Repetitive Class No Longer

Posted by: Jocieness

Repetitive Class No Longer - 12/03/12 07:41 PM

Hello all!

Apologies in advance for the lengthy post!

For the past year I've struggled with students who constantly come to class without having practiced. I would hear them start with shaky scales and that was the foreshadowing for the rest of class. Most of the time it is a sign that the student hasn't studied or improved his or her pieces.

So I'd have them play those songs or whatever it was numerous times in class.
My mentality was: we can't move on or work on other things if they didn't practice what they were assigned, but I've come to the realization that this mentality may be wrong and I'd love input from you all please!

I'm going to try a new approach. If a student has not practiced ill have them play the song/scale etc. maybe one or twice to point out what needs to be worked on, but then Ill move on and work on other elements such as rhythm, technique and so on. I will likely not advance within a lesson book if their current piece needs plenty of more work because Im hoping that if they really want to progress they will work harder on their pieces to advance in their lesson books.

TL;DR:
What's your approach in teaching a class when a student hasn't practiced?
Posted by: Piano*Dad

Re: Repetitive Class No Longer - 12/03/12 08:03 PM

You think that's a long post? Hah. Stick around a while and you'll see some truly loooooong works. smile

As to the substance of the post, if you are dealing with very young students, do you think your subtle negative tactic of not advancing them through the book will really get through to them as an incentive to work? I'm trying to imagine the mind of the subset of students who would be bright enough to get your hint, but who are unmotivated under your current approach. That might be a very small group.

I would imagine that a more direct approach, perhaps with a parent conference, might pay larger dividends.
Posted by: Beth_Frances

Re: Repetitive Class No Longer - 12/03/12 08:36 PM

I agree with you Jocieness. I don't keep a kid moving at the same pace if they don't practice as if they did. I treat each week like a practice session as much as a lesson for those kids. If I treated them the same as the practicing kids it would be very hard slog all around - for both them and me. This is not to be mean - the opposite. If I kept going, advancing them when they weren't ready, they'd get frustrated and not know what they're doing. If a kid doesn't practice I just give them lots of material at the one level until they're comfortable with it. I have quite a low drop out rate so I think that approach works.

You can still get a lot of variety sticking with the one level - there are so many styles to draw from. Sometimes something clicks and they take off and start practicing once they've done a couple of hundred easy level pieces. Some kids aren't comfortable working outside their comfort zones and for those kids this approach is especially helpful I find.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Repetitive Class No Longer - 12/03/12 09:28 PM

I think that many kids have a disadvantage these days with all of the instant gratification they can get. With the internet, they don't really need to work at finding out something, they just google it. Or if they want to talk to someone, they can reach them through their cell phones, email or text. Want to buy something? No need to leave home, just order it online and it will come to you! All of this adds up to short-lived goals that become realized.

Of course, this is over-simplified for the sake of the point I'm making: kids dont' really understand the idea of hard work over time.

I had a student who wouldn't really practice. He just started with me and was a transfer student, having studied a few years ago for a little while, but he was not happy with his lack of ability to read music. After many, many pep-talks, the recital was approaching and he wanted to play the Clementi Sonatina 36/1. He had a "back-up" piece, but he didn't really want to play it so he didn't practice it, so he was committed to this whether or not it was ready. Well, needless to say, it didn't turn out so great.

When I talked to him at his lesson afterwards, I suggested that perhaps more practicing would have helped. He then claimed he practiced a lot, every day that week. My response: what about the last month we've been working on the piece? The week prior you should just be practicing performing, but we couldn't even get to that point because we were still working on the notes because he didn't do that kind of practicing earlier. Hopefully this got through to him so he understands cramming in music just doesn't work, you need to invest in it over a long period of time to reap the benefits.

Anyways, I guess I'm saying that as a teacher you do what you can to inspire, give creative solutions to their practice schedule, try and make it fun, etc., but sometimes the best teacher is a deadline. smirk
Posted by: AZNpiano

Re: Repetitive Class No Longer - 12/04/12 01:24 AM

Are these kids overbooked with other activities in their lives?

Do they go to schools with crazy teachers who assign seven projects per week?

Are they just lazy?

Do they even like piano?

Every kid has a different reason for not practicing. To find the root of the problem, a conference may be necessary.
Posted by: Jocieness

Re: Repetitive Class No Longer - 12/04/12 01:57 PM

Thanks to everyone for their replies!

Piano*Dad: It's good to know that that was not a long a post as I had thought!
My biggest issue has been with the older students usually 9 and above. The younger ones not practicing has to do more with the parents not being involved- (4-6) year olds specifically- that really need parental guidance at the piano at home. I definitely see what you are saying though and will keep that in mind.

