Monday, September 30, 2013

Trick or Treat...or Share

Here's a fun October practice idea called "Trick or Treat...or Share."

I have 9 pieces of paper (about index card size) with pumpkins on them. Three of them say "Trick" on the front; three of them say "Treat," and three of them say "Share." Laminate them if you want. On the back of the cards, I put post-it's with what we would do during practicing. The child chooses a card, and we would follow the instructions on the back. You might incorporate these in your normal practice routine every once in a while--in between other things they are practicing. Here are a few examples of what you could put on the back of them.

The "Trick" Card
The "Trick" card has a trick that the children perform. Here are some examples:
  1. Play this preview spot so many times, for a particular reason (i.e. getting the 3 in tune.) Wow! Tricky!
  2. Name that tune, tell the composer, and play the song in the dark with good tone.
  3. Do jumping jacks while telling your favorite joke. Note this doesn't have anything to do with practicing. It's just a good break to get them smiling.
The "Treat" Card
The "Treat" card has nothing to do with food, unless you want to add that. Instead, the children end up with a reward that has to do with music.
  1. Mom/Dad plays something for you on your violin (or at least tries to play something)
  2. Listen to a classical piece that is not a Suzuki piece.
  3. Watch a video of someone playing the piece you are on (or another piece). This could be a famous virtuoso or someone else you just happened to find on youtube. Talk about what you liked and anything you didn't like.
The "Share" Card
The "Share" card has something that the child could share with you or someone else that happens to be around--even a few stuffed animals would work.
  1. Share a hug.
  2. Play your favorite song for someone else or an audience of stuffed animals. You could even make the stuffed animals say one thing they really liked about the performance.
  3. Make up a song that sounds spooky.
Hope you have fun with this idea if you decide to try it!


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Practicing Work-Out!

I got this idea from James Hutchins on the Suzuki Parents as Partners Online conference two years ago.  Since then I've used it a lot with  my students and want to have it readily accessible to my students this year so I put it behind the front cover of their practice books this year.

Basically a "workout" is focused practicing using review pieces.  My "workout" page is just a list of the Suzuki violin pieces in books 1 & 2 in order.  You could make your own "workout" page with your own list of pieces that would be easy enough to practice without thinking about the notes.

I assign a time for the work out.  With my own kids I like to choose a specific time that is on one of our Cube Timers so that they can just flip it over and practice (so easy!!)  For this specific amount of time my students play through their list focusing on whatever it is I've assigned them.  For some it could be playing with their eyes on the highway, for others it might be keeping your scroll up.  It could be to help posture points, intonation, or focus.  If the student can play the first piece all the way through with the focus point they can move onto the next piece on the list.  They keep playing through the pieces until the timer dings - then they are done with their work out for the day.  They mark where they stopped and start there for their workout the next day.

I love assigning workouts because it really lets a student focus on one thing for 5 or 7 minutes without the student thinking about the notes or bowings.  For Suzuki students this is a very efficient way to do their review.

If you are a Suzuki violin student/parent/teacher you may download my workout sheet (I laminate it and write on it with dry-erase marker so that we can reuse it - and have the student mark their spot with a post-it flag.)  You can also make your own list for different instruments or repertoire.  Let me know what successes you've had with your students using a "workout!"

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Student Plan - Setting Goals for the Year

For three years now I have included a "Student Plan" in my student's practice books.  This is a paper where we write down goals for the year.  Each year I change it up a little (and hopefully improve it) and I believe that it helps us stay focused on certain things the students, parents, and I would like to accomplish during the year.

The beginning of a new school year (rather than January) is my favorite time for a "new beginning" when it comes to music lessons with my children and students.  We've survived the craziness of summer and are ready to start a new routine with new goals.  

I ask the students to come up with 1-3 goals (they could come up with more if they'd like, but I've never had anyone do that yet.) I tell them it can be anything they'd like that has to do with violin and I don't care.  Some goals the I've seen:

Finish book 2 by the end of the year.
Play in church.
Practice every day.
Improve my posture.
Learn a duet with my sister.


Throughout the year I consistently refer back to the goals and I try to keep the lessons on track so the students can accomplish their goals.  It's fun at the end of the year to look back and see if the kids accomplished their goals.

This year I also added a section where the parents could write goals they'd like to see.  This could be their own personal goals or something they'd like to see with their child.  The most common of these goals is about happy practicing, or starting practicing without complaining.  I think this is a great way for the kids to realize exactly what the parents expect from them.

New this year is also a section where I, as their teacher, can write some things I'd like the students to work on.  This often has to do with specific posture points or musicality.  One goal I often put is for that I want the student to learn to love the violin.  That would be my ultimate goal for these students of mine.  

I also include a section where they can plan when they are going to practice and listen as well as what we plan to play for the upcoming recital and Federation.

I've always been a goal setter because I strongly believe that writing down goals is a better way to accomplish something.  I've heard several studies about goal setting online (some of which seem to be false, unfortunately), however, I did read that according to Dave Kohl, professor emeritus at Virginia Tech: People who regularly write down their goals earn nine times as much over their lifetimes as people who don't.

That should be reason enough to spend a few minutes each year creating goals for yourself.  I tell all of my students this to help them get motivated to write down your goals.

What are some things you do to help your children or students accomplish their goals?