Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

duke quote

“Teaching well is like ‘practicing your students.'”

— Robert A. Duke

from his book: “Intelligent Music Teaching

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Book Review: Intelligent Music Teaching by Robert A. Duke

I am excited to post this book review because this is one of the best books I have read in a while. If you are looking for a practical yet research-based book about piano/music pedagogy, get your hands on this book. This is my best book recommendation for any music teacher looking to improve their teaching.

Intelligent Music Teaching: Essays on the Core Principles of Effective Instruction, by Robert A. Duke

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The author, Robert Duke, is currently Professor of Music and Human Learning at the University of Texas at Austin. According to his bio, his research on human learning and behavior includes studying motor skill learning, cognitive psychology, and neuroscience. He is also a former studio musician and public school music teacher.

Robert Duke’s book is organized into eight chapters or essays, with titles such as “Precision in Language and Thought,” “Sequencing Instruction,” “Feedback, and “Effecting Change.”

In the first chapter, the author makes a point about the ability to speak/write with precision of language being an important asset for any teacher. Based on the wonderfully clear writing is this book, I imagine that the author is an excellent teacher.

The book discusses how to think of the every day components of our teaching — instruction, assessment, evaluation, sequencing, etc. — with an awareness of how the human mind works and learns. Every page of this book contains a nugget of wisdom or practical tip for how to teach intelligently and meaningfully so that our students learn how to change and improve themselves.

Allow me to give you one quick example of a meaningful take-away from the book. During a section where the author makes a comparison to learning how to solve quadratic equations in math, he states: “The goal of instruction — the real goal, the long-term, far-reaching goal — is not to solve the equations, but to use what you know about solving equations to solve other problems that you may or may not have encountered before” (p. 29). Music teachers should have a similar instructional goal, as the author expounds throughout the book. The goal is for the student to gain intellectual, physical, or social skill rather than merely knowledge.

The writing is pleasant to read, being both intelligent and conversational. I think it is rare to find a book with such well-grounded information that is understandable by the layperson. The teaching/learning strategies and principles discussed in this book are backed by research. Yet, reading this book felt like having a thought-provoking conversation with the author over coffee. I could hardly put the book down until I finished reading it.

I highly recommend this book to any music teacher. It is a must-read for newbie and experienced teachers alike. My opinion is that it should be required reading in every piano pedagogy class. It will influence and change the way you teach. View it on Amazon here.

Edit: Ohio University sponsors a piano pedagogy seminar each summer in June and this year (2015), they have invited Robert Duke to be a speaker. I read Dr. Duke’s book in anticipation of attending this event. For more information about the event, visit oupianopedagogyseminar.com

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Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

mead quote

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”

— Margaret Mead

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Music Mapping with Piano Students

With nearly every piece I teach, the student and I analyze and label the form: Q&A phrases, AB form, ABA form, sonata form, etc.. Understanding the structure of a piece helps the student learn the piece more thoroughly and make well-based decisions relating to the interpretation of a piece.

Back in early March, a student of mine demonstrated he had his piece memorized all the way through but found he was “fuzzy” on the details in certain places and could not always remember what came next between phrases without taking time for thought. In a moment of inspiration (or perhaps desperation!), we decided to construct a visual map of the piece — an activity I have found to be beneficial in the past with certain students. I took a blank sheet of paper from my printer and handed my student a few colored pencils. Taking a few minutes to turn our analysis into a simple, visual graphic proved to strengthen and clarify his memory of the piece.

Music Mapping with Piano Students graphic

As you can see from the image above, we used boxes to represent the 4-bar phrases as well as the larger A and B sections. Within each box, my student drew lines or shapes to represent the melodic contour of the phrases. We also added a few chord symbols to help mentally clarify the B section and the ending.

As a final step, we added dynamic markings in pink and green shading to represent pedaling.

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 12.51.20 PMAfter completing the music map, I asked my student to play the piece by memory again. It was not a perfect performance, but it was definitely better because his memory of the piece’s structure was stronger and more clear.

After creating a map, it should not be necessary to have the student read from the music map while playing, although that is an option. The point of the exercise is to be able to rely on a strong, mental picture of the piece during performance. In my student’s own words: “It’s the process of creating the map that is beneficial; not the finished map itself.”

Have you ever created a music map with a student?

[Note: In case you are interested, the piece my student was learning is called “A Quiet Lagoon” by Dennis Alexander and Martha Mier. We were using a sampler piece of sheet music I received during a conference, but the piece is readily available in the Technique Book Level 2B of the Alfred Premier Piano Course.]

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Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

anonymous quote

“Teaching creates all other professions.”

— anonymous

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Upcoming 2015 Sessions from Piano Teacher Institute

This information was just sent out to those on the email list for the Piano Teacher Institute with Joy Morin. I’m blogging it here as well, just for your interest!

PIANO TEACHER INSTITUTE - join email list

Greetings!

A year ago, I began writing the coursework for my online course, Introduction to Piano Teaching. I’ve now offered the course three times: Summer 2014, Fall 2014, and Winter 2015. I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed designing the course and interacting with the teachers who have enrolled each time! I believe this course fills an important need for teachers who have a desire to increase or refresh their current knowledge to gain further education in piano pedagogy, i.e., the art of teaching piano.

