"We have to cancel!" So came a recent last-minute e-mail from a parent. "Our son broke his arm!"Read More
Help students realize their true capability through affirmationRead More
I haven't seen the sun in 12 days
When I go without sun, I go a little crazy. I feel tired and unmotivated. I notice that it affects my students this time of year too.
My students are sleepy, and I'm dreaming about the beach. How do I make it through?
I've noticed over the years that I have to have a plan during this time of year, or my and everyone else's motivation begins to flag.
Here are a few ways I've found to inject some life into playing this time of year:
- Schedule a January recital. This may seem counterintuitive. But it really works. Pick a Sunday afternoon at the end of January when students will come together and play. Don't overplan or expect a gala event, just a chance to play. I'm amazed at how much direction this lends to the January lessons, and helps everyone get through the month. AND, it is after Christmas so you can avoid the stress of trying to get everyone ready during the holiday season. (Why not put that on a list of things to plan for this summer as you are setting out your teaching year?)
- Schedule a play date. Read through some new pieces with someone who you haven't played with before. Your own musical exploration will spark energy, and you might make a new friend in the process.
- Create a game. Make up a way to teach something that is recurring among your students. Firing up your creativity is a great way to make life less boring and get through the doldrums. Did you know there is training available for becoming more creative? It's worth a look around. I'll be sharing more in future posts about creativity training, but you can get a preview by going to RightBrainSolutions.org
- Get a booster lesson. Sometimes a different teacher can add life back into a student's playing, just by a different voice and a different angle. Like an Institute or workshop, a booster lesson is not meant to replace one's primary relationship with a private teacher, but to enhance it. Find out more about booster lessons here.
For more creative practicing idea, be sure to go back to the practice tips. Even if you have already read them, each time you go through them you'll find something new to try.
It is important that we share creative ways to keep our motivation and energy up during the winter for this important work. Please share your story in the comments.
What can they do on their own?
Parents want to help. But we don't always know how to cultivate independence in practicing.
Students can easily get stuck if left to their own devices. This results in missed practice sessions, and lack of progress between lessons.
But when I talk about this in lessons, it often results in parents telling their children, “See, you need to practice more.” The problem with this quick-fix approach is that they are expecting their child to be independent, without first giving them the tools.
We wouldn't expect a child instantly to know how to walk or ride a bike when first learning that. And yet we can stick an instrument in their hands and say "Practice!" as though they know what to do.
I want to empathize here with all the parents who are trying to figure this out. I am a parent and I have children who are trying to incorporate practicing into their busy schedules. This is hard!
We try mightily to balance and multi-task, reminding our children to practice while attending a myriad of other responsibilities, including working from home, taking care of other siblings, making meals, managing households, figuring out transportation, and on and on.
It would be great if we had a clear, linear path to helping our children practice on their own. The good news is that this is possible.
In the next series of posts I will share seven practical steps that will assist you in guiding your child to greater independence:
- Set a start and end time and stick to it every day
- Have a strategy for tuning
- Use a timer for each element of practice
- Make a listening station in the practice area
- Use a practice chart
- Have a system for figuring out notes (click here to see finger charts for example)
- Know what to do when they run out of things to do
I'll take each of these in turn. Let's start with the first one:
Set a start and end time and stick to it every day
I believe that this is the first and most important habit in the journey toward practice independence. If a child knows when she is supposed to practice and for exactly how long, she will be more likely to do it, and do it consistently.
The three times that I have found are most effective are:
- Right before school (have breakfast first)
- Right after school (have a snack first)
- Right before bed (as a cooling down routine)
Pick one of these that is the most realistic, and see you and your child can stay with it for one full week. If you find that you chose an unrealistic plan, that’s ok, just choose another time and try that for another week.
For example, I have a father and son who practice together at the end of the day, and really like this time. If done as a way to bring centeredness and calm to the child, it can be very effective. But if it feels like cramming one more thing in to a child's tired brain at the end of a long day, it would be counterproductive and stressful. You know your child best.
Not knowing when the practicing is going to happen leaves too much to chance. Or better said, it leaves too much to a child’s willpower. We only have so much willpower in one day. A child often has to spend his willpower during the day at school, sitting through math class, or simply behaving quietly. It takes willpower to decide to practice, instead of watching TV. When you decide together to set a time beforehand, no energy has to be expended in the moment. The decision making is already done.
Taking care of your mental health
For your own sake, you need to set a specific start and end time for your child’s practice. This will give you peace of mind for two reasons: 1) You will know when the practicing will happen, so that you aren’t worrying about it at other times, and 2) You won’t have the feeling like practicing is in conflict with other things like homework, family time, down time, chore time, or bed time.
You will go farther toward reinforcing good choices about practicing by using rewards. Every time your child honors the set practice time, be sure they know they have earned a tally mark or some other tangible item of reward. For more on this see Practice Tip #5 - Use Rewards
Remember, The time of day matters!
Empower your child to find an independence by helping them choose - and honor - a set time for practicing.
What has worked for you in the area of developing practice independence? Please share your feedback by leaving a comment.
It's time for the beach! Do we have to think about violin?
All of us need a break, some down time, and a needed vacation or two. But teachers and parents, let's not abandon our students to the summer mushy-brained slump.
Here are three low-maintenance things we can give our children this summer that will help them stay on the practicing wagon, and ensure their solid continuation in the fall:
1. We can give them repetition. Going back over the material from the lesson at home will greatly aid retention and quality of practicing. Even if you only have a couple of lessons this summer, you can make them count by going back over the material at home. Click here for a bow technique worth repeating!
2. We can give them a sense of control. Give your student a clear direction of what she needs to do, and then encourage her to master it herself. See practice tips #6 - #10 for some specific ideas of what to work on this summer for technique.
3. We can give them attention. Our presence and attention is the single biggest factor in the success our children. Decide how much time you are willing to give violin this summer (and be honest about your own need for vacation and break time), and then commit to being present for that time.
Even though we may just want to flake out and play Candy Crush all day, 10-20 minutes of attention from us will make a big difference this summer.
Happy Summer Practicing!
P.S. For a fun Book One boost check out these lyrics. They help with memorization, and encourage singing along for pitch, but they also introduce a story to imagine, which is always a help to musicality! Pre-Twinkle also. Click here for free downloadable lyrics.