Methods of Review

Nora Friedman said: Jul 26, 2012
Nora Friedman
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools
Brooklyn, NY
34 posts

Hi Everyone,

I took my book 1 training with Ed Kreitman, who recommended that for book 1 students, all pieces in book 1 be reviewed at every lesson with the teacher. I have been laboring and laboring to do this and have found it impossible and frantic-feeling in a 30 minute lesson to accomplish this and also to teach new concepts. Additionally, as my students move through book 1 and onto book 2, I am curious how I will make sure to touch on review pieces. I have thought so much about this and have come up with different strategies: odd days the odd songs in the book, even days the evens, but then how to review what has been learned the previous lesson? Also, this seems totally arbitrary from a previewing standpoint. It recently occurred to me that perhaps I should sit down with the books and figure out which songs from book 1 tie into later book 1 and new book 2 songs and only review those, but I would like to throw this question out to the community: how do you incorporate review into your lessons? Additionally, how do you incorporate multi-book review?

Melanie Drake said: Jul 26, 2012
Melanie Drake25 posts

Wow! Performing every book one piece at each 30 minute lesson is ambitious. I can understand why you’d feel frantic! I understand the importance of review, but how does that leave time for repetition or new material/concepts, as you mentioned? Hopefully, many here will convince you that you don’t need to do that. That must be very stressful. I’d think it would be better to focus on quality of review vs. quantity.

With that said, I’m a parent. My kids (books 1 & 2) go through maybe 2-3 review pieces in a 30 minute lesson. As a parent, I feel like review is a big part of my responsibility. I’m interested in what others have to say on this.

Paula Bird said: Jul 26, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Nope, I can’t fit all that into one 30 minute lesson. maybe 45?

Whatever I do not finish in lessons is usuually not done at home either, so I understand Ed Kreitman’s suggestion. I usually do a smaller number of review songs, encourage the parent to do more at home, and try to make up the differernece at group classes.

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

Barb said: Jul 28, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

This is something that interested me in Ed’s book Teaching from the Balance Point:

“The best way to place a student on the right path to review is to demonstrate the importance of review in lessons. Every Book 1 student I teach plays every piece, starting with Twinkle, at every lesson
“…The message I send to my student is that we won’t get to play the new piece if we don’t get to it. Because I stop to work on any review piece that is not in tip-top shape, a student who does not review carefully may not get to play the new piece if we run out of time. This provides a great motivation for keeping the old repertoire in shape.
“Some parents will complain, ‘It takes too long to play through all those old pieces. There is no time left for the important work of practicing the new piece.’ This introduces another subject: which is more important, learning to play the notes of a new piece or working on becoming a better violinist and musician? The truth is that it takes only about 15-20 minutes to play straight through all the pieces in Book 1, if you don’t stop to take the violin down between pieces and if you can play through them without interruption or mistakes. Any student who can do this does not require more than 10-15 minutes to work on the new techniques in the working piece.”

As a side note, I remember noting in Ed’s Parents as Partner’s video on listening that he encourages his students to figure out the notes (based on listening) of a new piece at home before he begins to work on it with them at lessons, so he is not spending time teaching each note by rote at lessons, which saves him a lot of time.

I have been assigning every piece every day up to about Allegro (#8 in cello book), then they use a chart which divides the pieces into every other day, then at the end of book 1 every third day, but still doing the four most recent pieces every day. I don’t think enough of my students actually follow those charts very well, probably because I don’t spend enough time on review at lessons… usually only two pieces. The lack of review at home becomes apparent when they stumble or struggle with a review piece.

For those who find strictly following a chart boring I suggest putting review pieces on fish with paperclips attached and fishing them from a jar with a small magnet fishing rod (not “releasing” them until all have been caught), or just pulling them out of one envelope and moving them to another, then switching envelopes once the first one is emptied, or putting them on popsicle sticks and moving them from jar to jar. I also instruct them to use review pieces to work on whatever the emphasis is that week, and not just mindlessly play through.

