Allowing students to progress to next piece

Tags:

Lauren said: Mar 11, 2010
Lauren Lamont
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Edmonds, WA
33 posts

I have a couple students who have moved slowly in their progression because they are not mastering
the skills for that level/piece, but both student and parent are focused on getting to the next piece.
Both students are early book 2, and still struggling with left hand position—fingers moving more from the side
of the neck rather then from above the string; pinky curling under when placing third finger; hand rotating to move
to the e string.

I have carefully explained to the parents that though we have worked on these in lessons for some time, I fail to see improvement (substantial enough to move forward) and that I am not comfortable going to the next piece
With one student in particular, I feel I have let the parent push me into advancing the student before she was
ready, but then it slows the progress at some time. The parents are telling me the students are losing interest and motivation because they feel they are not make progress. Am I being too strict? Should I have been more insistent
on learning the skill earlier intheir study? Thanks for any input.

Ruth Brons said: Mar 11, 2010
Ruth Brons
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Livingston, NJ
148 posts

It sounds like it’s time for some supplemental, high-interest repertoire!

The students in my studio have really been enjoying the new and beautiful Mark O’Connor books.
The pieces perfectly compliment and follow the Suzuki skill sequence and repertoire.
The early songs will be VERY easy for this student to play, enjoy, and gain some momentum.
PLUS double stops are introduced, which will do wonders for any student’s left hand position.

Best Wishes,

Ruth Brons
Inventor of Things 4 Strings[tm] Universal-Fit Instant Bow Hold Accessories:
Bow Hold Buddies[tm] for Violin/Viola, and
CelloPhant[tm] for Cello
http://www.things4strings.com

Diane said: Mar 11, 2010
Diane AllenViolin
245 posts

I remember a story from Ronda Cole. It went something like this:

After a long time of asking a student to accomplish a particular task, Ronda asked the parent to go back in their notes and find the first date that the task was assigned. The following lesson the parent told Ronda that they found it first assigned a little over a year ago! Ronda’s comment: “So you’ve been paying me for the same lesson for over a year.”

Talk about hitting the ball back into the parent’s court!!!

I think you should also consider exactly where you stand. If you are in dire need of this student’s tuition then you will act quite differently than if money were not an issue. If money is an issue then you are in the parent’s service. If money is not an issue than they are in yours! It’s all pretty tricky.

In my 23 years of teaching I have asked 3 people to leave my studio due to lack of practicing what is assigned. In each case their vacant lesson time was filled immediately with a happy, willing participant.

Here’s a completely different take on the subject… If I find I’m “nagging” many students about the same thing—then I know I’m not teaching it correctly and I’m missing something. If I’m extremely frustrated with a student then I know that my expectations are unrealistic and somehow I’m expecting them to do something they aren’t ready for yet.

Where to go with all this? Look at all the different sides and ultimately act in a way that you’ll be able to go to bed at night and sleep easily!

Diane
http://www.myviolinvideos.com
Videos of student violin recitals and violin tutorials.

Lauren said: Mar 12, 2010
Lauren Lamont
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Edmonds, WA
33 posts

Wow, thank you for the great suggestions and ideas! I love the one about the parent checking their notes about when an exercise was first introduced!

For one of these students, the parent is a fairly seasoned Suzuki parent, and also our group lesson
accompanist. So her comments brought me to really checking in with myself.

The other parent, does obviously overlook the objective. And is quite over protective of the student’s
experience.

I am going to try the fiddle supplements of Mark O’Connor. I think most students will really enjoy the new tunes and fun style. Another thing I could do better to have a handout of skill objectives for each level, so that the parent can see for themselves if their child is making the desired progression in skills, not just repertoire.

I have a nice skill list for pre-twinkle. Does anyone have one for Book I and for Book II?

Thank you!

Ruth Brons said: Mar 13, 2010
Ruth Brons
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Livingston, NJ
148 posts

There is just one more thing I would like to add to to the subject of letting a student go through the repertoire sequence without having totally mastered hand position, etc.

As a younger teacher, I remember feeling that each student had to have mastered so many things before moving on
through the early repertoire of Book 1-3. Partly because I wanted to let my colleagues see that I knew what good form was and how to teach it, and partly out of fear to move on to repertoire I had not yet taught that much.

Then I remembered hearing that when Dr. Suzuki was alive he would listen to Twinkle tapes submitted by each student in Japan—AND that those tapes were not submitted until students had completed Book 3. I got to realizing then that
those students took until the end of Book Three to have mastered the Twinkle skills sufficiently enough to show off on a tape—which meant that perhaps moving through the repertoire a little faster might have some pay-offs.

It took some guts, but the last seven years I have consciously tried to move the kids at least a few notes, or more, further at most lessons. I still work on form at each lesson, but it is not deal-breaker for moving ahead a little bit in either the Suzuki or supplemental repertoire if there is still an issue being worked on. The result has been very rewarding. The students get a momentum going, are more likely to come to a piece that captures their fancy, and if they still have issues like the left hand rotating too much on the E string, the double stops, vibrato and shifting required in Book 4 force the issue of correction. The technical challenges of the music itself become the teacher then.

Best Wishes,

Ruth Brons
Things 4 Strings[tm] bow accessories
http://www.things4strings.com

Laura said: Mar 13, 2010
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
358 posts

I appreciate your post, ruthbrons. It is a great reminder of how to keep things in balance.

I would add that if I choose to let students go ahead without having mastered certain things, I must absolutely insist on maintaining a solid review habit, so that there is always something to go back to when we work on certain techniques. Before I learned how to actively emphasize review (as opposed to merely assuming everyone was doing so just because I said it was a good idea), some students (technically it was also their parents) quite literally forgot everything they had ever learned except the current working piece—yes, even the latest polishing piece because they weren’t polishing! They were just “moving through the book” in their mind. So whenever I came up with the brilliant idea of using an older piece to teach a new point, it was an awful and frustrating experience for all of us. And overall, they weren’t learning things very well, without the depth of repertoire to continually develop so many important skills.

Now I just require review, and things progress much better.

Ruth Brons said: Mar 13, 2010
Ruth Brons
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Livingston, NJ
148 posts

Yes, review SO important. I made a chart with just about all the repertoire, scales and exercises I teach, in about the order I teach them, and divided into six columns. The chart is the front cover of the practice book I make for them each year. I ask that students review one column per day as a warm up. Over the course of a six-practice week, the student has then touched base with practically every thing we’ve ever done. Which reminds me, now that I have adopted the MOC books into our repertoire I have to re-work that grid!

Listening and Group Class is also just as important. The kids that come to group get extra review and extra listening [and extra peer motivation!], much to their benefit.

Best Wishes,

Ruth Brons
Bow Hold Buddies[tm] bow accessories
http://www.things4strings.com

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