students in two extreme examples

Essie Liu said: Jan 14, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
26 posts

I have two 5yr students at beginning level. One is proceeding extremely positive while the other seems making little progress. The girl started violin five months ago and now she is playing O Come Little Children. She imitates the recording quite well and can always give a confident perfomance. Currently she’s progressing the fastest among her peers, but what really amazed me is her enthusiasm of music stimulated by listening. According to her mom, she listens to the entire recording of Book1 again and again and seems never tired of that. She has even learned the names of every piece in Book1 at home. However, when she found the music on book and tried to point at each note while listening, her mom didn’t know what to explain to her any more. I hesitate a lot when to teach note reading to such a student who is eager to learn, though I know a lot of Suzuki teachers generally won’t start teaching this until the end of Book1. At this moment, will you cater to her natural enthusiasm of music reading or postpone this to focus on other aspects?

It’s a totally different scene working with the boy who started lessons two months after her. I feel sorry that he doesn’t have a cooperative parent, and his grandparents take care of him on everything. I persuaded his parents to join in the lesson with him, but they just disappeared after three lessons and his grandparents showed up again. ’They are too busy at work to look after their son…’ Okay, they even don’t care about their child, how do I? Worst of all, the granny is so aggressive and not patient at all to the child no matter how I suggested. Honestly I can’t stand her frequent yelling and negative words to the child’s learning.

Unfortunately, there’s also an issue for the student to focus, which made him even cannot stand steady while holding the violin, let alone keeping the bow-hand in the right position. I tried putting him into a group lesson with another boy, he was excited at first but when the ‘lesson’ started he returned to looking around and distracted his peer. Several times later I had to cancel this group lesson upon the request from the parent of his peer. He has observed other students’ playing, including the girl above, but it seems it can’t inspire him at all. He said yes to all my instructions and encouragements, and can do correctly with my help, but when he plays independently, his body begins shaking and can’t start a right posture until I can’t help adjusting it in five minutes. I believe that ‘every child can’, so I guess I shouldn’t give up this little boy. Maybe he just lacked a loving environment and cooperative learning process at home. So what would you do under this circumstance?

I’d appreciate any suggestion and comment on either/both case above.

Sue Hunt said: Jan 15, 2013
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
390 posts

It is hard not to compare the students. He will get there in his own time and I know that you are doing every thing you can to help.

Granny’s negative comments and yelling may be the attention that he craves.

Can you get him to tell you when his posture is OK rather than doing all the adjustments yourself.

I don’t think that his peers’ playing will inspire him, when he has been been made all too aware of his failings, by Granny. He stands a better chance if you target his ability to engage.

Give him fulsome praise, every time you see him paying attention, rather than praising results. You may need to talk to Granny many times about this, as she sounds a bit old school.

Seriously, if you praise him for good results, he will most likely find it hard to reproduce them. On the other hand, if you praise him (honestly) for hard work and focus, he will have nothing to loose, by trying to repeating the experience.

Carrie said: Jan 15, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
58 posts

My first thought is that I don’t know how long he’ll be able to stick with it so what is the most important thing you can do for him in this time. Love him. Encourage him. Believe in him. You have no idea the impact you can have on a person in a short time. Not only do I believe he can learn to play the violin beautifully, if given what he needs to do it, I believe you can make a difference in his life whether you work with him for a few months or many years. You may never know what a difference you make.

As to the girl, I agree that you want to go with her desire to learn. I definitely answer a student’s questions. I teach them theory to satisfy their desire without having them play by reading. Each one is different and I find that teaching is student is a lesson for me. Observe her, learn from her. Is learning to read helping her progress? Is it hindering her tone and technique?

