super slow readers

Rose Lander said: Dec 19, 2012
Suzuki Association Member
55 posts

i wonder if you have some new strategies for handling super slow readers!
all of my students spend years going through martin’s i can read music books and move on. but there are several who simply cannot put it together and struggle.
here are strategies i have used; reading many beginning reading books
using rhythmic studies by starer
i insist on the schradiek scool of violin techniques
making up flash cards of 4 or 8 simple notes played fast (from Schradiek)
Bowing the pieces with correct rhythm on her shoulder
saying note names in rhythm
plucking the notes in rhythm.

am i missing something? i am starting to get worn down (but trying not to show it) with kids staying on the beginner reading level for years!

Brenda Lee Villard said: Dec 19, 2012
Suzuki Association Member
Edina, MN
27 posts

Have you evaluated their tracking—if the eyes are moving ahead? Are they fast book readers or slow book readers? If they are still pointing at words in a book with their fingers, then they haven’t learned to (or aren’t developmentally ready to) read more fluently. This can translate into very slow music readers.

To encourage the “looking ahead aspect”, I will spend time covering up the note with an index card as they are playing along. It forces the eyes to look ahead and to “take a picture” of what is coming. As the kid gets better at it, I try to cover the note(s) up BEFORE they get to them. That is harder but they love it, and some of them can get very good at taking in 3 to 5 notes at a time. You have to watch out, though, because some kids will race the tempo to try and get to the note before I cover it up. Keeping the beat can be hard, so setting a metronome is recommended. Sometimes I have to really multi- task and cover up the notes with one hand while controlling the bow with the other so that it keeps the beat. They usually catch on after a bit and will relieve me of bow duty as they get accustomed to staying with the metronome.

My pedagogy master teachers always said that the best readers were those who ALWAYS have a metronome on while reading. It can be hard in the beginning, but it certainly pays off in the end. I have found that kids think they are good readers until they have to sightread (even easy rhythms) with a metronome beat. It’s a eye opener for both student and teacher at how good (or weak) they really are.

Rose Lander said: Dec 20, 2012
Suzuki Association Member
55 posts

thank you brenda, i will try your, rose

Carol Gwen said: Dec 20, 2012
Carol Gwen Kiefer
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Washington Crossing, PA
75 posts

Rose, I would add singing and moving to the beat. Some 5-year-old children learn better while moving. Even when singing!

Joanne Martin’s book is excellent. For Pitch I ask my students to sing before even trying to play. The sound comes first in their minds (audiation), the violin is a box with strings- the music isn’t in there (we look inside to check). I determine a key, we find doh , and sing doh re mi. The progression through the book is so gradual that singing sol-fa syllables is feasible. If the parent can’t sing along with the child I ask them to record us singing together in the lesson for home practice. They write the syllables under the notes.

How old are the students. Children completing basic music competency should be able to keep a steady beat and do so in different tempos and meters. I play different songs from the repertoire in group class and watch the children stepping to the beat noting who’s got it and who doesn’t. Those who can’t we sing songs in lessons. I watch for how they clap or pat the rhythm to the song. Do they clap the melody or the steady beat? If they can’t keep the beat a metronome is total frustration.

Wow, this is getting too long! There is so much you can do away from the instrument- and the kids love to do it. As teachers it’s easy to fall back on how we were taught or what we remember being taught plus we’ve all studied at a conservatory as music majors. I keep telling my parents in the studio -sound first then play. Reinforces listening, too.

Hope this gets the ball rolling for you. Resources are any of Edwin Gordon’s Learning Sequences in Music books. I don’t use his rhythm syllables because I want to move quickly and most children are familiar with the Sound of Music. Plus you don’t have to study learning sequences, per se. You can improvise your own method that suits you. I hope this is helpful.


Rose Lander said: Dec 21, 2012
Suzuki Association Member
55 posts

dear carol,
thank you for your long and thoughtful answer. you have given me some good points to think over.
i took a one day workshop on the gordon method at a asta conference and learned alot. the teacher said that musicians can only count to 4 when playing! this thought has not only helped me in my teaching, but i just received an email from a chamber music buddy who found it helpful in learning a shostakovich piece. i find it invaluable to have kids march the beat when playing!
thanks again,
rose lander

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