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Primer Lesson Book #2847459
05/12/19 12:38 AM
05/12/19 12:38 AM
Joined: Aug 2007
Posts: 8,038
Orange County, CA
AZNpiano Offline OP
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How long do your students typically take to finish the Primer Lesson book of any method book series?

I have a 7-year-old who took about 8 months to crawl through that tome. His memory is very fleeting, and he has poor fine motor skills. About halfway through the book I had serious thoughts about firing the kid, but his parents are unbelievably accommodating and intelligent.

This boy is the second slowest of all beginners I've taught. The slowest one was five, so I was able to overlook the slow progress and instead made lessons "music appreciate and enrichment" class. She eventually quit lessons.

I also welcome suggestions for "fun" activities that have worked for your slower beginners.


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Re: Primer Lesson Book [Re: AZNpiano] #2847515
05/12/19 11:06 AM
05/12/19 11:06 AM
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I have one, six going on seven, don't know exactly how long she's been learning in total as they moved from another teacher, but its somewhere around 10 months and we are just approaching the end of the John Thompson book 1.

Coordination ok, but reading very slow (both music and words) and retention very poor.

I think the kid is actually borderline special needs, whether the parents are in denial or whether they just haven't shared that with me I'm not sure.

I'm persevering as her ear is actually very good and I'm hoping if we finally crack the reading we might get somewhere.

The most helpful thing I found is the Simply Piano app. Because its a screen and a child lol

Re: Primer Lesson Book [Re: AZNpiano] #2847545
05/12/19 12:53 PM
05/12/19 12:53 PM
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I don't know how it plays out in the piano pedagogy world, but in special education the main things are present smaller chunks in a lesson, try various methods of presentation, and lots of repetition. Lots of repetition.

For adults working with kids who make slow progress it is useful to learn to "zoom in" and assess progress in smaller increments.


Learner
Re: Primer Lesson Book [Re: AZNpiano] #2847630
05/12/19 09:53 PM
05/12/19 09:53 PM
Joined: Oct 2009
Posts: 115
Canada
pianist_lady Online content
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I have had a few students who took 10 months to a whole year to finish the Piano Adventures Primer. And not entirely due to lack of practice either, everything just took forever to sink in.
If the student's readiness coincides with support at home, I have found they can get through the primer by December if they start in September.
Playing iPad games like NoteRush seems to help many students, both in terms of building skills and making things feel fun.
I also supplement from the Technique/Artistry and Performance books, so that they play lots of pieces rather than getting stuck in the lesson book. Even though all aspects of the pieces may not be mastered, at least the student feels like they are getting somewhere.
Improvisation is also fun; it gets them playing without worrying about reading notes or rhythms.


Private piano teacher
B. Mus., M.Mus. (piano performance & pedagogy).
Re: Primer Lesson Book [Re: malkin] #2847751
05/13/19 12:37 PM
05/13/19 12:37 PM
Joined: Aug 2007
Posts: 8,038
Orange County, CA
AZNpiano Offline OP
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Originally Posted by malkin
I don't know how it plays out in the piano pedagogy world, but in special education the main things are present smaller chunks in a lesson, try various methods of presentation, and lots of repetition. Lots of repetition.

Yes, I do a lot of repetitions. But it's getting to the point that even the kid's parents are wondering is there something wrong with the kid. It's like nothing sticks. His favorite responses to questions are "Nooooooooo" and "I don't know." It's been 8 months and the kid still forgets where middle C looks like on the staff.

Originally Posted by malkin
For adults working with kids who make slow progress it is useful to learn to "zoom in" and assess progress in smaller increments.

What do you mean by "zoom in"? Focusing on ONE idea for 30 minutes? Or coming back to the same idea every 5 minutes?


Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member
Re: Primer Lesson Book [Re: pianist_lady] #2847756
05/13/19 12:42 PM
05/13/19 12:42 PM
Joined: Aug 2007
Posts: 8,038
Orange County, CA
AZNpiano Offline OP
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Originally Posted by pianist_lady
I have had a few students who took 10 months to a whole year to finish the Piano Adventures Primer. And not entirely due to lack of practice either, everything just took forever to sink in.

You have more patience than I do. I think I will go crazy if students go that slowly.

Originally Posted by pianist_lady
If the student's readiness coincides with support at home, I have found they can get through the primer by December if they start in September.

Yes, I agree. That seems to be the norm, actually.

Originally Posted by pianist_lady
I also supplement from the Technique/Artistry and Performance books, so that they play lots of pieces rather than getting stuck in the lesson book. Even though all aspects of the pieces may not be mastered, at least the student feels like they are getting somewhere.

I used to do that for my Transfer Wrecks who got pushed ahead too quickly by their previous teachers. But now I just take them all the way down to zero. It's much easier to build up from zero than dragging it out with five books per level.

Originally Posted by pianist_lady
Improvisation is also fun; it gets them playing without worrying about reading notes or rhythms.

This one I did try. It didn't accomplish anything.


Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member
Re: Primer Lesson Book [Re: AZNpiano] #2847790
05/13/19 02:16 PM
05/13/19 02:16 PM
Joined: Dec 2017
Posts: 288
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Andamento Offline
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Years ago I had a student who made agonizingly slow progress. I don't remember how long she was in her Piano Adventures primer or other levels in the series, but a year wouldn't be outside the realm of possibility, IIRC.

She hardly practiced, though, and her lesson attendance was, well, let's just say if she made it to three lessons a month, that would be a good (and rare) month. I'm not sure she ever made it to every lesson in any given month the whole time she studied with me (years).

On top of that, there were four TVs in the house, her mom reported, and the girl's dad (retired and parked in front of a TV almost non-stop) refused to watch any other than the one that was in the same room as the piano. You can imagine how that went.

Then the mom decided to buy a grand piano (new), thinking that would encourage the daughter to practice more. Well, that helped for a few weeks, and then it was back to the same old hardly-any-practice habit.

They finally quit after several years when they realized piano just wasn't her thing.

Is there any level of dysfunction like this in your student's home? How is his lesson attendance? Do you know when he does his first practice after the lesson? I always try to encourage students to get to the piano at home within 24 hours of the lesson. There's a pretty steep decline in what can be remembered of new knowledge when it goes unpracticed for more than a day.

Trouble remembering the location of Middle C (or other notes) on the staff:

I put a magnetic staff (click on the second image at the link) on the music rack, point to a note in the music book, then see if the student can place a magnet on the same line or space as the note appears.

An activity like that, done often, might also help improve his poor fine motor skills.

Does he understand that Middle C can be a treble note or a bass note? Maybe there's some confusion because of its dual locations, unlike probably most of the rest of the notes he's come across, which only have one staff location that he knows of. (I'm assuming he hasn't had any leger line notes beyond middle C on either staff?)

Another activity idea -- rhythm-related -- I do with kids is tapping rhythms on a drum. I use this one. Sometimes we do rhythm tapbacks (listen to a rhythm, then echo it -- and occasionally, for fun, we reverse roles, with the student going first and me echoing), and sometimes I have students tap rhythm they see in notation. They seem to like this brief change to another instrument.

Good luck. That's a hard situation.

Re: Primer Lesson Book [Re: Andamento] #2847807
05/13/19 02:46 PM
05/13/19 02:46 PM
Joined: Aug 2007
Posts: 8,038
Orange County, CA
AZNpiano Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Andamento
Is there any level of dysfunction like this in your student's home? How is his lesson attendance? Do you know when he does his first practice after the lesson? I always try to encourage students to get to the piano at home within 24 hours of the lesson. There's a pretty steep decline in what can be remembered of new knowledge when it goes unpracticed for more than a day.