Blessings as you learn from these two precious young students.

carebear1158

Essie Liu said: Jan 15, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
26 posts

Thank you Sue, I appreciate the idea of praising just for the focus. Once he’s focused, I guess I could start to praise him on working process, which is currently stopped by his absent-mind and unimaginable home-practice. It’s true that I have to try to change the granny’s attitude on the lesson, probably by giving the student a gift of the book ‘Nurtured by Love’ at our concert event next week? (I mentioned the book but how can I ensure their reading? I think it’s exactly what they need and probably enables my experience with the student to turn positive)

Yes, I let him do the posture by himself every time we started. ‘Tell me when you’re ready’, and it usually takes several minutes for him while I’m patiently waiting. However, it’s unfortunately true that he almost never managed that. I can’t remember how many times he’s told the ‘fishing story’, the correct posture and how many times I asked the adults to help him at home with the same instructions. I feel I can’t let the lesson just stop at that moment, so three minutes later I usually start a little hint, such as ‘what should the youngest brother do?’, then he can adjust the little finger into curly, it seems without such hint, he won’t notice what he’s doing and what he’s expected to do. I’ve tried waiting, waiting and even stopped the granny rushing to yell. ‘Let him do. I believe he can be just fine’ However, it’s really frustrating when you see his scroll approaching to the ground, right hand gradually out of shape and the whole body seems as if it lacks a steady frame to support, until I can’t help adjusting by myself. Do you think I should wait longer, or is there any alternative?

Essie Liu said: Jan 15, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
26 posts

Carrie, thanks very much for your encouragement. Honestly I can exactly feel how great when a music teacher makes a difference to the student’s life. You reminded me that the girl is such an example, for I thought she would be the slowest one in her first several group lessons. She always argued with her mom and behaved a little slower to my instructions. However things really changed when I talked to her and her mom to believe in each other, and suggested listening music together, finally I couldn’t even believe she was the girl whom I met five months ago. I felt lucky for this very cooperative mom, that’s probably why I couldn’t expect the same miracle would happen again on the boy. So I guess, what I should continue doing is to try to turn the granny into a qualified ‘Suzuki parent’, then it’s the turn of the seed of student’s ability to bloom.

It’s very good that you teach them theory to satisfy their desire without having them play by reading. I think I will never know if learning to read would help her progress or not until I try. Now I’m even looking forward to introducing that just as a she is in knowing them.

Thank you again. We should always cherish every child.

Christine Clougherty said: Jan 15, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
19 posts

Hi Sunrise,
I am a piano teacher, obviously I can’t advise on exact posture, bowing, etc. But I felt terribly sad when I read about your little boy student, so I just had to write. I know that an adult should be in lessons observing and taking notes, but there are times, when just maybe, it is better to have a bit of time alone with the child. I can’t imagine a small child in a violin lesson with the teacher, and then the “loving adult” making comments all during the lesson, and especially that the comments are negative. It is possible that the child will take negative attention rather than none at all, but a few minutes alone with him, you can show him that he can get positive attention from an adult. (Maybe Granny can wait outside and you are going to work on a “surprise” for her when she comes back in). I agree that he should learn to evaluate himself, and that you should praise small, specific things, including hard work and focus. Also realize that the positive steps you take, will be somewhat undone when the child leaves, but you can do your best to move forward in your positive way. He may not learn much on the violin, but he can learn that he is worthy.

Essie Liu said: Jan 15, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
26 posts

Christine, good idea of preparing a ’surprise’ with the child alone. Those rushing adults, unless nurtured under the Suzuki philosophy, just can’t accept a child’s learning pace and think from the child’s perspective. So on one hand, I will try to make up the ‘parent training’ to the grandparents. I guess to the old-school elderly, books on Suzuki Philosophy would probably ‘produce more sound’ than me. On the other, it’s wise to save the child away from the negative adults before making sure they are nurtured. I really feel that learning and teaching both depend on a positive environment.

Barb said: Jan 15, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Sunrise,
I think you have a very good understanding of what would help the boy, and you have gotten some good advice here already. Nurturing and educating the parents (or grandparents) seems harder, doesn’t it?

