on the student’s personality, developmental (physical) readiness, emotional & intellectual maturity, frequency & consistency of practice, regular attendance at lessons & group classes, & whether or not daily listening is being accomplished as assigned, and the teacher’s goals & teaching style as well as the parenting style and cultural background of the students’ home life.

We put this chart in our parent orientation handbooks (but I don’t think the Mills’ ever published it anywhere). I tend to go over it with my students’ parents and “check off” the things that the parents can see are beginning to grow in their child’s practice sessions, lessons & group classes, and then we can sort of create a customized version of “how long” this is going to take for each stage.

In any case, if you add up her averages by taking the longest time span she lists in her range of months for each stage, the whole thing takes 32 months, by which time the student is working on pieces “near the end of book 1″ and their performance of twinkle is “full of conviction, produced with flair, confident and completely musical,” with “first class” posture, intonation, and bow control, and the student’s solo performance of twinkle can be used as a public demonstration of excellence at an institute or concert, or can be used as a model in a beginner’s class.

Celia Jones said: Nov 4, 2011
 Violin
72 posts

Jennifer do you ahve a copy of the chart that you can post? I can see a book by Elizabeth Mills, I wonder if it may be in there.

Lori Bolt said: Nov 5, 2011
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
San Clemente, CA
226 posts

Anyone know if a similar developmental chart is available for piano? Or would the Mills chart be adaptable? Would love to have something to guide my parents.

Lori Bolt

Jennifer Visick said: Nov 6, 2011
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

I’ve got a digital copy floating around somewhere. Let me see if I can find it.

Jennifer Visick said: Nov 6, 2011
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts
Sue Hunt said: Nov 6, 2011
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
389 posts

You might be interested in the ebook, 36 Beginner Bow Hold Games, with extra piano parts for the games with songs, lucky dip cards to customise a practice session and bow hold charts.
36 Beginner Bow Hold Games

Celia Jones said: Nov 7, 2011
 Violin
72 posts

Thank you so much Jennifer! What an amazing chart! It’s the antithesis to the “what piece is your child on?” style of progress checking, and it includes so much on the child’s own awareness of how they learn and how they direct their attention.

Jennifer Visick said: Nov 7, 2011
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

Well, it’s actually part of a larger “set” of twinkle progress charts that Elizabeth drew up, including student progress books with designs for stickers with pictures of each stage represented by a tree that “grows” a little more in each sticker, so students could “see” their own Twinkle tree growing as they practiced…

One of the other teachers in our group class program has all the sketches & student progress book designs. She said (I think—it was a long time ago that I saw them)—that the Mills’ had plans to publish it all together, but never got around to it.

Barb said: Nov 7, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Thank you, Jen! This can be adapted for use with cello, as well, with just a few changes.

The entire set with a tree sticker chart would be wonderful! I hope someone might take that on and see it through as a tribute to the Mills.

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Matthew said: Nov 8, 2011
Matthew Olson
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Bellingham, WA
16 posts

Ed Kreitman’s book Teaching From the Balance Point is an excellent book for teachers and parents that outlines the all the fundamental steps in learning to play the violin. Kreitman calls it “Priority Teaching.”

I’m doing a monthly parent class using Teaching From the Balance Point as our textbook. It has been a big help to the parents and has given them an understanding of the process and the goals. I highly recommend it!

Matthew Olson
OrcasStringStudio.com

Barb said: Nov 12, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

I’ve seen several positive references to Teaching from the Balance Point here. Have any cello teachers found this book helpful?

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Brittany Denig said: Jul 3, 2013
Brittany Denig
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Piano, Bass, Cello
Plano, TX
1 posts

I have to say a great big thank you to everyone contributing to this discussion! I have found several points very helpful and definitely encouraging.

Ms. Brittany Denig
Orchestra Director
Frankford Middle School
Dallas, TX

B.M. Performance ‘12
MM Music Ed ‘14
Suzuki Instructor 2008-Present

Barb said: Jul 5, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

In case it’s helpful to others, I should post the update that I have read Teaching from the Balance Point, and yes, it is very helpful for a cello teacher, even though the details regarding the violin are not applicable. The general information is VERY GOOD.

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Kelly Williamson said: Jul 6, 2013
Kelly WilliamsonTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Flute, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Cambridge, ON
247 posts

I recommend it to all of my flute teacher training classes as well. :) Also Ed’s newer book, “Teaching with an Open Heart”.