I can only imagine, since I don't teach at the student's home. He does have a younger sibling who can be quite a handful. He's one of those kids that takes two 30-minute lessons a week and he has missed only two lessons in 8 months. The only thing I can gather is that they sometimes run late and by the time they get to my studio they look frazzled. Both parents are extremely well educated, and they understand 100% what's going on during the lesson. In fact, the only reason I haven't given up on this kid is how intelligent the parents are, and how flexible they are with my scheduling.

I stopped assigning written homework because it's just not done, and when it IS done, there are so many wrong answers, it's like the kid never learned it in the first place, when in fact I've taught him the same material for months.

Originally Posted by Andamento
Does he understand that Middle C can be a treble note or a bass note? Maybe there's some confusion because of its dual locations, unlike probably most of the rest of the notes he's come across, which only have one staff location that he knows of. (I'm assuming he hasn't had any leger line notes beyond middle C on either staff?)


I make a big deal out of treble vs. bass, but I'm not sure any of it is working.

This kid took many weeks just to understand lines vs. spaces. I've never had this much trouble getting any kid to understand that. He NOW understands quarter notes, half notes, and dotted half notes. He has to think about whole notes.

The only other reason I can think of for his slow progress is that he's already stretched out thin with four extracurricular activities. This is very typical for kids around here. Piano is yet another activity in the kids' packed schedules.


Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member
Re: Primer Lesson Book [Re: AZNpiano] #2847885
05/13/19 07:25 PM
05/13/19 07:25 PM
Joined: Apr 2009
Posts: 5,182
*sigh* Salt Lake City
malkin Offline
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano


Originally Posted by malkin
For adults working with kids who make slow progress it is useful to learn to "zoom in" and assess progress in smaller increments.

What do you mean by "zoom in"? Focusing on ONE idea for 30 minutes? Or coming back to the same idea every 5 minutes?


So in my world, an example of "zoom in" might be if a kid who NEVER makes eye contact, ALWAYS directs his eye gaze at his knees made a fleeting glance at my face or at a toy or food item that was a little bit interesting. In the grand scheme of things, this tiny change might have gone unnoticed, but to me, it is progress because it is the beginning of social interaction.

"Zooming in" isn't so much about changing what I do as a teacher, but attending closely to the tiniest increment of change in the student's response.

Also poor fine motor skills are correlated to just about every problem that kids could ever have, so it is certainly well within the realm of possibility that something else is going on as well.

Would it ever make sense to focus on listening and following directions or having the student do something and you imitate it (either accurately or inaccurately) and then ask the student to tell you if you did it right or wrong?
Could you play "same or different" by having the student say whether 2 notes or chords were the same or different?
Could you switch roles with the student--have him play 2 notes that are the same or different, and because you are the teacher, not only do you have to say "same" or "different" you have to play the 2 notes?

Remember--my suggestions could be totally useless or crazy in the piano pedagogy world!
I play same and different with word pairs (cat/pat or cat/cap) and I hardly know anything about learning piano, let alone teaching it!


Learner
Re: Primer Lesson Book [Re: AZNpiano] #2847909
05/13/19 08:56 PM
05/13/19 08:56 PM
Joined: Oct 2009
Posts: 115
Canada
pianist_lady Online content
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pianist_lady  Online Content
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by pianist_lady
I have had a few students who took 10 months to a whole year to finish the Piano Adventures Primer. And not entirely due to lack of practice either, everything just took forever to sink in.

You have more patience than I do. I think I will go crazy if students go that slowly.



If a student shows up every week and is easy to work with, and the parents follow my policies, then I am happy to teach them even if they go very slowly. One of these kids has been in my studio for 5 years and seems to enjoy lessons, despite the slow pace. Another student, who was unfailingly pleasant but also completely mystified by really basic concepts, spent the year in Primer and then decided to take voice lessons. Maybe I'd go crazy if all my students were like that, but I'm lucky to have a variety of students in my studio. As long as the student has a good experience at the lesson, there doesn't seem to be harm in continuing to review concepts.
I don't really go in for games or elaborate activities, but there's a lot on the various blogs like teachpianotoday, music discoveries, etc. Maybe that sort of thing would be helpful?


