slow learner


Rose Lander said: Feb 10, 2013
Suzuki Association Member
55 posts

i have a bright, musical 6 year old who has made minimum progress. her mom is dedicated to her learning. after a year and a half, she just became a twinkler. physically she is finally well set up.
i started teaching her lightly row 3 months ago. despite daily listening, she cannot sing the song we work on it at every lesson. my policy is not to [play the piece until the child can sing it. she can sing the first phrase,. then gets bogged down. we sing it with the violin at every lesson. when i tap out the first bar, she does not recognize it. i am totally perplexed. i never have had a student who could not sing the piece after such a long time.
any suggestions?

Ariel said: Feb 11, 2013
Ariel Slater
Suzuki Association Member
Hopkinton, NH
12 posts

Dear Rose,

The first thing that comes to mind is: how much listening is happening at home? How much singing? Sometimes even my best practicing families let listening slip, not realizing how important it is. And, sometimes, students who don’t naturally sing need to have moms & dads practice singing with them at home.

The second thing is this: sometimes Lightly Row is too big a leap for some of my students. I like to supplement with shorter, slightly easier pieces (French Folk Song, from the viola & cello books, is usually a better next step for these students). I had a little 4-yr-old girl who learned all her twinkles in two months, loved group class, loved singing, and for some reason couldn’t get Lightly Row. We took a break and did some other short pieces, came back to it after half a year, and now she is flying through the book, teaching herself songs by ear sometimes before I have a chance to preview them. I don’t know why, but Lightly Row just gets some kids in a rut for a while! Don’t lose hope!!


Caitlin said: Feb 11, 2013
Caitlin HunsuckViolin
Merced, CA
41 posts

Sometimes I think it is best to meet each child at where they are at. She can sing the first line? I would start there. Up through May Song I have my students sing the piece with the finger names (open strings are the string name). Sometimes I write it out on a 3×5 and have them look at it while they sing.

E22_ 311_ A123 EEE_
E222 3111 A2EE 222_
1111 123_ 2222 23E_
E222 3111 A2EE 222_

Then have them do it by memory, with the CD, while tapping finger, fingers on the violin, air bow etc. DO NOT let them look at the card while playing (and tell the parents that!). Then I have them do a measure at a time while playing. Sometimes I bow when they finger, and vis versa. For some kids we do a line a week. After four weeks, THEY ARE DONE (YAY!).

For a student like this, maybe playing the violin with help her singing? I think you will find by Long, Long Ago, her singing and memory will have caught up to her level. Good luck.

I too use French Folk Song in the early songs. I use it whenever they get “stuck” on a Suzuki piece. It’s funny, when you come back to that piece, they can get it.

Anita Knight said: Feb 12, 2013
Anita Knight
Suzuki Association Member
Kent, WA
19 posts

Dear Rose,
You’ve received wonderful insights from this community already! What a gift this is for us, thank you all for your ‘daily vitamins’ of wisdom! Now to the question at hand…

Probably most of us have not encountered a student unable to sing Twinkle. Why is this? Partly because most have heard it all their life, but also, having words creates a mental ‘bridge’ or ‘pegs’ for the student. For my Pre-Twinkle CD, I’ve recorded the violin playing, singing note names, AND singing my favorite lyrics for at least the first half of Book 1. These are printed up and put in their notebook at their first lesson. That way the families are happily singing away, not even realizing they’re setting the ‘pegs’ to learn these pieces way ahead of time.
I know some teachers feel words are unnecessary; I find them a great gift for students who struggle with auditory memory challenges (such as myself).
Blessings as you find the answer for this child!

Anita Knight
“Joyful Sound Violin Studio”

Kiyoko said: Feb 12, 2013
 84 posts

I’m not a teacher, but could you work on it phrase by phrase? Developing a musical memory is a skill like anything else, and especially challenge for those who don’t learn well by auditory means. I play violin by feel as much as by ear…

A few questions that might be helpful to consider:
Have you asked them to record the actual number of times they listen to the recording of Lightly Row? Is the student focused on listening or are they always focused on something else? Is it possible that the parents aren’t vocally attuned either? Even if the parent is dedicated, have you gone over how they practice? People have different understandings and expecttions of practice. What did you mean by the student is finally physically well set up? Were there earlier setbacks?

Rose Lander said: Feb 12, 2013
Suzuki Association Member
55 posts

dear teachers,
many, many thanks for all of your wonderful suggestions. we are indeed blessed to have so many fine creative minds generous enough to share their ideas! i tried a fingering chart for lightly row and it worked like a dream!
thank you, thank you thank you!

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