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#1551240 - 11/05/10 12:43 AM Remedial reading skills for a transfer student.
wavelength Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 340
Loc: Vermont, USA
I have yet another transfer student with reading deficiencies. She is playing at a much higher level than her reading. It's clear that her last teacher taught her to play the pieces, rather than teaching her to read the pieces. frown

The saddest thing is that she went through so many method books like that. IMO the only thing the method books are good for is learning to read. If you're going to learn by rote or by ear, there is so much better music that you could learn.

Luckily, reading is a small (albeit important) part of my lessons. I have her engaged with chords, rhythm, jazz, blues, rock, improvising, listening, and other things you can do with a piano wink

Meanwhile, she can barely identify a note on the staff. I asked her parents to get the Faber Performance Book Level 1. She really doesn't want to do it. It turns out she's been through a few levels of the Faber books (though not the Performance books).

I've got to find something good and easy for her to read without seeming like a demotion! I can tell she's discouraged by the Faber book. Hopefully it wont be too difficult to get her reading up to par. She can read by intervals, by fingering, by almost any method except actually identifying notes.

Grrrr! I don't like to criticize another teacher, but come on already! I always thought I would be the teacher that would drive the other teachers crazy because I do so much non-reading stuff that I figured my students wouldn't read as well as others. Sorry, now I'm just venting.

To the point: Faber Level 1 "Performance Book" is the level I want to work on with her. What else can I use with interesting pieces for her at the same level without seeming too simple?

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#1551247 - 11/05/10 01:03 AM Re: Remedial reading skills for a transfer student. [Re: wavelength]
david_a Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 2913
I think it's going to seem too simple no matter what, just because she's not used to it.

She may shoot ahead rather quickly when "the lightbulb goes on".

Most of Mikrokosmos book 1 is harder than a new level 1 method book, but it does look rather forbidding and official, with no pictures inside, and the first half a dozen pieces are hands together in unison...
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#1551260 - 11/05/10 01:47 AM Re: Remedial reading skills for a transfer student. [Re: wavelength]
wavelength Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 340
Loc: Vermont, USA
Haha! It really does look forbidding and official... I should try that smile

I think you're right about the lightbulb. It's going to click, and she's going to take off.

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#1551281 - 11/05/10 03:02 AM Re: Remedial reading skills for a transfer student. [Re: wavelength]
AZNpiano Online   happy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5556
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: wavelength
I have yet another transfer student with reading deficiencies.


Join the club!

Have you tried worksheets? Worksheets can help, but the most important thing right now is to help your student read at a higher level. Kids who struggle to sight read will have a hard time learning repertoire. Maybe supplement her lessons with a sight reading book and ask her to do several exercises in sight reading every day.

A Line a Day (published by Kjos) is pretty good for this purpose.
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#1551370 - 11/05/10 09:30 AM Re: Remedial reading skills for a transfer student. [Re: wavelength]
Lollipop Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 820
Loc: Georgia
Can you try a simple duet book with you playing the other part? It is much harder to rely on ear or rote when someone else is playing too, and much more important to be able to find your place on the page. And they don't seem quite so simple when put together. Something like Melody Bober's "Grand Duets for Piano" book 2 might be a good place to start.

You might also try a "later beginner" or "adult" book 1, which might be less insulting to her (how old is she?)

Or, at this time of year, start her on a simple Christmas book. I like Bastien's Popular Christmas Songs, level 1, for some nice but simple arrangements. Let her know it's just for reading purposes, and hopefully after Christmas, you won't need it anymore. Playing a new holiday tune each week or two for the next two months wouldn't be so bad.

(I also use A Line a Day, as AZN suggests.)
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#1551446 - 11/05/10 11:43 AM Re: Remedial reading skills for a transfer student. [Re: Lollipop]
david_a Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 2913
Originally Posted By: Lollipop
Can you try a simple duet book with you playing the other part?
I have an unfortunate tendency to forget that just when it's needed most! Thanks. Need more duets.
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#1551551 - 11/05/10 02:21 PM Re: Remedial reading skills for a transfer student. [Re: wavelength]
wavelength Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 340
Loc: Vermont, USA
Thanks, sight-reading practice is exactly what she needs. And that's how I see the Faber "Performance Book" for her. I'll get A Line a Day and investigate!