I hope they will read Nurtured by Love. But don’t count on them remembering it all. What can you do to help them “review”? That is what I am trying to figure out in my studio.

You might also explain to the granny that it will help his focus if she remain absolutely quiet during lessons so that there is One Teacher for him to listen to and watch—only you. If she forgets and says something, you can just smile at her and remind her, “One teacher.” or “My turn.”

I remember a teacher—here in these forums, I think—that mentioned they sometimes ask the parents to keep a tally on certain things in the lesson. How many times does the teacher say “no”, how many times do they correct without using words, etc. You might try this and have the things you want the granny to notice be things you would like her to do (or NOT do), during home practice. Smile? (Use stern voice? Correct more than one things at a time?) Praise for focus? Praise for trying? Etc. Maybe you are working on developing good teaching habits and would like the parents to help you.

Every child can… given the right environment. I love the advice from Carrie. Maybe you can make a difference in the grandparent’s life, too.

I have a student who has been slow to learn… it took him two years to sit with the cello without leaning to one side. He just didn’t know what his body was doing (I theorize now that if he had not been reading music he could have focused on his body more). He is still working on hand and arm positions, but he sits straight all the time now!

That brings me to your girl. I would follow her lead in some teaching reading, but try to still have her learn and play the Suzuki repertoire by ear until her posture and beginning technique is solid. Use different music for learning to read. I would keep the reading part of the lesson very short. To my student who would prefer to read I tell him he is exercising a different part of his brain when he learns a piece without looking at the music.

Best wishes! I hope you will report again on how these children are doing in the future.

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

Sue Hunt said: Jan 16, 2013
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
390 posts

What a good idea to give them Nurtured by Love. You could ask Granny to read a chapter and then refer to it at the next lesson and ask her leading questions.

About drifting attention: You could ask him to do something specific, like keeping the scroll up for a count of 10, or while he does something else, like knee bends. There are more ideas in 34 Beginner Violin Hold Games. I think that it is very important for beginners, to have a fun way of practicing posture and form without complicating the issue by playing.

Essie Liu said: Jan 16, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
26 posts

Thank you Barb. It’s exactly more difficult for a young teacher to try to change the mind of the elderly. However, things could change once they are treated in a different way. I came to realize that the idea of ‘small steps’ would also apply to nurturing parents/grandparents. As you suggested, I can let the granny start from keeping a tally on certain things in the lesson. I may also add that write down her comments if she wants to speak out. That way first she can focus on observing the lesson, then it’s really possible for the child to focus on my instructions. If this won’t work, then I’d have to consider keeping her wait in another room. I think it’s better to ask the grandparent to join in the process of ‘calming down’, and to accept with equanimity as the child actually does, which also offers a demonstration of what she’s expected to act at home.

I sense that nurturing is a process where a person is influenced and will be changed little by little, of course to a positive direction. I don’t expect that the granny will become a perfect Suzuki parent, but I’m looking forward to each small step she will make, such as noticing smile, learning to praise and accepting a child’s natural pace.

As for the girl, I’m wondering what other music is appropriate to her current level (O Come Little Children), any recommend? Her mom later told me that her daughter always finds her read the book and try to figure out how to play, and that’s probably why the girl became very interested in the book and asked many questions. By the way, should the mom avoid reading in front of her daughter?

I’d certainly like to report their future progress here. Thanks again!

Essie Liu said: Jan 16, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
26 posts

I believe it’s a woderful book Sue, but there seems to be some issue of ordering it from my country. The webpage just can’t proceed when I tried to check out. Also, is there any electronic version of the book available? I guess the sooner I apply those ideas to the boy, the better.

Gwen McKeithen said: Jan 16, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
Sonoma, CA
11 posts

I realize this is not helpful at this point, but here’s a possibility for the future.
I require that the parent who will be working with the student, come with the
student to observe for 4 consecutive weeks before they begin lessons. During
that time, they are gathering necessary materials, such as a footstool, a tote
bag, music books, CD. I require that they listen to the CD during their observation
period. (I don’t charge for observing but some teachers do.)

