6 year old violinist losing interest

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Alyssa said: Feb 15, 2012
Alyssa MeyerViola, Violin
Temple, TX
1 posts

Hi Everyone!

I have a six year old student and our lessons are getting VERY difficult. She will turn to face the other direction when I ask her to play. She stalls getting her violin out. When she finally gets her instrument out and I ask her to play she acts silly. She spreads her feet too far apart on purpose to be silly even after I ask her to move them. I have asked her if she really wants to play violin to which she replies “yes”. I have talked with her mother who confesses she does not practice at home. I don’t like telling parents to have their child choose another activity or quit violin, but this seems like it is getting way out of hand. Her mother said they were having issues with her at home and she seems frustrated with her daughter. I don’t want this student to be forced to play violin and be miserable if she hates it. I’ve tried everything from playing musical games to make lessons more fun to getting very firm with her. Should I tell her mother it’s time to let violin go or stick with it? Her mother knows if her child does not practice she will not get better. I have communicated this several times. HELP! I’m so frustrated.

Alyssa

Elizabeth Rothenbusch said: Feb 15, 2012
 Violin, Piano, Viola
Cleveland, OH
6 posts

Is she in a group class yet? Sometimes the other children shame them into behaving and or inspire them to get better at playing. It is tough —I feel your pain- had many similar cases. some never recover some need a break from everything. Most need better parenting at home (they’re spoiled) not much you can do about that! do’t beat yourself up…just try some theory games when she refuses to play…
good luck!Liz

Ruth Brons said: Feb 15, 2012
Ruth Brons
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Livingston, NJ
148 posts

In my experience, this is classic behavior when there is fear of failure.

Being silly or uncooperative is a child’s first line of defense to pre-empt a situation feared to become uncomfortable.

The most important aspect in gaining student cooperation is for the student to implicitly trust the teacher to create only opportunities for success—and to be rewarded amply for those triumphs.

It might be a great time to re-trace some skill steps to find a place where the student feels comfortable and can receive a lot of positive feedback— and then tread very carefully when introducing new skills. Perhaps going through some supplemental repertoire that is a few levels easier, along with review, would be a good idea. Meeting a child in the playground of imagination often is often a good idea too. A surprise in routine may also help break the cycle: for example, maybe next lesson announce that the violin will stay in the case and you will work with drums, rhythms, composing, making up stories and drawing pictures to or identifying emotions that go with pieces—anything!

I very often feel that nurturing that special relationship of trust between student and teacher [and parent!] is as much on my mind as teaching the actual skills! Also, keep impressing on the parent that daily practice that’s heavy on review and group class participation are essential parts of the formula for success.

Best Wishes,

Ruth Brons
www.Things4Strings.com

Irene Mitchell said: Feb 15, 2012
Irene Mitchell
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Dallas, TX
111 posts

Have y’all signed up for Parents as Partners? I’m finding incredible inspiration and practice/teaching ideas from watching the videos. Best wishes!

Sent from my iPhone

Irene Mitchell

Barb said: Feb 15, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

You’ve got some good ideas offered here! You might also consider whether you need to have a “million dollar lesson“. If other ideas don’t seem to help. Talk it over with the parent in advance.

I’ve had a few troubles with poor behavior, too. Interestingly, it has always been with kids who are not practicing enough at home. I think one possibility is that the lack of progress as a result of lack of practice probably results in lack of interest (it’s not that fun to have the same lesson over and over and never get better) and/or fear of failure mentioned by Ruth above.

Practice for a six year old really is the parent’s responsibility. Probably the behavior and Mom’s frustration is what is keeping practice from happening at home—which makes it all a vicious cycle. Maybe it started with either not enough practice or a poor quality practice. Maybe she needs some help in structuring some successful positive practice time. I would recommend Edmund Sprunger’s Helping Parents Practice.

I’m also thinking of using an idea from Philip Johnston where I will use lesson time to have the student and parent practice and I am the one taking notes without talking. Then I may get some insight into what happens at home (though I’m sure it won’t really be the same dynamic), and I can offer suggestions.

