Everyone who knows me knows that I love creating and playing music practice games. They are fundamental to making music teaching fun. It makes my day, when my students tell me, that they would rather play my fun music games, than do their school homework.
A word of warning: Please don’t waste my beautiful games. Music practice games are useless, without explicit and sequential practice instructions.
Practising is a pretty abstract concept, for young children. Repetitions that make perfect sense to adults, can seem to be totally without purpose, in a child’s eyes. Most children that I know, need to see instant results and won’t be at their most cooperative when asked to repeat a purposeless activity.
Just think for a moment about the instructions that come home from music lessons every week. Here are some examples.
- 1: Practice more this week.
- 2: Practice this piece.
- 3: Practice the marked section.
- 4: Practice the tuning in the marked section.
Examples 1 to 4 are all a bit vague. I wouldn’t expect anyone to be psychic enough to know what was wanted by any of these commands. On top of that they sound really bossy. What do you do, when you feel that someone is pushing you to do something? I resent it, myself and I know that sometimes, I just turn around just and do exactly the opposite.
- 5: Practice the marked section, listening for a ringing 3rd finger and making sure that 2 touches 3.
Example 5 is a bit more specific, but do you think, that a small child trying to follow the instructions, would know exactly what to do? And how does it score on the bossiness scale? AND we still don’t know what the word practice means.
- 6: Play the marked section, with stopped bows, so that you can hear if the violin rings after you play the 3rd finger. Do this correctly, X your age.
- When you can do that, pay attention to putting your 2nd finger down, so that it touches 3. Lift 3 and play. Do this correctly, X your age.
- Put the section together and play correctly X your age and put a sticker on your practice chart.
Example 6 has much more detail in it. These instructions are not only explicit, but they are sequential, as the child has to be able to produce a ringing 3, before focusing on placing the 2nd finger, so that it touches 3.
It’s a good idea to set the number of correct repetitions of the lesson, to stop bargaining at home. I rarely ask for a number of correct repetitions in a row, as it is very stressful for a child to made a mistake on the last repetition and have to go back and repeat the lot.
Is this still verging on the bossy side? Ask them all about the practice task. I find the children are far more likely to follow instructions if they come from their own mouths.
- Example 7
- Can you remember why Teacher marked this bit?
- To practice the tuning?
- Yes that’s right.
- Which fingers did she want us to work at?
- Yes, 2 and 3.
- Why does Teacher want you to use stopped bows?
- Yes that’s right, so that you can hear when the 3rd finger makes the instrument ring.
- Good, you were really paying attention to where you put that 3rd finger.
- Now let’s see if we can put the 2nd finger down right behind it so that they are touching.
- That’s it, I can see you are showing Mr 2 exactly where to sit.
- Now how many correct repetitions does Teacher you want you to do?
Always make sure that you have written down your teacher’s specific instructions, so that you can enjoy your favorite practice games, remembering to praise for focus and hard work and do remember to notice the improvements.
Magic words – *”Because You Are Paying Such Good Attention.”*
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