During the observation period, the prospective parent and child learn to come into the studio without making noise and watch without talking or walking around. The first observation with a very young child may be only 5 minutes. The point here is to establish that when there is a lesson or someone playing, we only watch and not interrupt with their own sounds.

During that month, a family may decide that my style doesn’t fit them and discontinue
observing. Any family who gets through the above requirements are good to go. Then
we have a better chance of providing a positive, successful experience for the child.
Some teachers, who have a full studio, require that the parent and child observe until there is an opening.

One of the first things that needs to be established with the adult who is coming to the lessons, is that they may not interrupt the lesson to correct a child. Establish your authority as the Respected Teacher. Good luck with the overzealous grandmother.

Gwen McKeithen

Essie Liu said: Jan 17, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
26 posts

Exactly Gwen. Even from my previous training, I find that parent training should be a serious thing prior to starting a lesson. Honestly, I really regret that I more or less compromised to the situation and the tradition in my country while trying to plant Suzuki Method in my studio. It sounds rare for a family here to observe lessons and make a decision during that long period. I sense it’s currently not even that possible to have a parent education session as those big Suzuki studios in North America. It’s very common here if parents choose you to be the teacher, they usually require to start the lesson as soon as possible because they think they are ready, and they also think their child should also be ready if they come to meet you. So I’d usually invite them for observing lessons if they want to, then have a talk with them and the child for the first time- to know their situation and to introduce the Suzuki philosophy and lesson requirement. Later I keep communicating with parents according to every lesson, which I guess is a constant make-up for parent training.

Unfortunately, the student missed experiencing lesson observations, while his parents claimed they would try to do what I want though they were busy. However, I was gradually bothered by the coming problems: they don’t have time to practice with the child at home (their reluctant show-ups seems to just answer my requirement without responsibility), then the grandparents took their role yet in a very negative way regardless of my constant suggestions, now I know they even doubted me for making little progress on the child.

I realized a lesson observation is extremely important until it was too late, while no more observations can be made up and function at this moment. This really taught me a lesson, which I want to share here with every teacher- never start a Suzuki beginning lesson expecting how cooperative a parent would be without nurturing them. Such nurturing is ideally workshops specifically training qualified Suzuki parents. If it’s not possible under a certain environment, a simple nurturing is always necessary, such a Suzuki philosophy book, several lesson observations. You’re right Gwen, I should establish my authority as the Respected Teacher; rather than a compromised one, who easily meets their enthusiasm at first but later has to undertake an smooth process and embarrassing corrections.

Thank everyone again! Further comments and ideas are always welcome.

Essie Liu said: Jan 28, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
26 posts

Dear all, I find it really helps when I incorporated everyone’s ideas. For the boy, I had a serious talk with the granny prior to the lesson. ‘Today we are going to try a lesson without your comments, but I need your assistance of taking notes throughout the lesson once the child finished anything that is positive.’ At the beginning of the lesson, I told him, ‘we are going to challenging games one after another. Once you overcome a small task, I would notify your granny to write it down. Every time it’s going to be a surprise to her, and to me. We will figure out how many surprises you are going to make today by the end of lesson. Would you like to start trying? ‘

Throughout the lesson I kept looking forward to everything he was going to do, with much bigger smile and more encouraging tone. I always said to him, ‘You made it, because you are so focused just now!’. Without the granny’s constant distractions, he seemed to only react to my expectation. I find he is (maybe many other children as well) extremely interested in counting games. For him, it’s great to set things (adding one status on top of another) with counting a specific number. e.g. steadily standing-10 seconds, holding the bow-10 seconds, keeping the violin on the shoulder-10 seconds, bow and violin together-10 seconds, and counting how many times he can consecutively play a rhythm correctly, etc. He was always enthusiastically calling out the numbers and seemed motivated to the next ‘task’ with my increasing amazement. Probably it’s all about positive things the granny had to write down, I (maybe the child as well) found she even looked gracious while note-taking. ‘Your granny is going to do the same thing as me with you at home, and your grandpa is going to do the note-taking. ‘

