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#1278565 - 10/01/09 10:54 AM New student learning unassigned pieces?  
Joined: Sep 2006
Posts: 1,608
chasingrainbows Offline
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chasingrainbows  Offline
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Joined: Sep 2006
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NJ
My new student, a second grader, had one lesson with me, and on the second lesson, came in and said she learned a piece (that was at least 6 pages ahead in the book) on her own. Of course she didn't play correctly, but it was not a poor performance. How do you handle students moving ahead on their own, especially one who has absolutely no prior music education? Our first lesson was devoted to posture, hand position, keyboard geography, and playing through the 2 and 3 black key positions. We covered up to the first 6 pages of Piano Adv. Primer. Was that too slow?

Our second lesson focused on review, quarter notes and half notes. I played music and we tapped, clapped, played duets and overall, I thought it was a good 2 lessons.

Her mom had a bit of attitude as if we weren't covering enough. I was annoyed because I've seen this unreasonable expectation before, but not in my teaching expereince. I assigned her one new piece for the week. Am I moving too slow? Is this a typical parental attitude? I really appreciate your input.


Piano teacher, BA Music, MTNA member
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#1278584 - 10/01/09 11:09 AM Re: New student learning unassigned pieces? [Re: chasingrainbows]  
Joined: Nov 2002
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Kreisler Offline
Kreisler  Offline


Joined: Nov 2002
Posts: 13,837
Iowa City, IA
Never shut down initiative and independence. Those, after all, are two of the primary goals we hope to foster as teachers!

In this case, I'd be tempted to do both - require more material to be covered, and require expert musicianship. Tell the parents that a faster, more intense pace is something you'd be happy to do, but that it will require a more rigorous practice schedule on their part as well.

I've done this with several students. Seizing these kinds of opportunities is how you turn a mediocre or average student into a top performer.


"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#1278596 - 10/01/09 11:21 AM Re: New student learning unassigned pieces? [Re: Kreisler]  
Joined: Jul 2009
Posts: 820
Lollipop Offline
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Lollipop  Offline
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Joined: Jul 2009
Posts: 820
Georgia
I agree that you don't want to dampen the enthusiasm. If a student works ahead in math or spelling, they get praised, and that is what they are expecting with piano, too.

I generally head this off at the very first lesson by bringing it up before it happens. I tell students to let me know if they ever feel like I am giving them too much or not enough, so that I can adjust, but that I would rather they not work ahead before we've talked about something.

With this student, I'd be inclined to smile big and tell her that she made me very happy by showing me how much she wants to learn! And that I was very proud of her at being able to read all the "secret code" - notes, fingering, etc - that she did correctly.

Then I would explain that the Lesson book is set up to teach them a new skill - a new part of the code - in practically every song, and if I don't get a chance to teach them the skill, they might learn the song wrong, and then we would have bad habits to correct. But I want them to have as much chance to play new stuff as they want, so here's a compromise...

And then I would offer them the opportunity to get a "fun" book - the Performance book, for example, if you're not already using that - or a supplemental book put out by Faber and Faber that corresponds to the same level as the Lesson book. And they would be allowed to play - or try - anything in that book, whenever. But that they must use it as "dessert" after they have practiced all their regular lesson assignments.

The idea of more music as "dessert" helps the kids to feel rewarded and make happy associations with music. At the same time, it gives them extra sight-reading practice, and a sense of accomplishment.


piano teacher
#1278600 - 10/01/09 11:25 AM Re: New student learning unassigned pieces? [Re: Lollipop]  
Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 15,681
Morodiene Offline
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Morodiene  Offline
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Boynton Beach, FL
I woudl find her some supplemental music to keep her occupied. She obviously has the time and desire to go forward. Let her know that you'll give her some more pieces to learn from now on, but ask her not to move ahead in the method books, but to let you know if she needs more to do. Explain to her why you don't want her jumping ahead, but try not to be admonishing to her about it.


private piano/voice teacher FT

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#1278667 - 10/01/09 01:03 PM Re: New student learning unassigned pieces? [Re: Morodiene]  
Joined: Sep 2009
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kevinb Offline
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kevinb  Offline
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It seems to me that unless her running ahead is actually harming her musical development in some way, it is very much to be encouraged. And if it is harming her musical development, you need to explain why very clearly, both to her and her parents. Just my two-penn'th, of course.

