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#1928643 - 07/18/12 04:52 PM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Elkayem]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11648
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: The Monkeys
MHO, very few kids are extremely self motivated...

Nobody can make a factual statement about what "most kids" or "very few kids" have in terms of motivation. You would have to have worked with hundreds or thousands of children, and gotten to know them very well on a personal level, with them opening up to you. Who has done that? On the other hand, if you have dealt with a great number of children, perhaps you have seen patterns. (?) But even then, which part of those patterns are due to circumstance? Are they all from a particular group or area, and do we have the influence of background. In short, I have to reject your statement about "most children" because I don't think that you or anyone can really know such a thing.

I have shared what I know as an educator who ended up working one-on-one with students, especially those experiencing problems. Very often their intrinsic natural curiosity that we are all born with had been close to destroyed by the external motivators and often inept teaching. You would find that they applied the very skills they were having trouble with at school, anywhere where the educational system couldn't get at them. You would have to get them to see that they did have skills, and then get them to use those same skills in a school system. They "practiced" those skills where it was safe because they were not being measured, compared, controlled, etc.

I'm not in a philosophical mood. I am concerned that a child that is motivated, and what would happen if that interest in piano gets turned into the type of things that I cited previously. As long as a child is interested in learning to make music on the piano, why not respond to THAT interest? It is the only thing that makes sense.


Edited by keystring (07/18/12 04:54 PM)

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#1928647 - 07/18/12 04:59 PM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: keystring]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4776
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: keystring

I have shared what I know as an educator who ended up working one-on-one with students, especially those experiencing problems. Very often their intrinsic natural curiosity that we are all born with had been close to destroyed by the external motivators and often inept teaching. You would find that they applied the very skills they were having trouble with at school, anywhere where the educational system couldn't get at them. You would have to get them to see that they did have skills, and then get them to use those same skills in a school system. They "practiced" those skills where it was safe because they were not being measured, compared, controlled, etc.

This is EXACTLY my experience. I have nothing more elegant to say. Why other people don't get what you are saying is beyond my comprehension.
thumb


Edited by Gary D. (07/18/12 04:59 PM)
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#1928655 - 07/18/12 05:10 PM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Elkayem]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11648
Loc: Canada
Trying to be practical and sidestep idealism and philosophies as much as possible.

When you learn how to do something, so that you start being able to do it, and eventually well, this is motivating. Living creatures including humans are wired that way. Our various teaching systems can get in the way of that. For example, the child who gets compared with the next child - which is part of our system - may get discouraged. Also, he is no longer interested in the magic of numbers or reading. He becomes interested in "how he compares", "is he doing well enough", "has he pleased persons of power", "do his peers admire or disdain him". At that moment, part of intrinsic motivation = curiosity about a subject or thing - has been partially eroded.

We do other things in our institutions to hurt natural curiosity and motivation. I don't have the time to list them. Maybe somebody else wants to do that. If at least we don't do that, then we have already contributed to a child's ability to learn.

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#1928663 - 07/18/12 05:21 PM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Elkayem]
musiclady Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/19/05
Posts: 431
Loc: Toronto, Canada
Thank you, though it's not a music school, it's just my husband and I who run it, we teach mostly in the space he is music director at, but travel to a few student's homes, we don't teach at home because we don't have a great home piano, the four cats, and not allowed to run a business within our apartment. But we have a nice Kawai grand at the church and most of our students come from the church area, especially from the Kumon math program that runs in the basement of the church, we currently have 5 students who heard the music, and 3 more ready to start. Sometimes my husband and I team-teach, especially in working with clarinet students (he plays the piano parts) or I'm having challenges with a clarinet student struggling with ear training and rhythm clapbacks, usually Level 6 or higher.

While I admit I was one of the self-motivated kids, the fact is, many, if not most are not. You are lucky that your child is still practicing lots after several months, but in most cases, students often find struggling between the late elementary to intermediate repertoire challenging (usually after the first year of study to the end of the 2nd year), and then usually the transition between late intermediate and advanced, which for most students, coincides with the time they are in high school. Some will find self-motivation in their early to middle teen years, when I find most kids who discover they are good at music and passionate start practicing much more often on their own. I have a student who struggled with practicing and fought with his mom before I came to teach him last October, (even though he plays solidly and in elementary school was the best pianist at school (most of his friends where around Level 3 or 4, he's at Level 7, just started) basically practices on his own now, learned a CRAZY number of pieces (I think like 35 or so, both exam/competition pieces and supplementary pieces for say, Easter, church services (he played a couple of them and did really well), pieces that are fun but not on the lists, pieces that are useful to know for weddings, funerals, and such, an introduction to accompanying, most of these were 1-2 week pieces with minimal work (but he polished them), but even with the exam/competition pieces he took 3 or 4 weeks MAX for the Level 6, and one of them he learned almost all of it in ONE WEEK! (the Heller Fluttering Leaves was the one week Level 6 study!). He learned 4 Christmas pieces and we worked on the music for his school "rock band" program. (but we usually had minimum 60 min lessons, sometimes 90 or more if I had the time and he had the energy. He's a cool kid, though.

