Dealing with differences of abilities, within the studio

Connie Sunday said: May 23, 2009
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

I need to be careful how I word this, because I don’t wish to offend. I do know that the centerpiece of Suzuki philosophy is the notion that “every child can.” I agree that this is a wonderful perspective, and much more reliable than the older notion that some children have talent, while others, don’t.

Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that some children, due to circumstances of their upbringing (the nature/nurture issue), have a much quicker learning curve, much higher sensibilities, and are much more fun (for me, at least) to work with.

I have brilliant students, who make remarkable progress, and alternatively, students with whom I will share some bit of information, and ask them a minute or two later, and they don’t have it. They don’t remember it, and they certainly can’t apply it.

For example, the names of the lines and spaces in treble clef; after giving them the information, and writing it on manuscript paper in their notebooks and on the page, asking them a few minutes later (even with the letter name written on the note I’m asking about~!), they cast about, and cannot give the answer.

The contrast at either end of the ability spectrum is remarkable; I have students who at four years old, go in a year from Twinkle to playing in the Youth Symphony (reading the part), versus students that I think would find the Youth Symphony extremely frustrating, and saddening. Several of them quit after one year, since they were not able to keep up. One could still not play Twinkle adequately, after one year.

I do think it’s useful for all the students to study music, but I wonder if there is something that I can do to counteract the pain some students might feel, when they see the more able students, rushing by them, in terms of their playing ability.

Your thoughts?

Free Handouts for Music Teachers & Students:
http://beststudentviolins.com/library.html#handouts

Lynn said: May 24, 2009
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
173 posts

I find the students who don’t “get it” easily to be the most fascinating to teach. How do they assimilate new learning, how do their minds work, how do I teach them so that they are able to grasp the material I present and not flounder with it or lose it….for the kids who learn easily, you don’t HAVE to find answers to those questions in order to teach them, so figuring out how they learn is more of a curiosity than a necessity. Probably the hugest challenge to how I viewed my efficacy as a teacher was at an Institute where I observed an incredibly unfocused, physically disorganized 10yo, and talked with him Mom about how they struggled in practice. Now that he was starting to practice independently, she said practices were even more inefficient and non-productive. Then I found out that his teacher had managed to take him to a Book 8 level in 5 years. :shock: I mean, yes she is a phenomenal teacher and well-known teacher trainer, but even so……
I still haven’t figured that one out!

Connie Sunday said: May 25, 2009
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

It’s probably not always interesting to read these long-winded posts
all the way through, but the issue I wanted addressed is the last
paragraph of my post:

>> I do think it’s useful for all the students to study music, but I wonder if there is something that I can do to counteract the pain some students might feel, when they see the more able students, rushing by them, in terms of their playing ability.

Of course, the onus is on the teacher, to try to determine how best
to serve the educational needs of the student, but it’s very difficult
sometimes, is all I’m saying: if you explain very clearly and say “do
you understand?” (yeah) “does this make sense to you?” (yeah)—and
then 10 seconds later, you ask them, and they guess and can’t give the
right answer..

And students, some of them, certainly do notice that they’re not
getting it. I think this is a determinate with respect to their self-
esteem. My question is: how should I teacher deal with that?

Free Handouts for Music Teachers & Students:
http://beststudentviolins.com/library.html#handouts

Jennifer Visick said: May 25, 2009
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

Have you read Carol Dweck’s book “Mindset”?

If not, google her name and there should be a couple of articles that come up about her research. This article—“how not to talk to your kids” was my first exposure to her research. It’s about the kids on the opposite side of the spectrum—the ones who find it easy to be at the head of the pack. But it might offer insights into what you’re looking for.

said: May 26, 2009
 48 posts

RaineJen

Have you read Carol Dweck’s book “Mindset”?

If not, google her name and there should be a couple of articles that come up about her research. This article—“how not to talk to your kids” was my first exposure to her research.

Hey, thanks for posting that. I have heard bits and pieces of this, but the linked article is fascinating.

Connie Sunday said: May 26, 2009
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

This is a good article; some weeks ago I’d read somewhere that telling children they were intelligent was less effective than saying “you worked hard.” I’ve adopted that premise.

I think in the case of this particular family, it’s not that the child has a learning disability, or even that they’re unintelligent: it’s more that the family has set the bar so low, with respect to intellectual work, that the child has no idea she needs to focus, concentrate, and not be silly. She guesses. It’s more that she doesn’t care.

Free Handouts for Music Teachers & Students:
http://beststudentviolins.com/library.html#handouts

Kimberly said: May 28, 2009
Kimberly Fanning
Suzuki Association Member
Cello, Viola, Violin
7 posts

I definitely have many different “ability levels” in my studio. I have some students who fly through material, and others who have taken literally years just to cover the twinkles. In my opinion, as long as they enjoy it, I say keep coming. I tell all my students/parents at the beginning that my job isn’t to make a bunch of professional musicians. My job is to teach them to appreciate music. Something they will hopefully carry through their entire lives, and be able to share with their children. We need people to go to concerts, too, not just play in them!

I also am very careful not to compare students. Just because Johnny and Garrison are the same age doesn’t mean they should progress at the same rate. The wonderful thing about private lessons is that we can go at the student’s rate. Too much pressure is not good. I push students who thrive on a challenge, but am laid back with the ones that turns off.

Just my 2 cents.

Lindsay said: Jun 26, 2009
Lindsay LogsdonViolin
55 posts

I always emphasize to parents that I go at the child’s rate, working at the child’s level, and that there is no timeline and no “right” amount of time to spend on any given piece. When a child doesn’t seem to be “getting it” I spend quite a good deal of thought on ways to present the information so that they will best absorb it and understand. I once had a student who played a piece backwards, and it took many games and different ways of approaching the piece until it was played forwards, correctly.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a student quit because others were moving faster.

Lindsay—Violin teacher, homeschooling mama of four, small-time publisher
http://www.essextalentacademy.com
http://www.talentpress.net

Jentry said: Jul 28, 2009
Jentry Barrett
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Lincoln, NE
4 posts

I reccomend Bob Duke’s book Intelligent Music Teaching. I think you can only find it on Amazon. It completely changed the way I teach. I also reccomend getting Brain Gym training. It teaches you how to focus your students through movement. I’ve found a teacher, Diane Malik who is willing to do the training via Skype so you don’t have to travel anywhere to receive the training.

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