After the lesson we talked again, where she realized the priority of keeping the child focused, the importance of being positive and the possibility of developing the child’s potential ability. At that moment, I thought she was very satisfied with his grandson’s performance since it was even the first time I found smile on her face. Afterwards, I lent my book to her(To Learn With Love) and suggested doing some reading about Suzuki studies which would benefit her general education to the child. She seemed to be very interested and said would search more by herself.

Later the boy said he’d like to play together with his pre-Twinkle peers at the studio recital this week. Then I contacted his dad, he said he found the son recently showed more interest, and he would try to come for the son’s performance on that day.

As for the girl, I explained to her mom about ‘exercising a different part of his brain’. She told me that she keeps trying to figure out instructions and indications on the page while practicing, and then tells the daughter what she’s expected to do. Constant reading in front of the child kind of distracts her attention to listening and movement. Also according to the mom, the girl suffers from Natural Amblyopia (the degrees of eyes will get deeper and deeper by year). So she always keeps her away from reading books, which even strengthens her desire to read. The girl has very sensitive ears though, I just assume the girl to be a very strong audio learner, while many adults including her mom are more dependent on visual learning especially when studying music is new to them. Perhaps the girl is just lucky to take an ear-oriented beginning method to study an instrument. I don’t know what her mom said to her at home, but she didn’t ask me about note-reading in her next lesson and we just moved forward as usual. However, I still can’t help worrying when she starts note-reading. I just can’t imagine a talented violinist wouldn’t read a piece of music through her music experience under her mom’s policy of ‘no reading’.

Anybody has similar experience working with this kind of child? Thanks for all your ideas and further posting.

Kiyoko said: Jan 30, 2013
 84 posts

I’m not a teacher, but it seems like the girl is just following her mother’s example. Her mom is “reading the music” so her daughter wants to. Maybe if she took a few minutes out of sight to review the notes in preparation for practice, there would be less emphasis looking at the music.

Another thought is if this child’s sight is degrading year by year, would it help to start note reading exercises early? Maybe just some simple games? She will require more and more effort later on simply to do the visual part of note reading, something most of us take for granted, and it may become more difficult for her to learn to note read as time progresses. I’m surprised her mother is keeping her from reading unless it somehow accelerates the degradation of sight. In the US, amblyopia is generally considered treatable when caught early.

Essie Liu said: Mar 20, 2013
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
26 posts

Hi Kiyoko, I’m really sorry that I didn’t find your post until just now.

I agree that she was trying to copy what her mom was doing, even though her mom was just guessing how to play according to the fingering, without actually knowing the notes and so on. Another thing I sensed from the girl is her real desire to learn reading, which may have got her interest- something other than listening can also figure out the music. In fact, now I think with a well-established posture, movement, tone and a constant listening environment, she’s almost ready to learn reading.

Thanks for your concern. They are experiencing a long-term checking and observation yet the doctor said the degrading cannot totally be controlled. Yes, it’s probably better for her to involve reading earlier, which may save more effort in the future as well as meet her current curiosity. Actually, we tried a little reading exercise in the last lesson when we first introduced the phrasing in Long Long Ago. By the way, do you know any simple reading games?

Barb said: Mar 20, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Great idea to ask for reading games… I started a new thread!

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

You must log in to post comments.

A note about the discussion forum: Public discussion forum posts are viewable by anyone. Anyone can read the forums, but you must create an account with your email address to post. Private forums are viewable by anyone that is a part of that private forum's group. Discussion forum posts are the opinion of the poster and do not constitute endorsement by or official position of the Suzuki Association of the Americas, Inc.

Please do not use the discussion forums to advertise products or services