I’m preparing to offer two more sessions this year, so I asked the most recent registrants if they would be willing to write testimonials to help others decide if my online course is right for them. Here is what they had to say:

“This course was excellent!  For several months, I had been looking for some kind of training for piano teachers.  There are many university level, longer term programs available, but I needed something I could do from home.  This course was exactly what I needed.  I am a new teacher, and this course really helped steer my efforts toward the most important things that I should be focusing on–including the business side of teaching and the actual teaching.  Ms. Morin was prompt about both responding to my questions and leaving feedback for my assignments.  I also appreciated being able to interact with the other members of the class.  Their ideas and experience were wonderful!  I feel I am more organized and have clearer direction as a teacher because of this course.” 
          — Michelle Marchant, piano teacher in Utah

HIGHLY (*****) recommend Piano Teacher Institute by Joy Morin.  This class was fantastic for me!  My formal education came many years ago and I have taught many students over the years.  But with a relocation of my studio to another state, I felt it was a great time to update my piano pedagogy skills and to enroll in the course.   Ms. Morin did an EXCELLENT job with the design of the course as well as conducting the one hour weekly chat sessions with the other enrolled students. … She is a very professional instructor but at the same time is very personal and insightful in helping each student in their piano teaching journey.  The materials from the course will be an excellent resource for future usage.  If you are looking for a great piano teacher class, I would encourage you to enroll in Piano Teacher Institute.   
          — Phyllis Bowers, piano teacher in Alabama

Dear Joy, Observing the way you take such pride in your role as an educator has made a huge impact on me. You have truly helped me to look at what I do in a dramatically different way. You have helped me to treat my job more like a career. The changes I have made in my business approach have been exciting, but I’m even more enthusiastic about the way I FEEL about the piano. Watching you love music has helped me rekindle my love of the piano! I’m playing again and actually enjoying it! Thank you for being a great mentor and for being a new friend! 
          —Susan Honey, teacher in North Carolina

You can read the rest of the testimonials here. Introduction to Piano Teaching is an intensive course that lasts for six weeks, with each week dedicated to a certain topic (business topics, piano methods, technique, etc.). The ideal registrant is an individual with a passion for learning, a dedication to teaching, and the time and energy to spend 10-15 hours each week reading and completing the assignments.

Here are the dates for the two upcoming sessions:

  1. Summer 2015: May 25 through July 12. (I’ve allowed seven weeks instead of the usual six, to help both you and I accommodate any summer travel plans.) 
  2. Fall 2015: August 25 through October 4. 

Registration for the Summer 2015 session will open at 9AM EST on Tuesday, May 5 and will appear on this page of the website. Tuition is $200. Registration will automatically close after the first 10 teachers have registered. Last time, registration filled within two hours — so if you are interested in taking the course, I recommend that you mark your calendar!

Read more about the course or sign up for the email list (I promise to send no more than 10 email updates each year) on the website here.  If you still have questions, please feel free to send me a message.

 

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Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

van doren quote

“The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.”

— Mark Van Doren

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Easter Egg Matching Music Game

Earlier this week, I blogged about my April 2015 studio class “Piano Party.” We concluded our Piano Party with a new game, which I created based on a teacher’s idea posted in the Piano Teacher FunMakers group on facebook.

The game is simple: buy a package of plastic easter eggs and draw music symbols and terms on each half with a paint pen (permanent marker will rub off over time). Students are supposed to mix up and then match together the halves.

I did not have any plastic easter eggs in the house, so I asked my husband to buy some on clearance when he went to the grocery store. He came home with these really interesting ones from Meijer that break into three sections…!

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At first, I wasn’t sure if they were going to work well for my game, but then I realized that having three separate parts for each egg could work out to my advantage. On each part of the egg, I wrote a music symbol, the meaning, and the Italian music term.

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Having three parts to match into an egg makes the game more challenging. My students enjoyed working together for this game at my Piano Party.

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I’m going to leave this game out in my waiting room for awhile. When students arrive, they will enjoy matching a few eggs before their lessons.

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Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

durant quote

“Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.”

— Will Durant

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Lesson Plan: The History of Audio Formats

As blogged yesterday, my husband and I recently acquired a 1929 Victor Victrola gramophone. Researching our new “toy” inspired me to create a lesson plan about the history of audio formats for this month’s group class “Piano Party” for my piano students. The lesson plan, craft activity, and slides are available as a single PDF freebie…so continue reading!

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My New Victor Victrola Gramophone

Last week, one of my adult students gave my husband and I an old Victor Victrola gramophone. Isn’t it lovely?!

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I knew very little about gramophones prior to this. Internet research revealed that our Victrola was manufactured in 1929. It isn’t a particularly valuable one, but it is a great historical piece and it has a great sound!

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I was able to find a scan of the manual for a similar model so that I could learn about how to properly operate our Victrola and maintain it. Learning about the history of the gramophone was fun, too!

Here is a video I made demonstrating my Victrola:

All of this research inspired me to create a lesson plan to teach my students about the history of audio formats. Stay tuned to hear more about it!

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Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

boorstin quote

“Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.”

— Daniel J. Boorstin

Feel free to download and share this quote or image.

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