Private piano teacher
B. Mus., M.Mus. (piano performance & pedagogy).
Re: Primer Lesson Book [Re: AZNpiano] #2847919
05/13/19 09:58 PM
05/13/19 09:58 PM
Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 16,763
Boynton Beach, FL
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There was a child, 7 year old boy, who had been taking voice lessons and couldn't match pitch very well (I mean, not at all) and so I suggested piano lessons. His siblings, twin brother and older sister, are very good singers, so I thought piano would be a chance for him to shine. Well, he's one of the few students I almost just walked out of the lesson. We were on the first few pages of the book and he was struggling - it took us the entire lesson to get through these little pieces at the beginning of the book!

Thankfully, I managed to not get up and walk out, but I discovered that even though he was "practicing," he wasn't going to every piece every day. He'd do one piece one day, then another the next, etc. (I usually give them 4 pieces between the technic, lessons, and performance books). Once I zero'd in on why his progress was so slow, he started making good progress.

If your student doesn't have a learning disability, it's most likely a problem with practice at home, like he's often distracted, or has the wrong idea of what to do, Of course, 4 other extracurricular doesn't help. It may be time to have a heart to heart talk with the parents. They may not care, but then again they may think giving him more things to "try out" is a good idea. I'm not opposed to that concept, but let them do it for a school year or something, and then try something else the next year if they don't like it. They don't have to try it all at one time!


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Re: Primer Lesson Book [Re: AZNpiano] #2847929
05/13/19 10:37 PM
05/13/19 10:37 PM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
He does have a younger sibling who can be quite a handful.


This reminds me of a student I had in the past. Extremely bright girl, excellent grades at school, seemed to have a grasp of how to approach the new parts of her assignment when she left my studio each week, but didn't really make as much progress in a week as I thought she could. She was practicing regularly, her mom confirmed, so I wondered how she practiced.

So I gave her a blank tape (back in the days of cassettes and tape recorders) and asked her to record one of her practices and bring the tape back the next week.

When I listened to the recording after her next lesson, most of the time I could hear her little brother goofing off and howling in the background like a coyote. Utter chaos, and difficult to concentrate and apply what one has learned when in an environment like that.

I wonder if your student's handful of a younger sibling might be a similar distraction to him? It might be worth asking the parents whether the student has quiet surroundings when practicing.

Re: Primer Lesson Book [Re: AZNpiano] #2847947
05/14/19 12:36 AM
05/14/19 12:36 AM
Joined: Aug 2007
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Orange County, CA
AZNpiano Offline OP
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What a wonderful community of supportive colleagues! Thank you very much for all these great ideas.

Just as an update: The student just moved on to the next book in the series, and he seems to enjoy the "promotion" and took the first two pieces in the new book very seriously. He was even able to sight read the next new piece without too much trouble. He's still struggling to read the leaps (C to G) in C position, though.

I had a quick conversation with Dad and he will help me with homework enforcement this week. Hopefully there's follow-through at home. Or else I might have the family record some practice sessions.

I did notice that there's a slight delay between reading and execution of note. The kid has problems keeping up with a metronome, even at quarter notes = 60. It might not be a mental problem at all, but some neurological delay between the brain stem and fingertips. Hmm...


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Re: Primer Lesson Book [Re: AZNpiano] #2848018
05/14/19 08:41 AM
05/14/19 08:41 AM
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malkin Offline
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Hmm...

Hmm...indeed!

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
It might not be a mental problem at all, but some neurological delay...

Maybe it will improve, maybe not. Maybe the student will learn compensatory strategies. Whatever it is I am happy to hear that the kid is enjoying his promotion.


Learner

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