I’ve also encountered problem behavior when there was a family break-up happening—also a lack of practice happening at the same time. The parent didn’t tell me about the break-up until after I ended a lesson early.

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

Paula Bird said: Feb 15, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

I have to ask, why does the mother say the mother isn’t practicing with the child at home? This seems to be the root of the problem. If the child has nothing to show you because she hasn’t been practicing, then this behavior is extremely common. Is the parent giving up on the idea of practicing? I think the reason for this will give you the solution as well.

The last time I saw such an egregious case like this, it was with a very strong-willed child whose mother had no clue about getting the child and the situation under control. The child had progressed from misbehavior at home to finally acting out very publicly. At that point, the mother had a real problem.

I directed the mother to get in touch with one of the other parents in the studio (with the other parent’s permission). This other mother successfully raised 8 strong-willed children. Between the interactions and advice from the other parent and my effective use of the million dollar lesson one day, that parent learned how to be a parent. It wasn’t a case of the parent being too domineering but of being too permissive because she did not understand what was appropriate in parenting style. I am a firm advocate of consequences to one’s behavior, and I also believe in rewards and expressed appreciation for work well done.

Here is a link to the articles I wrote about the “million dollar lesson” and parenting issues during lessons.

power to walk away

parenting

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Alissa said: Feb 15, 2012
Alissa Rieb
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Viola
61 posts

Barb~ I love the idea of having a lesson to watch them practice together!
Ruth and Liz~ Creatively going back to old skills or non violin activities work for me often.
Irene~I also like the suggestions of finding some outside resources for mom so you as the teacher aren’t constantly telling the mom what to do.
I’ve also implemented practice charts for this situation that I fill out exactly what to do and for how long with the kid on a timer just to get a routine going. I put super achievable steps and very clear expectations so practice can be as unemotional and nonverbal as possible and then try to model that in lesson.

Keep it up!
~Alissa
abqstrings.wordpress.com

Sue Hunt said: Feb 16, 2012
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
389 posts

It really sounds as if the parent could do with a little advice about praise. It needs to be directed at the child’s efforts and hard work rather than at achievement and talent. This is no place for “constructive” criticism. The implications are usually perceived as being negative, which impacts on self esteem.

The following will help:
1. Acknowledge her feelings AND that you are pleased that she is at the lesson/practice in spite of them.
2. Avoid junk praise such as, “Great, way to go, you’re so wonderful etc etc.”
3. Describe only the positive things that you notice in a warm friendly voice.

Get mum on your side, primed with very specific tasks for daily MINI practices. She knows how important this is, so ask her if she needs help in scheduling. You could sit down with both of them and sort out the week ahead. Make sure that mum understands 1, 2 and 3.
Music in Practice

Christiane said: Feb 16, 2012
Christiane Pors-Sadoff
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
New York, NY
47 posts

Hi All,

Great suggestions. Here’s another one. Kids know when we are trying to “jump hoops” for them, and when parents are frustrated, so situations like this usually get worse and sometimes they end up having to take a break, OR

You do something completely different where the child is not being judged for his/her performance every day. Explain to the child that you’re going to do some new violin activities (not games or things to stall—they can smell those a mile away!). BUT

Improvisation! It usually gets them back on track. Now—since they are used to having structure, you can get Kanack’s Creative Ability Development Book 1 (goes with the fingering patterns of Suzuki) and have the parent read the first half of the book (which is the philosophy of creation of art and music which includes the main element that you need here:
NON JUDGEMENT of the child’s abilities). This book is a wonderful way to use the classical roots to systematically teach the child to empower themselves again on the instrument.
They feel themselves as the artist (as we all want to do), and Voila—they regain interest in the whole process again, and even play Suzuki rep again.

Try it! my colleague for 10 years, (Alice Kanack and I and many teachers I worked with) have used this and it has been an invaluable way to :

Not have to stop playing (or teaching!)
Empower the student (and relieve and empower the parent and teacher)
Get them back on a NEW track to learning Suzuki with the heart of a composer, not an
imitator who is criticized for his every technical move.

