Keeping students interest during the lesson

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Crystal R said: Apr 18, 2012
 Violin, Voice, Piano
9 posts

I have a student who has been playing the violin for roughly 2 yrs. We are still on twinkles and lightly row…working on bow holds and violin position. He is either very active ie. Running around the room or very tired ie. Laying on the floor. He does not seem interested in learning and most games that I show him only last a lesson or two before he is tired of them. I’m not sure how to approach it and keep his interest in lessons. I’ve tried hopping games, walking around the room games, copy me games, sitting clapping games etc. He really likes rhythm (writing rhythms out and clapping them). Suggestions on how to improve technique while keeping him very interested are welcome!!

Paula Bird said: Apr 18, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Um, sounds like he’s running things. How old? This may be his way of controlling things. Probably has everyone standing on their heads. Write me personally. I have some ideas. This is a LOT longer than a few blog posts. In the meantime, check out the personality style blog posts and see if anything jumps out at you.

Artice 1

Article 2

Article 3

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

Paula Bird said: Apr 18, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Article 4

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

Paula Bird said: Apr 18, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Article 5

Otherwise known as million dollar lesson

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

Paula Bird said: Apr 18, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Article 6

Sorry, this was the article about the “million dollar lesson.” There is a link in one of the comments to the Ed Kreitman explanation of the million dollar lesson. Maybe you’ll find some insight into your particular student? I have another article I believe about a student who kept saying she was “bored.” This one turned out well too.

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

Glenda Walsh Crouse said: Apr 20, 2012
Glenda Walsh Crouse
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Recorder, Cello
Westminster, MD
8 posts

Yes! I AGREE with Paula. The million dollar lesson is what I was going to suggest until I scrolled down!

If the million dollar lesson doesn’t affect the child that will show that the child doesn’t really want to play. Imo. If the child is affected and sees that you are serious then you can look for solutions to keep them motivated. If a child doesn’t want to play there is very little you can do to motivate them.

Have you asked parents about diet? Is the child eating sugar and caffeine right before the lesson?

Is it possible this student just doesn’t know how to focus?

Terri Parsons said: Apr 21, 2012
Terri ParsonsCello, Flute
14 posts

Re: the lolipop…I have students who are vegans and vegetarians here in San Diego. What would I give them as instead of the lolipop?

Terri Parsons
Cello/Flute Teacher
Cellist
La T Da Music
www.lajollastrings.com

Ariel said: Apr 21, 2012
Ariel Slater
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Hopkinton, NH
12 posts

Students like this can be so frustrating!

I have a slight amendment to the Million Dollar Lesson, suggested to me by a colleague when I worked at a school where I couldn’t “fire” students and had to find ways to work with some really difficult families. It sounds weird, but stick with me—I’ve used this technique in lessons with lots of success, and even made it into a group class thing to nip behavior problems in the bud.

First, figure out how YOU need the lesson to go. What behavior do you WANT to see? What behavior are you seeing that isn’t what it should be? At the beginning of the next lesson, get out 3-5 markers, pens, pipe cleaners, etc. Explain very clearly to the child what great behavior is (it’s SO important to be very specific with them!). Then point to the markers, and say, “These are ALL yours right now, but I might have to take some of them away.” Then explain why he’ll lose a marker, and have him tell you in his own words why you’d take one away. DO NOT give them to the child—keep them prominently displayed on a desk or chair, though. Then I usually say, “If all of them are left at the end of the lesson, you can pick a sticker. If only (4/3/2/1) are left, no sticker. If you lose all of them, we have to stop our lesson and try again next time,” and go over the behaviors that will cause the loss of a marker.

I honestly have never had a child lose all the markers, and bizarrely, most of them get SO upset upon losing the first one that they self-monitor well enough that it’s the only time they lose one. One little boy cried when he lost one, and tried to be extra good so he could “earn” it back.

Things in my studio that have cost markers: climbing on mom’s chair, crawling beneath a bench/chair, saying “no”, lying on the floor (this is the biggest studio rule!), and me having to ask a child to do something more than 2 times before they do it.

Good luck! I think it’s important to give them a chance, and a choice, to self-monitor before jumping right to the million-dollar lesson. Sometimes they’ve just never been asked to pay attention to what they’re doing in this way, and need some concrete guidance on where to focus themselves.

Paula Bird said: Apr 21, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

I think there’s some confusion about what the million dollar lesson is. We don’t fire a student in the million dollar lesson, we just end the lesson. That is because at that point there is no learning going on. The child may get very upset about it, but we don’t give in. The lesson is finished. I usually opt to give the parent the rest of the lesson and instruct the child to do something else that does not involve play, usually just sitting and watching. What mostly happens is that the child throws a royal temper tantrum at that moment. No matter. This is all part of the learning, mostly for the parents to learn.

Ariel, I use a similar technique. I call mine the chip game. I stack up 10 colored counting chips in front of the student, and I tell the student that to play this game they begin with 10 chips. I get zero chips. I earn my chips by taking them from the student because the student has lost the chip. I tell the students that they can lose the chip for these reasons: (1) they are not following instructions, or (2) they have left the lesson area, which is clearly defined. I usually wait to see if there is a third reason, such as to break the child’s bad habit of interrupting or putting hands in pockets. The following instructions rule covers just about everything from saying no to dawdling. One exception to the not leaving the practice area rule is if the child needs to give the parent a hug. We don’t tell the student why we take a particular chip off the pile unless they ask.

Parents are permitted to move a chip from the child’s pile to the teachers pile. At the end of the lesson we add up the number of chips the student still has. If more than the teacher has, the student can get a lollipop at the end of the lesson.

If the children are not allowed to have the small lollipop, then I ask the parents for advice on what would be a suitable replacement. A sticker or other small reward?

I usually do not have to use the chip game after the third or fourth lesson. In my 36 years of teaching, I’ve used the million dollar lesson maybe four times, most usually with a strong-willed student. All of these lessons were very effective.

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

Carrie said: Apr 22, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
58 posts

Paula,

This Million Dollar Lesson reminds me of Kiersey and Bates Abuse It/Lose It back in the 50’s for chronic disruptive behavior in the public schools. The Million Dollar Lesson is greatly simplified, thankfully. I used the idea with one of my own children with great success. Anyway, my question is this: what about families with 2-4 children that come for lessons together? I could do as you say, talk to the mother, continue with the other children’s lessons… but if one who is not getting a lesson at that time is being disruptive, how do you handle that?

Perhaps we should start a new thread called The Million Dollar Lesson. :-)

carebear1158

Lori Bolt said: Apr 22, 2012
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
San Clemente, CA
226 posts

Terri ~ re: lollipop sub for vegan/vegetarian

I’m sure the parents can suggest some place to purchase an approved treat. Surely Mother’s Market, Sprouts may have something. I know Trader Joe’s sells a package of tiny tofu “ice cream” sandwiches called Cuties.

Does anyone in this discussion use these ideas to correct things like a student who only cares about notes, not using the right fingers?

Lori Bolt

Paula Bird said: Apr 22, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Here is a link to theAbuse It/Lose It:

Abuse It/Lose It

This may add clarity to the purpose of a Million Dollar Lesson.

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

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