Lollipop, she's 11. An adult book might be just the thing.

Duets are a great idea, but in this case I'm trying to get her basic reading to the point where we can do a duet. I actually turn almost every piece into a duet, by inventing rhythmic accompaniment on one of my other instruments--lately an upright bass. It has become a cornerstone of my teaching method. It's really fun, too, but that's another subject smile

I should move away from Faber, though. I regret that I didn't agree to this in the lesson. The father spoke up about the girl's objections to using that book in the lesson, saying that she was playing on a higher level than that book. The girl then played a piece for me from a book she'd worked in to demonstrate her ability. I found myself in a position I didn't like, having to talk about the girl's reading deficiency with her father, in her presence. I'm afraid she was discouraged, though I tried to put it in terms as positive as I could (you can only get so positive with "she can't read").

And then there's the matter of not wanting to give in. The material in the Faber book really is perfect for her. I found myself having to say "trust me," before we had naturally built that trust, and it threw me off a little. Alternately, having to assert authority without having demonstrated over time that I am indeed the authority is a tricky proposition. I prefer to save "Do it because I say so," for dire situations.

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#1551579 - 11/05/10 03:03 PM Re: Remedial reading skills for a transfer student. [Re: wavelength]
landorrano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2472
Loc: France
I don't know the method books that you are referring to, however with whatever material that she is working on, I suggest asking the girl to read out loud whatever she is working on, both names of the notes and rhythm. Always, without exception, until she takes a liking to it and it becomes her habit.

It probably isn't a problem if you don't take her back to an early beginner level. My guess is that she knows more than she seems. However, it will be invaluable if you have her do a simple reading exercise (notes and rhythm) every lesson, G clef and F-clef separated for the moment. Such an exercise can be as simple as necessary, even if there are only the C's to start with for example, or C's and G's; even that will help her to clean up the mess that she has in her head.

Ask her to do these exercises standing up, beating out the time with her hand in the manner of a orchestra conductor, so that she has the physical recognition of where she is in a measure.

I would avoid mnemonic devices such as "every good boy does fine", or flashcards, or any memorization approach that separates the staff from a musical function.

This kind of activity is in my view fundamental.

The book "Solfège des solfèges" has excellent exercises. It advances very quickly but it starts at a very basic level, using only whole notes, so you can easily make up your own exercises to slow down the progression, using as model an exercise that corresponds to the level that you want.


Edited by landorrano (11/05/10 03:51 PM)

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#1551607 - 11/05/10 04:38 PM Re: Remedial reading skills for a transfer student. [Re: landorrano]
david_a Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 2913
Originally Posted By: landorrano
The book "Solfège des solfèges" has excellent exercises. It advances very quickly but it starts at a very basic level, using only whole notes, so you can easily make up your own exercises to slow down the progression, using as model an exercise that corresponds to the level that you want.
Hmph. I just saw the cover of that book in the music store half an hour ago, and didn't look inside. Perhaps I should have brought it home with me. Thanks.
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#1551672 - 11/05/10 06:47 PM Re: Remedial reading skills for a transfer student. [Re: landorrano]
danshure Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 347
Loc: Massachusetts
Originally Posted By: landorrano
I would avoid mnemonic devices such as "every good boy does fine"


I would agree. And I would add to that I would avoid not only in this case, but avoid them ALWAYS!!


Edited by danshure (11/05/10 08:03 PM)
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#1551716 - 11/05/10 07:46 PM Re: Remedial reading skills for a transfer student. [Re: wavelength]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13812
Loc: Iowa City, IA
I learned piano using "Every Good Boy Does Fine" and "All Cows Eat Grass."

