Friday, October 26, 2012

How to Practice with a 3 Year Old

My darling daughter, Caroline, has been wanting to play the violin since she could walk!  This is one of my favorite pictures of her as a toddler climbing up on the piano to play one of the violins.  She knew she wasn't supposed to do it!  That's why she has a mischievous look on her face.

I've let her play on a little tiny violin for years now, but finally I've decided to make an effort to practice with her every day.  My other kids take from another wonderful teacher, but because of time and money I've decided to take on being her teacher for a while.  She's 3 years and 4 months old now.

I've had several people ask how I can teach {practice} with such young children.  Here is a little glimpse of how we practice each day.


1. First of all, you need a darling little child.  Students in my studio can start as young as age 3, but its sometimes easier for the parent to wait until age 4 or 5.  I know a teacher who is teaching some 2 year olds this fall.  It's possible, it just takes time and patience.  Practicing with a young child can sure be fun, though!  They love to learn new things and play fun games!

2. I start all my students on a foot chart.  This keeps them focused at the lesson and during practicing.  It's customized for them and I let them color or do whatever they want with it.  This foot chart is made out of vinyl that I got at Joanns.  You can make 4 foot charts out of 1 yard of vinyl.  I've seen other teachers make them out of folder files, paper, you can even buy them online premade with feet and rhythms.

3.  I keep a practice book to organize my practicing.  Since I'm teaching my own child I fill out another chart every 7 days with updated material.  I let Caroline put stickers on when she wants with the things that we've practiced.  You can make your own practice books like I did, or they can even be found premade online.  

4.  The downloads at the Practice Shoppe have so many fun charts.  Kids this age love charts, stickers, and goals.  This particular chart is for 100 bow holds.  When she finished the chart she will get a prize out of my prize box - and have a beautiful bow hold!

5.  Of course, an instrument is important.  I often start 3 year olds on a foam-a-lin, but Caroline has been playing around with the real thing since she was one so I just let her use her own violin.  Notice I have to put lots of stickers and stuff on the violin to help her, especially on her bow.

6.  I have lots of these bead counters at my house and my kids and students use them a lot.  This is great for all types of practicing.  This week we do a bow hold then flip a bead (the later I mark her chart).  Maybe next week it will be the amount of times she plays a little pretwinkle song.  The goal always changes, but the bead counter is always a constant 10 TIMES!  No quitting until you've done it 10 times.
7.  Magic wands are a wonder with little kids.  OK - they aren't magic, but I tell them they are.  I first start off with practicing bow hold on a magic want.   This is a picture of the wand rubber-banded to the violin to help with playing straight on the highway.  You can also use a pencil, but the wand is so much more FUN!  I can even still hang up the violin with the wand on the violin.
8.  Another gadget we practice with is the "elbow stick."  I'm not sure who came up with this idea, but it's great for practicing opening up the elbow and singing all the pretwinkle songs.  It's just a dowel and sprinkler part with some rubber bands to provide a stop for the sprinkler part.  We sing all our sings with it every day.  I have to help her a lot still, but she's gradually getting so she can do it on her own.  Another way to practice this movement is by doing "soaps" which is just rubbing the bow hand up and down the violin arm while doing the twinkle rhythms.  We do both. 


I hope this gave you some good ideas about practicing with young children.  It can be a challenge at times, but oh so fun!  And it's awesome to be able to show other people that your amazing children can do something hard like play the violin!


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Halloween Bingo

Halloween is almost here and perhaps I'm posting this a little late, but this may be helpful for future Halloweens to come.  Bingo seems to be part of every class Halloween party and I decided to incorporate it into my most recent group class.  I printed out a blank Halloween bingo card for each of my students and cut out all the pieces we need to go over during the lesson (which ironically was all Christmas music.)  I glued them on randomly before group class and had another set of pieces in my witches cauldron.  The kids took turns picking the pieces - then we'd mark the chart - then work on the piece.  The kids really enjoyed the game part of the class between the playing part.  Anyone who got BINGO got a Halloween candy.  Everyone got bingo at least once before the end of the lesson.

I'm going to be doing this week with my daughter practicing as well.  We have TONS of Christmas music to review in addition to all the other stuff we need to practice.  Bingo is a great practicing game with there is lots and lots to practice.

Hope you enjoy.  You can download it on The Practice Shoppe Downloads page HERE.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Magical Review

During our two-a-day practices my daughter spends a good part of the evening practice playing through pieces for her Rocky Mountain Strings group as well as review. For the past nine months she has been overwhelmed with pieces to learn for two different performing groups, Christmas, as well as keeping up with Suzuki - so I haven't enforced review for a long time. One performing group is done for the year, the other is having their final concert next week and all the pieces are learned. I'm finding that she has more time so I instigated another review routine.

I found this chart in the Maurer's String Book. It's great because it enforces the most recently learned pieces in Book 4 and 5, and still allows for a little review of the other books - but it's not overwhelming. Hearing my daughter play these review pieces has been magical. In the past year her tone and technique have skyrocketed and she played these pieces with such quality! I heard the most beautiful Allegro - which was a great example for my 4 year old who is currently learning that piece. Her musicality in the Seitz Concertos (after stumbling through some of the notes since it's been a while) was incredible!

I affirm that REVIEW is an important and essential part of the Suzuki Method. If my daughter didn't review when she was in books 1-4, then this review now that she's in book 5 would have just been relearning all the notes. Instead she's taking pieces she already knows and is adding on layer after layer of musicality!

You can download this review chart at The Practice Shoppe. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

An Interview

You can hop on over to the amazing blog, TEACH SUZUKI, to see an interview of me.  Learn a little more about The Practice Shoppe and why I do what I do.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Why Are We Doing This?

Yesterday was one of those days.  You know - the feeling of "why am I even doing this?"  As I'm driving to the lesson thoughts are going through my mind.  Oops, we didn't practice much this week - I was tired - she was ornery - there was no time.  Why am I paying for lessons anyway when I need the money for other things?  Is it worth it?

Then I remember something I read on Facebook a while back that really hit home.

Why have I spent hundreds of hours of my life practicing with my kids, going to lessons, sacrificing . . .

Not because we expect you to major in music,
Not because we expect you to play all your life, 
Not so you can relax,
Not so you can have fun,
But - so you can be human,
So you will recognize beauty,
So you will be 
sensitive,
So you will be closer to an infinite beyond this world,
So you will have something to cling to,
So you will have more love, more compassion, more gentleness, more good,
In short . . . more life.

What value will it be to make a prosperous living unless you know how to live?


I hope that this blog will help someone when they are having one of these kind of days.


...to change the subject....



My darling daughter just learned Two Grenadiers.  And, for those of you who know this piece, the bowings are a killer!  We've finally mastered them, but I want her to get in the habit of playing the whole piece correctly. So, I've whipped up this little chart.  I've told her that every time she plays the Two Grenadiers correctly she can mark off a grenadier.  If she can finish it before her next lesson (one week) she'll get a prize out of my prize box.  Enjoy!



You can download this chart here.