Kelly

Miranda Fedock said: Jul 6, 2013
Miranda FedockViolin, Viola
New York, NY
8 posts

I love this post! So full of great ideas. Here are just a few that I rely on with the younger ones (I hope I’m not repeating what someone else said):

  • At the SAA conference last year I went to a session called “overcoming your fear of the 3 year old”—I can’t remember who led it but it was INCREDIBLY helpful. One of the things the leader said was that 3 year olds rely on their vision as their primary sense and way that they experience and interact with the world. Therefore, he suggested communicating with these tiny students visually whenever possible. I’ve adopted this practice and have had great success with it, even with slightly older students. For example, when teaching rest position feet I put a sticker on the inside of each of the child’s feet and then tell him or her to stand so the stickers touch. Without fail, the child instantly understands and does so.

  • Very specific instructions are necessary I’ve found. I think that’s one of the reasons that using stickers as I described above is so helpful, because it helps the child visually and mentally focus on one particular spot, or even two particular spots.

  • As my teacher Joanne Bath always says, “talk less, do more.” This goes along with the visual thing as well. Reduce the amount of talking you do, in favor of actually showing the student what you want them to do. I think this is a good rule of thumb for all ages, but it’s especially true for the younger ones.

  • When you do talk, I’ve noticed that the younger students react very well to interesting speech patterns. What I mean by this is that when I let my voice go monotone, or keep it in my normal range of speech, or keep it at the same general volume, my students tend to zone out while I’m talking to them—the younger they are, the more true this is. If I mix it up some, make a point of increasing and decreasing the volume of my voice throughout the lesson and changing the range in which I speak (high, low, medium, etc), this keeps the students interested and more engaged in what I’m saying.

  • Games! I know everyone’s already talked about this but I want to emphasize it here anyway. The great things about very young students is that the games don’t need to be incredibly complicated to capture their attention. Ed Sprunger describes a game in his excellent book (which I highly recommend) “Building Violin Skills” called the “wiggle game”—the teacher plays Twinkle (or any song) while the student wiggles around in their spot (with feet glued to ground). When the teacher stops playing randomly throughout the piece, the student stops wiggling, and when the teacher starts playing again the student starts wiggling again. I’ve noticed with my students that ages 3-5 love this the best—around 6 or so they tend to start thinking that this is boring and want something more elaborate. I’ve come up with a bunch of simple games for this age group that they absolutely adore, which of course engages them in the material more and helps them learn in a way that’s enjoyable for everyone.

Best of luck! The tiny students are my absolute favorites—I find teaching them to be such a unique joy, and I hope you do too!

  • Miranda
Susan said: Jul 6, 2013
 Violin, Viola
22 posts

Miranda:
May I ask what games do you use for the wee ones?

Susan Rasmussen
Suzuki Strings of Las Vegas
561-374-4706
www.suzukistringsoflasvegas.com

Barb said: Jul 6, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

“Overcoming your fear of the three year old”—Mark Mutter—this was recorded and on the mini online conference.

More great ideas, Miranda, thanks!

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Clara Hardie said: Jul 7, 2013
Clara Hardie
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Detroit, MI
21 posts

I watched an art teacher friend of mine get a table full of little ones to attention by saying, “Who can show me how you can touch your nose!” They all fell silent and touched their noses while looking her touching her nose. I took that tip and ask my kids to “show me how you can do rest position” etc.

LOVED reading all this. Thank you, everyone. One question, what is the point of the bow hold bunny bop, bop on the chin? Is it wrist flexibility because they have to turn the wrist around? I have the bunny do the 5 PreTwinkler bunny bowholds Mark Mutter taught me: bow, dance, eat a carrot, yawn and wiggle ears. Wondering if I should have them bop, bop too?

The other thing that has helped me is to point out the tiny developments to the parent, who is usually worried their child is too slow or abnormally wiggly—make a big deal when they finally have the ability to focus enough to play E String Concerto TWICE through instead of just once!

Emily said: Nov 25, 2013
 59 posts

There are some great ideas here! The only advice I can offer you is to be patient, sometimes it’s takes a bit longer for the youngest ones to get the hang of it. They will come around and start learning in no time.

Emily Christensen
Music Teacher & Writer
www.musiceducationmadness.org

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