Mnemonic devices are a fine place to start. The problem comes when teachers and students stop there.
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#1551759 - 11/05/10 09:16 PM Re: Remedial reading skills for a transfer student. [Re: wavelength]
DanLaura Larson Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/01/08
Posts: 695
Loc: Pocatello, Idaho
You might consider some of Lynn Freeman Olson's books. He frequently uses patterns and sequences, which might be helpful for your student. They often sound harder than they are, too-just what this girl needs! I like the Audience Pleaser books, and am quite fond of Rowlf's Very Own First Piano Book.
Laura
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#1551889 - 11/06/10 02:51 AM Re: Remedial reading skills for a transfer student. [Re: danshure]
AZNpiano Online   happy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5556
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: danshure
Originally Posted By: landorrano
I would avoid mnemonic devices such as "every good boy does fine"


I would agree. And I would add to that I would avoid not only in this case, but avoid them ALWAYS!!


I disagree. I tell my students the usual mnemonics, but I engage them by asking them to create their own sentences, like writing an acrostic poem. Many kids enjoy this activity if they have creative energy or "linguistic intelligence."
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#1551900 - 11/06/10 03:37 AM Re: Remedial reading skills for a transfer student. [Re: wavelength]
david_a Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 2913
I think there are good and not-so-good ways to use mnemonic devices.

Some teachers present them first, before the student has had a chance to figure things out for himself. That sounds like a not-so-good way to me - as does expecting all students to use them, or to use the same ones.

They are A SIMPLE TRICK, something really easy that takes no teaching and no learning whatsoever: sometimes they can end up becoming the content of the lesson, and as soon as they do, the teacher has gotten off track. If some mnemonic is not dead-easy for your student the first time he hears it, then trash the idea of ever using that mnemonic with him - if he has to sit there and waste his time LEARNING it, then he might as well just learn the original thing.
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#1552025 - 11/06/10 09:27 AM Re: Remedial reading skills for a transfer student. [Re: AZNpiano]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11807
Loc: Canada
Here's what teacher-introduced memnonics did to me:

(There was actually some grade where some teacher introduced Every Good Boy - maybe choir??). As an adult I tried once again to learn the notes, and again found it difficult, just like when I was younger. Finally I gave it up, and decided to simply memorize EGBDF. Piece of cake!

1. The notes are alphabetical and we already know the alphabet. 2. EeGeeBeeDeeEff takes a second to say. If you forget it, you can always go back to the alphabet. 3. ** Important ** (to me) --- it is real in music. B is the name of a note that I hear and play. When I look at the note on the page, B is the sound I hear, and its name is B. Why the blazes should I remember "boy"? 4. When you come to other clefs, you don't need to memorize some other thing - you simply pop one of the notes over in that chain. Especially if you also get to the alto and tenor clefs where it would get hairy.

Memnonic: I have to remember "every good boy deserves fudge". Eventually it morphs into something else that holds the same general meaning, "All good children want ice-cream." "Most happy girls get cake." There is a constant struggle to remember those words. In fact, the only way I can is to remember EGBDF and use that for the words (which is dumb). 2. We have to remember TWO things - The words, and then the note names. 3. It cuts us off from the reality of the music. You no longer see B and hear B. You have to think of "boy", remember that it's "boy" and not "children", then that it is B, then...... it falls into a heap.

When you teach a baby, you point to a cow and say "Cow". After a while, every time the baby sees a cow, he'll think "cow". You don't point to a cow and say "Canoe. Think of 'canoe' to help you remember 'cow'." So why would you say "think of 'boy' when you see and hear B." What do boys have to do with the sound of B? The notes are real things, and have a name.

The other mnemonic in school involved a long story about climbing Mount Everest, being cold, and saying "b-r-r-r-r". It had to do with irregular verbs in French. I already knew the irregular verbs, and saw that the E-V-E-R-E-S-T story would mix me up. Why make it so complicated for students?

Or if a student needs mnemonics, why not let the student invent something that is meaningful to him or her?

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#1552030 - 11/06/10 09:32 AM Re: Remedial reading skills for a transfer student. [Re: wavelength]
Lollipop Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 820
Loc: Georgia
The argument seems similar to me to a kindergarten teacher who once complained to me about how much she disliked the alphabet song, because her students couldn't tell her what letter came next without singing from the beginning every time.