I was considering starting the year at least with Ed’s method in lessons for my book 1 students, and adapting that for my book 2-4 students. And I like Paula’s approach—using group class for review as well. Hmmm. What would happen if those who didn’t attend group class ended up getting “make up time” in their individual lesson for the review they missed? Would attending group become more of a priority???

Nora, I think you are right that, at least in lessons, it would be good to choose review pieces based on what is good preview for a new piece, but my understanding is that EVERY piece is in some way a preview piece for down the road.

I, too, would like to hear how other teachers do multi-book review. I had my book 3 student reviewing her book 1 pieces each once a week as she neared book 3, and she is getting REALLY tired of them. My feeling is that after having reviewed them faithfully for as long as she has and as well as she has (this is a student who really does usually practice what is assigned and it shows), she can probably not worry about them other than to brush them up for group playing in recitals (if she is not playing a harmony part). I know that I only played violin for two years (when I was 9—11), but I could still pick up a violin and play most of the book 1 songs even after an eon of not having touched a violin.

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

Merietta Oviatt said: Jul 29, 2012
Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Cello, Viola
Stevens Point, WI
104 posts

When my students are in book 3 and beyond I switch to a special method for review:
I have a few different bags that hold slips of paper with the pieces from the books in them. So I have a bag with book 1, then a bag with book 2, 3, etc… These are very small velvet bags that I found at a dollar store. If they are in book 3 they pull 3 book 1 pieces and 3 book 2 pieces from the bag. They must review each of those songs that week. If they have any issues when playing them by memory, they have to work on that piece until it’s back to performance level. If there were no issues I randomly pick one to listen to from each book that they drew-out from the previous week. If there were issues they will play that one, or those for me (you must trust that your students will be honest, by book 3 I know I can). They then review every piece in the beginning of book 3 every day. If they are in the beginning of book 3, the second half of book 2 is daily practice. If they are over the half way point, they practice the first half of book 3 every day.

This way, they regularly get review from every book every week, but it isn’t so overwhelming. Also, the younger kids love drawing from the bags. I won’t let them repeat the same pieces from week to week, so if they draw the same song from last week they have to draw again. As I was reading it it almost sounds confusing, I hope it doesn’t seem that way. It’s really easy and keeps things fun while also keeping them organized.

Dr. Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Specialist
Viola/Violin Instructor
Aber Suzuki Center, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point
www.uwsp.edu/suzuki
www.merietta.com
[javascript protected email address]

Lisa Pollard said: Aug 5, 2012
 4 posts

Thank you, Merietta! This idea for review from Book 3 onwards is really great and I am going to try this with my 8-year old who is just about to finish Book 2. We are struggling to find a routine which works for review pieces without making it too overwhelming.

You mention that 3 x Book 1 pieces and 3 x Book 2 pieces are drawn out of bags and then those pieces are worked on that week. Please can you clarify whether these 6 review pieces would be played every day, or a couple a day, or just work through them and then focus on any which need re-work? Thanks a million :-)

Barb said: Aug 9, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Thank you, Merietta, for sharing how you do review for book 3 and beyond!

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

Merietta Oviatt said: Aug 10, 2012
Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Cello, Viola
Stevens Point, WI
104 posts

Honestly, I kind of take it by the student. I have a young student who is flying, and where this is wonderful, I need to be sure that she retains her review/technique. For her she has to play all 6 every day. She also has to do all pieces in early book 3 every day as well.

For my younger students, I let them roll dice. That determines how many times they have to play each piece per day/week (If they get a 1—it’s every day. If they get a 6—it’s every week. In-between I just call it how I feel is needed). I have found that this works really well for my teenage students as well. They don’t roll the die, I just assign how many of each they play. However, it keeps them actually doing their review (which, we all know, is “stupid”).

If one or two of the pieces they pull are not at performance level, they must put extra effort on that/those piece(s)—treated completely different from the other review—and get them back to a high proficiency.

I hope I answered your question. Let me know how it goes!

Dr. Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Specialist
Viola/Violin Instructor
Aber Suzuki Center, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point
www.uwsp.edu/suzuki
www.merietta.com
[javascript protected email address]

Sue Hunt said: Aug 12, 2012
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
389 posts

Recently I did an online survey about the challenges posed by review. The overwhelming response was that children find it boring and parents are frustrated with the slapdash way that children rush through their pieces.