Meri
_________________________
Clarinet and Piano Teacher based out of Toronto, Canada.Web: http://donmillsmusicstudio.weebly.com

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#1928708 - 07/18/12 06:37 PM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: keystring]
landorrano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2457
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: keystring
He becomes interested in "how he compares", "is he doing well enough", "has he pleased persons of power", "do his peers admire or disdain him". At that moment, part of intrinsic motivation = curiosity about a subject or thing - has been partially eroded.


Aren't these things that happen necessarily, in every situation where children have contact with other children, or with adults? I think so. I believe that these are aspects of life that a child has to learn to deal with, and that is a part of education as much the material at hand, be it learning to play an instrument or learning math. Also, I don't thinnk that the consequences of children measuring themselves next to others are simply negative and to be combatted or avoided or minimalised.

To go a bit further, the idea of intrinsic motivation is in my view somewhat false, especially when talking about children. I consider music to be a relationship between human beings, it is a kind of communication and quite intimate at that. For a child, his motivation in music comes from relationships that are very strong and very intimate, including the relationship that is knitted between him and his teacher. Music begins in relationships, and develops in relationships, and expresses a great deal about relationships.

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#1928718 - 07/18/12 07:02 PM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: keystring]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5919
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: keystring
I am concerned that a child that is motivated, and what would happen if that interest in piano gets turned into the type of things that I cited previously. As long as a child is interested in learning to make music on the piano, why not respond to THAT interest? It is the only thing that makes sense.
(my emphasis)

thumb

So far the child is keen and interested. What is there that needs to change at this point? My observation: if you try to solve all problems before they exist, sometimes you actually create them...
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#1928736 - 07/18/12 08:13 PM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: landorrano]
The Monkeys Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/13/12
Posts: 425
Loc: Vancouver BC
Originally Posted By: landorrano
Originally Posted By: keystring
He becomes interested in "how he compares", "is he doing well enough", "has he pleased persons of power", "do his peers admire or disdain him". At that moment, part of intrinsic motivation = curiosity about a subject or thing - has been partially eroded.


Aren't these things that happen necessarily, in every situation where children have contact with other children, or with adults? I think so.


I think so too, unless we can give the child an Ivory Tower to live forever.
We all have to interact with the human society, and most of us (who are not private music teachers) will have to work within a structured organization. The interpersonal skills, the emotion control is vital not just for success, but for survival.
I don't think the solution for struggling kids are to isolate them, even we can afford it, but to help them to deal with the issues.

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#1928739 - 07/18/12 08:23 PM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: currawong]
Elkayem Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/02/12
Posts: 159
Loc: Santa Clara, CA
Originally Posted By: currawong

So far the child is keen and interested. What is there that needs to change at this point? My observation: if you try to solve all problems before they exist, sometimes you actually create them...


My daughter has only been at this for two weeks now. In my experience with other activities, she can lose interest in a few months. With ballet and gymnastics, it wasnt a problem. We just took her out of the class. With piano, I don't want to repeat that pattern. I am proactively looking for ideas to keep her going without spoiling music for her. I don't know about you, but I encounter a lot of adults who are remorseful about dropping piano too early as a child. Haven't met any yet who were upset their parents kept pushing them along. Even the "Tiger Mother's" daughter stands behind her mom, though I would never condone the methods her mom used to keep her going at the piano.

All this philosophical discussion is entertaining to read, but I have to point out that so far Meri is the only one who has provided practical tips.
_________________________
Schimmel 130T

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#1928812 - 07/18/12 11:39 PM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Elkayem]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5919
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: Elkayem
All this philosophical discussion is entertaining to read, but I have to point out that so far Meri is the only one who has provided practical tips.
Well here's one: make sure you tell her how much you love hearing her play. Here's another: take her to concerts or other musical activities. And here's one more: sing.
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#1928836 - 07/19/12 01:14 AM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: musiclady]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4776
Loc: South Florida
Meri, I have been so busy teaching very young students this summer that I have had little time to talk about motivation outside the lessons I am teaching. There were only two ideas of yours that I am sure I do not agree with..
Originally Posted By: musiclady

One technique to getting students to practice is offering 1 minute of practice time for 1 minute of video game, TV, or computer time. (Several of my student's parents use this one very successfully)

Here the message is that you do piano practice, something you do not want to do, in order to earn the privilege or freedom to do what you DO enjoy, playing video games, watching TV, using the computer.