Hope this will help. I’ve had many of these situations over 30 years!
Be very careful to have the parent and you fully understand the philosophy of “no criticism” before you try it, however—that means: don’t correct bow holds, violin positions, etc…at all!

Chris

Christiane Pors
Violinist
Mikomi Violin Studio
Kaufman Music Center
NYU Steinhardt

Andrea Hudson said: Feb 16, 2012
Andrea Hudson
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
26 posts

Is this a 72 page book with cassette tape OR I also found a paperback with CD called “Musical Improvisation for Children”

Laura Lentz said: Feb 16, 2012
 Flute
Rochester, NY
2 posts

Yes it is…it’s excellent!
I actually work at Kanack School, recommend anything by Alice. She is a
wonderful teacher.

On Thu, Feb 16, 2012 at 5:25 PM, SAA Discussion
wrote:

Laura Lentz
Rochester, NY
(585) 563-4365
[javascript protected email address]
www.lauralentzflute.com

Barb said: Feb 16, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

I bought a few of the books /CDs for cello—still haven’t implemented with students, but they look wonderful! Most of the CD is enjoyable to listen too even without the improv over top!

Fun Improvisation for Violin

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

Andrea Hudson said: Feb 16, 2012
Andrea Hudson
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
26 posts

Thanks for the quick reply but I’m still not sure. I’m finding two different titles,”Musical Improvisation for Children” (book and cassette) and “Creative Ability Development” (book and CD).

Laura Lentz said: Feb 16, 2012
 Flute
Rochester, NY
2 posts

My son plays piano and we use the Musical Improvisation for Children book, with CD. It is part of the Creative Ability Development series. We love it!

Laura Lentz
Rochester, NY
(585) 563-4365
[javascript protected email address]
www.lauralentzflute.com

Barb said: Feb 16, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Ah, I see, here is the Musical Improvisation for Children.

I have not seen that one. It doesn’t look like it is specifically for violin playing, like “Fun Improvisation for Violin (The Philosophy and Method of Creative Ability Development)” is (I’m guessing this is the updated “Creative Ability Development”—can anyone confirm?)—link in earlier post. You could compare the descriptions and see what you think.

I would stay away from anything with cassette, though, and get an updated version with a CD. MUCH easier to find the track you want, and always replayed at the right speed.

Assuming the violin version of “Fun Improvisation…” is similar to cello, the student plays based on the finger pattern diagrams—drawn out like the fingerboard in the book (starts out with the same finger pattern as early Suzuki pieces). At the basic level, they listen to the CD and play anything they like along with it, using the chart in order to be playing in the same key. There are also other levels inviting different kinds of exploration. Because it is their music, they cannot play anything “wrong”. Even if they accidentally play notes other than the ones in the chart (key) they are not to be corrected. I am really looking forward to getting started with it.

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

Christiane said: Feb 17, 2012
Christiane Pors-Sadoff
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
New York, NY
47 posts

The Musical Improvisation for very young children is for kids who have not necessarily begun an instrument. I see that one working really well for siblings of violin/cello/piano students that need to spark their musical imagination.

Fun With Improvisation for Violin Book 1 is the one I use with my students. It is available for other strings as well. If you do it every week and give assignments (not specifics, but perhaps which pieces) they will incorporate it into their regular Suzuki practice as a warm up time, a break in between pieces, or even as “dessert”!

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. When Alice and I taught together in the late 80’s and early 90’s, we were trained in her method and certified. Some of Alice’s students could get together (on a concert) and improvise a string quartet on the spot! It was awesome.
Now one of those young ladies studies Film Music Composition at N.Y.U. and is very much respected as a young composer—I remember her playing Minuets in Book 1!!

Christiane Pors
Violinist
Mikomi Violin Studio
Kaufman Music Center
NYU Steinhardt

Andrea Hudson said: Feb 17, 2012
Andrea Hudson
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
26 posts

Thank you so much for the clarification. Just ordered the Fun Improvisation for Violin from Amazon. Really looking forward to implementing it. I’ve felt a need for this in my teaching and studio for years. So many creative students and not much room for them to express. I tried fiddling and jazz as venues and still use these off and on but am really interested in seeing some of Kanack’s work!

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