#1278733 - 10/01/09 02:46 PM Re: New student learning unassigned pieces? [Re: kevinb]  
Joined: Jun 2007
Posts: 4,896
Betty Patnude Offline
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Betty Patnude  Offline
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Joined: Jun 2007
Posts: 4,896
Puyallup, Washington
Irenev,

I would be very careful to give written practice instructions of general consistent things to look for in each piece of new music.

I would recommend looking through the method you use to categorize together the pages which work on any particular concept you are working on at the current lesson level.

Another way of saying this is: "What songs go together in difficulty factor?"

Prepare this list for yourself and consider giving this list to the student to do some independent work that relates to the concept you are working on.

For instance, in: Piano Town, Primer Level
Pre-Staff Reading is used on pages 8-23
Middle C Position is used on pages 24-38
Parallel C Position is used on pages 39-45
Chord Preparation starts on page 47-51
Hands together starts on page 47
# Accidentals start page 52
Parallel G Position starts page 54
b Accidentals start page 58
Left Crossing Over "Graduation Day" is on page 60-61.

Categories of Concepts (pages 62-63) are:
Sitting at the Piano
Hand Position
Finger Numbers
The Piano Keyboard - 2 black keys - 3 black keys up/down high/lower
Note Values - Quarter Half Whole Dotted Half 2 Eighth Notes
White Key Names
Positions - Pre-Staff Middle C Parallel C
Step & Skip
Time Signatures
The Staff - Line Notes/Space Notes Bass Staff Treble Staff - Grand Staff
Reading Notes on the Staff - Middle C Parallel C Major - Parallel G Major
Intervals - 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th - harmonic intervals - melodic intervals
Chords - C Chord G Chord
Rests - whole half quarter
Dynamics - Forte - Piano
Other Words and Signs - Legato - Slur - Tie - # - b - Staccato

The Theory, Technic, Performance books are coordinated to the Lesson Book referring by page numbers when to add them into the lesson.

Having a syllabus that you have organized as to when a concept is introduced will help you aligh other music supplemental sheets and books into the lesson method that you are using. Actually at some time with your structure determined about what you perveive to be your system, you can begin to do without the methods and use other materials which do the same thing.

I have found great freedom and inpowerment in getting myself away from the method books and doing for myself what I am suggesting to you. Just adding music about the season and holidays as well as subject that children are going to enjoy will help you find the materials you will need. Think: September - Back to School/30 Days Hath September; October - Autumn/Halloween; November - Thanksgiving; December - Holidays/Winter/Snow. The whole first 4 months have a lot of music that is worth learning! Winter can continue through February; March-April-May/Spring; June-July-August/Summer!

A teacher could make this a pedagogy project for this year with the idea of installing it into lessons next year. Or, start now planning your Winter Syllabus with a list of selected music by levels. This really helps with lesson planning!

See: SheetMusicPlus - accessible here on PW to do your search. So much of the music has a "sample" in the listing.

I'm in the process of updating my syllabus:I was just working on new materials for Halloween for Early Elementary this morning. Then, I need to look at Christmas Music for the same level to see what new original compositions might have been added.

So, I'm also saying that when you have accomplished a project such as this, you'll be out and away from the method and having lots of great music to put before your student!

Betty

#1278745 - 10/01/09 03:11 PM Re: New student learning unassigned pieces? [Re: Betty Patnude]  
Joined: Apr 2009
Posts: 155
Mrs.A Offline
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Mrs.A  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Apr 2009
Posts: 155
I agree that supplementing is a solution. When I assign the music I also assign a page ahead and put a question mark on it. That is the "If you get to it" page. I briefely cover the theory to be learned but it encourage students to move as quickly as they think they can.