To me this says that playing the piano is not fun, that playing music for its own sake is not entertaining, exciting or stimulating enough to be its own reward. But I would argue that IF this is the case, failure is just around the corner. Something is going wrong.

I think, instead, we should be asking why playing games or doing things on the computer is more fun. What is it that we are not teaching? I can see this “reward system” – you get to do what YOU want to do by doing what I, the parent WANT you to do – as being a very dangerous game, and one that is very likely to backfire. It will only work if playing soon becomes its own reward, and the young student no longer wants to ditch the piano in favor of just about anything else.
Quote:

Offering them a choice to practice or do a chore that they dislike works really well too.

I think that is a horrible idea. Where does it end? Practice the piano and someone else will do your chores for you. No matter how much you think you dislike practicing, if you do it then you will not be asked to do something else you hate doing even more.
Quote:

Especially once they are past the first level of a method book, encourage them to play for school talent shows, friends, family, for music class at school. The friends and family ones can be done even when they are in the first book. Give a few days advance notice for performing for friends and family.

This is excellent.
thumb
Now the reward is feeling good about playing, and that playing can be called performing, or it can get a different label. I do think that most children, almost all children, need to feel that what they play is important and is appreciated. I actually like informal playing situations very much, at least for the first few years, and the more of them that happen, the better.
Quote:

One of the two pairs of sisters I currently teach sometimes have family visiting from Serbia, and they are always so happy to play for their Grandma, aunts, and uncles who visit (one is coming for the second time since they started in October), both are doing quite well to very well especially the older girl. If you have the ability, audio or video record one or two of their pieces every month, and then show them through a difficult moment what they used to find "hard"! Use goal-oriented practice, which they have to complete what's required, but can take as much or as little time as they need.

Recordings or videos can be great. Shy people can also learn to record or video themselves, when they feel confident, safe, at their best. These things also make a great record of what has been done.

I like many of your ideas. I only dislike the idea of making playing a substitute for something more unpleasant. I think kids are too smart to be fooled for long, and in the end it encourages a power struggle.


Edited by Gary D. (07/19/12 01:22 AM)
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#1928841 - 07/19/12 01:31 AM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: currawong]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4776
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: currawong
Originally Posted By: Elkayem
All this philosophical discussion is entertaining to read, but I have to point out that so far Meri is the only one who has provided practical tips.
Well here's one: make sure you tell her how much you love hearing her play. Here's another: take her to concerts or other musical activities. And here's one more: sing.

LOL!!!

Once again I am reflecting on the eerie way we (all of us) seem to attract people to us who are like us.

For every student I have who enjoys singing I have 10 who would rather face a firing squad than have to sing in front of anyone. I’m one of those people.

I think I told you about the famous choral conductor who joked to me about being afraid people would call the police if they heard him sing. We were laughing as we tried to figure out which of the two of us sounds more like a drowning cat.

For the record, I always sing, as badly as I sing, right on pitch. wink

Having said all this, I should also mention that as a child I sang all the time, almost before I spoke.
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#1928929 - 07/19/12 07:50 AM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Gary D.]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11648
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Gary D.

I like many of your ideas. I only dislike the idea of making playing a substitute for something more unpleasant. I think kids are too smart to be fooled for long, and in the end it encourages a power struggle.

These were my sentiments which Gary was able to express better than I could. I especially disliked the idea if a child currently loves playing the piano and is very engaged in learning, to start substituting that love of playing for other things in case the child will start disliking practice. If that interest is there, keep the fire burning. Don't substitute it for something else. That is all I was trying to say.

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#1929026 - 07/19/12 11:38 AM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Elkayem]
piano_teacher29 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/27/12
Posts: 30
Loc: Georgia
I started playing when I was 5 and was not involved in a million activities as a child. I did softball and piano...those were my interests and I thrived at both because I had the time to do so. My brother is 2 years older and also took piano. My parents would have us practice daily, set the timer, take turns. When my brother turned 9 he quit. I was never asked, nor did I want to ask. I liked the piano from the start. By the third year of lessons (so I was 8) my mom no longer had to set the timer and I never argued about practice. I would do it on my own. It can take about that long for children to get into the habit. I was not rewarded at home for practicing and my teachers never rewarded me either. It was expected of me to practice daily. I remember distinctly falling in love with the piano, when I was 12 and played Chopin Nocturne in E minor. Then is was Debussy's Reverie. That's when I began playing with my heart.

I think music is intrinsic for some, which makes it enjoyable to learn. However, it can be acquired for those who don't have a natural draw to an instrument, it just takes more motivation and determination. It's determining which category a child falls into (which could take several years) and then going from there.

I have a 14 year old transfer student who just started with me several weeks ago. When I interviewed her she was very honest that she doesn't like the piano and her parents are making her take lessons. She isn't given a choice, so I figure we should make the best of it. We've discovered she does like playing but her tastes are limited. So for now, we'll keep it to what she loves to play until (and if) she develops a passion for music we can branch out. That's the attitude I take with my apathetic students, or the ones forced to take lessons. Figure out what they DO like and focus on that until the passion reignites.