Beth Frances: This is exactly what I'm going to be doing from now on: "If a kid doesn't practice I just give them lots of material at the one level until they're comfortable with it." I agree with your sentiments that advancing a student that has not practiced will only leave them feeling frustrated and lost!

I'm also hoping for what you mentioned, which is that a child will identify with one piece or exercise and that will push them to progress. And while staying in pieces and exercises at their level they are reinforcing concepts o techniques that are difficult for them until they are ready to move on.

Morodiene: Completely agree with the "instant gratification" disadvantage. Kids get away with cramming for tests in school or other things, but cramming won't get them far in their musical studies. And that's definitely a mindset that has to be worked on with most students nowadays. It's difficult to have to see your student learn the hard way, but sometimes it's the only way.

AZNPiano: Another very big problem especially amongst the older ones. I have some students that have massive amounts of homework. The parents will even come to class almost confessing that their child was unable to practice because of the overload of work. I always try to assure parents that I understand there will be heavy work weeks, but trying to fit in even small amounts of practice time is perfectly fine and the weeks here and there where they just couldn't practice I also understand as long as it's not a habit.

As far as liking the piano I'm very upfront about asking the parents or even the older students. This may seem counterproductive to retaining students, but why would I want a miserable child in class? It's unfair to them really. I always think God will provide anyways so I rather them be honest with me and vice versa as far as if they are enjoying what they are doing.

I firmly believe a child or student of any age must truly enjoy the instrument and appreciate the potential they have to master it over time before they will be truly motivated to practice.


I really love hearing from all of you because it definitely helps me modify and improve my teaching style!
_________________________
Posted by: pianomouse

Re: Repetitive Class No Longer - 12/04/12 07:30 PM

The "instant gratification" disadvantage is a huge problem with my students as well. Often, it helps, if I compare piano practising to sports training. That's something they can easily understand.
I find it essential to teach the students practising techniques from the beginning. Otherwise, when the pieces become more complicated, they're lost. If they learn to listen carefully to themselves playing and to compare this to the music they read from the beginning, it's so much easier for them.
In my experience, even 10 minutes of serious practising a day can make quite good progress - instead of running through the piece several times for a half hour, memorizing mistakes instead of cleaning them out. And ten minutes can even be managed by students who have loads of homework from school.
Posted by: Jocieness

Re: Repetitive Class No Longer - 12/04/12 11:36 PM

I agree with you pianomouse, I always tell my students that whatever amount of practice they can get in is better than none.

It's like exercise, sometimes we think those 10 minutes do nothing for us, but they did more than 0.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Repetitive Class No Longer - 12/05/12 08:15 AM

I agree - I think you can be extremely efficient with 10 minutes, too. That is what I try to teach my students gradually over time: different ways of practicing that are most efficient and you'll get the most progress out of it. I personally don't have hours to spend sitting at the piano, so I'm a testament to my students that it works.

Good to have you aboard, Jociness (and pianomouse, I haven't seen you yet either!). This is a great place to bounce off ideas, and while you may not get what you're looking for all the time, you may learn some things to consider for the future of your studio. smile
Posted by: malkin

Re: Repetitive Class No Longer - 12/05/12 08:47 AM

You teachers all know that there are times when a student may practice his or her head off and still muff up a passage, right? You have all been students too, I believe. Some things can sound pretty bad still even after a week of diligent and focused practice. It might have been much worse, but still, it can be pretty bad.

At those times, my teacher will introduce new ways of working. (Which can be followed by me showing him new ways of screwing up.)
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Repetitive Class No Longer - 12/05/12 08:59 AM

Originally Posted By: malkin
You teachers all know that there are times when a student may practice his or her head off and still muff up a passage, right? You have all been students too, I believe. Some things can sound pretty bad still even after a week of diligent and focused practice. It might have been much worse, but still, it can be pretty bad.

At those times, my teacher will introduce new ways of working. (Which can be followed by me showing him new ways of screwing up.)


I can always tell the difference between a student who practiced and is messing up for other reasons (nerves, playing on an unfamiliar instrument, etc.) and one who just hasn't practiced, or has practiced inefficiently.

I do have my students write down their practice times to help in trouble-shooting what the issue is, but I don't need to look at it to know if they haven't practiced.
Posted by: AZNpiano

Re: Repetitive Class No Longer - 12/05/12 03:26 PM

Originally Posted By: Morodiene
I can always tell the difference between a student who practiced and is messing up for other reasons (nerves, playing on an unfamiliar instrument, etc.) and one who just hasn't practiced, or has practiced inefficiently.
Same here!