IT takes a while with a new student to determine how quickly they move. i often ask parents how practice is at home, is the student quickly learning the pieces or is it a struggle.


Piano Teacher.
Church Music Director.
Kindermusik Instructor.
Mom to four boys.

#1278832 - 10/01/09 05:54 PM Re: New student learning unassigned pieces? [Re: Mrs.A]  
Joined: Aug 2009
Posts: 67
abcdefg Offline
Full Member
abcdefg  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Aug 2009
Posts: 67
midwest
It would certainly be wonderful if we assigned 5 pages and a student comes back ready to play 10 pages. And I agree never discourage a student that works ahead. Even if they don't play everything correctly you can recognize their hard work and talk about just a few things that need to be corrected.

Sometimes I think it is ok to remind the parent that the lesson is X minutes long and as much as you would like to teach 10 pages a week you only have time to teach 5.

The first lesson is all new information and a parent may think that you should be doing more. The second lesson you need to divide your time between what the student has practiced and the new material that will be presented.

Also with a new student you are not sure how hard they will work and once you, mom and student settle into a routine you can all work together to know how much to assign.


#1279615 - 10/02/09 08:34 PM Re: New student learning unassigned pieces? [Re: abcdefg]  
Joined: Sep 2006
Posts: 1,608
chasingrainbows Offline
1000 Post Club Member
chasingrainbows  Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Joined: Sep 2006
Posts: 1,608
NJ
To everyone who has responded, I cannot thank you enough! I will read these thoroughly over the weekend and hopefully respond individually.


Piano teacher, BA Music, MTNA member
#1279879 - 10/03/09 10:16 AM Re: New student learning unassigned pieces? [Re: chasingrainbows]  
Joined: Mar 2006
Posts: 7,639
John v.d.Brook Offline
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John v.d.Brook  Offline
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Joined: Mar 2006
Posts: 7,639
Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted by Irenev
My new student, a second grader, had one lesson with me, and on the second lesson, came in and said she learned a piece (that was at least 6 pages ahead in the book) on her own. Of course she didn't play correctly, but it was not a poor performance. How do you handle students moving ahead on their own, especially one who has absolutely no prior music education? Our first lesson was devoted to posture, hand position, keyboard geography, and playing through the 2 and 3 black key positions. We covered up to the first 6 pages of Piano Adv. Primer. Was that too slow?

Our second lesson focused on review, quarter notes and half notes. I played music and we tapped, clapped, played duets and overall, I thought it was a good 2 lessons.

Her mom had a bit of attitude as if we weren't covering enough. I was annoyed because I've seen this unreasonable expectation before, but not in my teaching experience. I assigned her one new piece for the week. Am I moving too slow? Is this a typical parental attitude? I really appreciate your input.


First, IMO, concurring with others, praise for the initiative is a must. You can kill enthusiasm with just an inflection or facial tick, so you've got to be careful (we all do, all the time).

I'm guessing these are 30 - 40 min lessons, in which case, not a lot of material can be covered, and in the very beginning, there is a lot to cover. I think I would just praise the student and then set the piece aside telling her we'll get back to it in just a few minutes. As six pages in a primer is probably about as far as you can go in a lesson, you may just be getting to it near the end of the lesson. You might consider what concepts are introduced between where you are and where the piece is, and see if you can streamline the presentation, so you get to the piece in question with 5 or more minutes remaining in the lesson, so you can work it through.

At the new student, primer level, I am generally doing lesson packages for prospective long term students. Lessons are 40 minutes. I make use of the series (Piano Town) supplementary books, both Technic and Performance. Generally, I will have them work on one new piece from the Performance book, which are usually twice as long, and consolidate instruction to that point, and two or three etudes from the Technic book. These are quite short, but give the student something to drill at home, and naturally, the 3 or 4 pieces we've covered in the Lesson book.


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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