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#1929066 - 07/19/12 01:13 PM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: currawong]
Elkayem Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/02/12
Posts: 159
Loc: Santa Clara, CA
Originally Posted By: currawong
Well here's one: make sure you tell her how much you love hearing her play. Here's another: take her to concerts or other musical activities. And here's one more: sing.


Absolutely! Except the singing part. My singing is enough to make anyone quit music.
_________________________
Schimmel 130T

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#1929077 - 07/19/12 01:30 PM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Gary D.]
Elkayem Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/02/12
Posts: 159
Loc: Santa Clara, CA
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Here the message is that you do piano practice, something you do not want to do, in order to earn the privilege or freedom to do what you DO enjoy, playing video games, watching TV, using the computer.

To me this says that playing the piano is not fun, that playing music for its own sake is not entertaining, exciting or stimulating enough to be its own reward. But I would argue that IF this is the case, failure is just around the corner. Something is going wrong.

I think, instead, we should be asking why playing games or doing things on the computer is more fun. What is it that we are not teaching? I can see this “reward system” – you get to do what YOU want to do by doing what I, the parent WANT you to do – as being a very dangerous game, and one that is very likely to backfire. It will only work if playing soon becomes its own reward, and the young student no longer wants to ditch the piano in favor of just about anything else.

Gary, believe me, I understand your objection. It is a double edged sword, isn't it? However, what does one do when a child is no longer self motivated to practice? Especially a young child. It seems to me the only alternative is to allow them to quit. As a parent, it is my job to provide her a meaningful education, and at this age she is simply too young to decide what is and isn't important. Personally, I think learning to play a musical instrument should be required in our schools like learning the classics of literature, not an elective as it currently is. Most would likely not continue that instrument into adulthood, but most would gain a deeper understanding of music and some would acquire a great passion for it that may not kick in until later in life. To me, enticements seem the lesser of two evils, but I'm not the expert here.

By the way, I really appreciate all this feedback and insights.
_________________________
Schimmel 130T

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#1929161 - 07/19/12 04:14 PM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Elkayem]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
Originally Posted By: Elkayem
As a parent, it is my job to provide her a meaningful education, and at this age she is simply too young to decide what is and isn't important.


Therefore it also follows that she cannot decide whether or not to quit. It is your job to give her the support, encouragement and tools to deal with life. If you allow her to quit everything she doesn't like at the time, then you teach her that quitting is ok. It's not ok.

Our society has become so deluded by things made easy. Don't like your marriage anymore? Isn't what you expected it to be? Ok. Just get a divorce.

That's just one example. I could go on.
_________________________
B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

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#1929186 - 07/19/12 04:52 PM Re: Keeping a child engaged [Re: Elkayem]
MaggieGirl Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/18/11
Posts: 477
" It seems to me the only alternative is to allow them to quit. As a parent, it is my job to provide her a meaningful education, and at this age she is simply too young to decide what is and isn't important."

coupled with

"Personally, I think learning to play a musical instrument should be required in our schools like learning the classics of literature, not an elective as it currently is. Most would likely not continue that instrument into adulthood, but most would gain a deeper understanding of music and some would acquire a great passion for it that may not kick in until later in life."

Is very odd. So it would be the school's responsibility to prevent children from quitting? Fear of bad grades?

If piano is important to you then it should be something you don't allow her to quit. I found when my daughter was younger that she didn't want to go to preschool. Instead of making it sounds optional, I would say very calmly Today is Monday, it's a school day, it's what you do on Monday. At night I would say, Tomorrow is Tuesday, let's pack up for school, on Tuesdays you have school. Sure she was unhappy, but she wasn't allowed to pursue the option of quitting (or whining, tantrums).

When starting a new activity I go over with her that is was a commitment of one year and then we can talk about continuing or trying something else.

If your daughter gives effort for a year and it still isn't her cup of tea, then make a decision of "Music is important to our family, I understand you do not enjoy piano. But in our family everyone does music. What music would you like to try next?" I don't think any music education is wasted. When my son quit flute (after 8 years), he picked up guitar. The transition wasn't painful and he has a deep appreciation for all types of music.

The only time I've let my daughter quit out of the blue was with gymnastics. She LOVED it and was passionate about it. Then all of a sudden she was crying before each lesson - it seemed once she was there she was okay but it just escalated - she began throwing up just getting dressed for class. It was too stressful for her. Coaches were very demanding. It took years for us to pass the building without her feeling anxiety. I wish I had listened better when the crying began and let her quit earlier. There was a lot of pressure on my from her coaches to offer her bribes, to cajole her into going.

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