To the best of my knowledge, all those former students did learn the alphabet and how to read. It was just a stepping stone, giving them a help to remember the order until long term memory was established. Nothing wrong with that, IMHO.

When I send note-naming drills and worksheets home with my students, the sentences help them get started. Without them, many would just bring it back to me incomplete, or with random guesses. Eventually, after repeating All Cows Eat Grass over and over, it will click that that last space is always Grass, and the sentence becomes less important.
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#1552095 - 11/06/10 11:19 AM Re: Remedial reading skills for a transfer student. [Re: wavelength]
david_a Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 2913
Lollipop: The obvious lesson we can take from this thread is some people use them & like them, some people don't, and they're good, but not for everybody and not all the time. That applies to students also. Some students when they try to use them are wasting their time (and yours). For other students, they work great. So IMO every teacher must use these - but not with every student.
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#1552115 - 11/06/10 11:47 AM Re: Remedial reading skills for a transfer student. [Re: wavelength]
wavelength Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 340
Loc: Vermont, USA
I don't generally teach the mnemonic devices, but If a student has learned them in school or with another piano teacher, I'll use it as a reference when the kid is stuck. Sometimes it is useful. Usually I think it's confusing, and that it's harder to remember the mnemonics than the notes themselves.
all good boys get fudge?
every cow eats grass?
laugh

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#1552185 - 11/06/10 01:36 PM Re: Remedial reading skills for a transfer student. [Re: Lollipop]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11807
Loc: Canada
Quote:
Eventually, after repeating All Cows Eat Grass over and over, it will click that that last space is always Grass ....

Except that for me the mnemonic prevented me from learning - it caused a problem and I have explained why. This must be true for at least some students.

In regards to the kindergarten teacher, hopefully she did not use only that single teaching device for learning the alphabet, and not only one single approach. If she did, that would explain the difficulty that she described. smile

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#1552236 - 11/06/10 02:50 PM Re: Remedial reading skills for a transfer student. [Re: landorrano]
landorrano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2472
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: landorrano

I would avoid mnemonic devices such as "every good boy does fine", or flashcards, or any memorization approach that separates the staff from a musical function.


I didn't mean to make a general statement about "Every gigolo better doit fine."

But I'll bet that this girl has already been down that road.

She surely knows more than she seems to know.

Show her a little exercise with 8 measures with only C's and G's and only whole notes, that she states while beating out the meter with her hand, holding the notes for their full value ... and she's on her way. 5 minutes at the start of every lesson will have a huge impact.

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#1552627 - 11/07/10 03:26 AM Re: Remedial reading skills for a transfer student. [Re: wavelength]
Elissa Milne Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/10
Posts: 1337
Loc: Sydney, NSW, Australia
For what it's worth - I never use mnemonics, and my students all turn into fabulous sight readers (comparatively speaking - that is, they score 8s 9s and 10s out of 10 when they sight exams).

I agree with keystring's well-made point that the mnemonic creates an extra level of remembering, a layer which has no inherent connection to the reality of the notes themselves.

I agree with landorrano's suggestion that time is spent isolating just a note or two during the lesson, and I concur that this will have a huge (positive) impact.

But back to the OP - this student can read intervallically? So the only issue is in locating the notes in the first place, really, or knowing where to move to when the hand position changes. In this situation I frequently find with students I meet/teach that the issue is not so much one of not being able to name the notes (although obviously the student cannot do this) but an issue of not knowing which note is which on the keyboard. If the student finds the mass of notes surrounding middle C to be a meaningless jumble then bothering to name the notes on the page has zero resonance, and therefore no effort will be put into learning to name notes, and the student will not feel any particular sense of defeat in not having mastered this skill.

I find once the student happily finds the notes all over the keyboard the issue of note naming from the page resolves itself quite naturally.

[Hence my utter failure to ever bother with devices of the mnemonic variety.]
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