The obvious remedy is to have a reason for playing each piece. These are laid out with ideas for books 1—3 in “Review—Making it Fun Gets the Job Done.”

Paula Bird said: Aug 12, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

I have looked at Sue’s book, and I highly recommend it. I will be interviewing Sue about the book in the coming week and will let you know when the article is ready.

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

Lori Bolt said: Aug 13, 2012
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
San Clemente, CA
226 posts

Sue ~
What percent of your Review book is able to be used for the piano w/out adaptation?
How much work would I have to change those parts specific to the Violin?
Thanks!

Lori Bolt

Lisa Pollard said: Aug 20, 2012
 4 posts

I have started a new review process with my 8-year old daughter following Merietta’s wonderful suggestions. Thought I’d post a quick update re progress.

I bought a gold sparkly pencil case from a discount shop covered in sequins with a big black star on the front. In this goes cards with the names of pieces she can play at performance level (purchased online from www.meredithstrings.com.

These pieces are then the basis for weekly review. My daughter chooses 2 Book 1 pieces each day and 1 Book 2 piece (she is currently at the end of Book 2). In addition, she plays each piece in the latter half of Book 2 each day. We are not yet up to 3 Book 1 pieces and 3 Book 2 pieces each day because we are still adding to the pencil “review” case and getting old pieces back up to speed, but it is working very nicely. My daughter loves the process and has quickly got into a new routine, so that she knows what to expect from each practise and what her goals are. It’s the first time I have heard the words “This is fun!” for a very long time! :-)

Every time she gets a new piece up to performance level, it goes into the case and she also gets to choose a little gemstone ($2-$4 each) from a lovely local gift shop. This is quickly turning into a beautiful gemstone collection which she can then treasure forever. One gemstone per Suzuki piece at performance level.

The only thing is that 30 mins daily practise has turned into 1 hour! However, the fact that my daughter is willing and happy to practise for an hour is wonderful. I think once we get the older pieces back up to speed it will become a more efficient process. I am hoping to split the practise up on weekdays so that we do 20 mins in the morning before school (probably the newer pieces when she is fresher) and then 20 mins in the afternoon after school (probably review).

Will check back in once we’ve done a few more weeks and let you know how it’s going. Thank you SO much, Merietta for your advice and suggestions. Thanks also to Sue…..I will be purchasing the Review book next week.

Thanks! :-)

Lisa

Merietta Oviatt said: Aug 21, 2012
Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Cello, Viola
Stevens Point, WI
104 posts

I’m so happy for you! As she gets used to playing the pieces it will go faster. I really encourage my students to split the practice sessions up so they don’t seem so long, so that’s a great idea. I really hope she continues to have fun with this. Keep me posted, I’d be more than happy to help with anything you need!

Dr. Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Specialist
Viola/Violin Instructor
Aber Suzuki Center, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point
www.uwsp.edu/suzuki
www.merietta.com
[javascript protected email address]

Lisa Pollard said: Aug 21, 2012
 4 posts

Many thanks, Merietta :-)

During this new review process, we have come across something which I’d appreciate anybody’s thoughts / experience on.

My daughter is a perfectionist and always has been. She has a tendency to get extremely frustrated with herself if she doesn’t perfect a new techinique quickly. Her upset is never targeted at anyone else other than herself. She has always learned new concepts with ease, not just with the violin, rather all school work, maths, spelling etc. So, essentially, she finds most new tasks very easy and quick to learn.

If she is asked to learn any new technique on her violin, after the 3rd or 4th attempt, she will announce that she can’t do it……it’s too hard. We have spent many, many hours attempting to encourage her, support her, explain about repetition, neural pathway development, etc. This has helped a lot as she is a very logical child, but with the new review process she is now experiencing another challenge.

Once she can play a piece at performance level, she appears to expect it to be great every time she plays it, which we all know is not going to be the case. Take Musette as an example. On average, she will play this piece with no mistakes with the CD 2 out of every 3 times. 1 out of 3 times she will get a little muddled in a section of about 1-2 bars. She finds this very frustrating and I can see she doesn’t understand why sometimes it’s great and other times it’s a little muddled. Without the CD she always plays the piece without mistakes.

I spoke to her teacher (without my daughter knowing) in advance of her lesson last night. She was absolutely wonderful and spent a lot of time praising her tone, intonation etc. She then told her that she also sometimes makes mistakes with pieces she has learnt recently and gave her an example. She has encouraged my daughter to try and relax and just have fun with the piece and don’t worry if it’s not perfect all the time. I could see that my daughter was surprised that her fantastic teacher also made mistakes sometimes and I hope it has really helped her.

Does anyone else have any experiece with perfectionist children and this particular challenge?

Thanks a million :-)

Lisa

Sue Hunt said: Aug 22, 2012
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
389 posts

Lori, “Review—Making it Fun Gets the Job Done” is specifically for violinists (and violists), as 3 of the 4 sections deals with review points in the first 3 violin books and making new Twinkle and Perpetual Motion variations. I would love to customise it for other instruments, but I will need help with the review points.

Lisa, I have had experience with perfectionists who hate making mistakes. The best cure I have found is to praise them for hard work and focus rather than for results and talent. This absolutely breaks the cycle of having to live up to perceived standards of brilliance. When a child is praised for hard work, there is nothing to be lost by working harder. See an article, Praise Can Hurt documenting the effects of both kinds of praise on twin sisters.

Anita said: Aug 22, 2012
 38 posts

My daughter is 9 going on 10. I totally get where you’re coming from. She’s very bright, reading came easy, and she’s a bit of a math whiz. She’s also a perfectionist in all she does. Expects herself to get it right—the first time. Every time. Expectations for self are exceptionally, unrealistically high.

Just within the last year we’ve seen a marked change—she’s finally keyed into the idea that her brain is a muscle, and she must exercise it to keep what she’s got. We don’t emphasize “talent” in our household—just hard work and personal choices.

There are still tears over difficult sections, when the frustration level rises. But, after pointing it out to her for years, she’s finally able to recognize that when the feeling to cry starts to burble up, she’s learning. She’s being stretched. She’s being challenged. And she has a choice in how to deal with it. She has the power to decide how to respond to that feeling, to that challenge.

It took years of helping her to identify her feelings, and the choices she was making, and reiterating that her life and how she responds to challenges in it belongs to her, no one else. Not her teacher, and certainly not me.

As a parent, I’ve had to relinquish control over the practices. She now often takes the music stand, her violin and mute and goes into her room to work on something on her own. That independence is key to her owning her response to a challenging piece. It’s also something that is very different from younger students.

When I’m tempted to give her a piece of advice, or step in to help, etc. I’ve learned that’s the best time for me to bite my lip, walk away, and butt out. She almost always comes out in a few moments, triumphant, saying, “I did it!” She really doesn’t need me the way she used to when she was little.

The mute has been a wonderful tool—she says it relieves her embarrassment when she misses notes. Once she has the fingering down, she practices without it. The embarrassment thing is new—it started late last year, end of 3rd grade.

I’ve noticed that most of the advice for Suzuki parents on this site is for those with the little kiddos, not budding pre-teens, who have their own set of developmental issues to work through. And teachers who have a bunch of little ones and not many older students, may not be cognizant of the differences in the stages of development.

But of course, by the time they reach this age, our children need the freedom to work things out on their own, using the tools we’ve taught to them or not, and learning or not from their mistakes. That is, after all, growing up, isn’t it?

AMB

Barb said: Aug 22, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Excellent, Anita! I’m going to copy your post for my parent notebook, if you don’t mind?

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

Lisa Pollard said: Aug 23, 2012
 4 posts

Thanks so much, Anita and Sue, for taking the time to provide such great advice based on your valuable experiences. I am so glad I found this site! Really appreciated :-)

Lisa

Barb said: Aug 24, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Thanks for the (pm) permission, Anita!

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

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