NCKP 2013 (9) – A Teacher’s Companion for All Methods, by Craig Sale and Judith Jain

Th 2013 July 25 @ 11:15
A Teacher’s Companion for All Methods, by Craig Sale and Judith Jain

This session was all about the essential role of preparation. Most method books do a great job with presentation, but not necessarily with preparation. Often, we as teachers end up being “turn the page and see what is next” teachers.” This session will discuss how we can easily prepare students for new concepts.

If we teach how children learn best, we will not encounter missing knowledge in students later. How students learn best through concrete experiences through the senses. We begin with the sound, proceed to the feel, then the sign, an lastly the name. Aural, kinesthetic, and then visual. Always proceed from the “known” to the “unknown.”

Mr. Sale demonstrated this with a student by playing two different kinds of sounds (legato and staccato) and asking the student to describe what they heard. Then, they experienced making those sounds, seeing the symbol, and then learning the name.

Learning takes place through a common experience between teacher and student. This only takes a few moments, but makes the learning much more memorable.

Ms. Jain showed a video where she taught the student to shape the phrase with a crescendo and decrescendo, starting with sound and then the symbol.

Mr. Sale then showed a series a series of videos with clap backs preparing the student to learn the dotted quarter eighth rhythm. Over three weeks, he prepared the student for the rhythm, in just a couple minutes each lesson.

Through an off-the-bench activity, the teacher taught the student about chord inversions through moving 3 colored pieces of paper on the table. The student stated the order of the colors as the teacher inverted the papers. Next, the teacher wrote letter names on the paper for the notes of the C chord. Last, the student connected each inversion to the keyboard.

The next video example prepared the student for ledger line reading, through intervalic reading away from landmark notes. The teacher asked the student to play the landmarks he knew so far. Then the teacher asked the student to play keys that were various intervals away from the landmark. Last, using a whiteboard, the teacher and student worked out what the notes would look on the staff. This occurred over a number of weeks.

The ear is an important avenue for preparation – and singing is a great way to do this. In another video example, the teacher asked students to sing a 5-finger pattern using solfege. Then, they copied the teacher in singing the entire scale beginning on various pitches. Next, the students played the 5-finger pattern and the entire scale on the piano.

Another great tool is improvisation. The pentatonic scale was introduced by first playing a C major scale and then leaving out the scale degree 4, 7, and 8. Next, the student figured out the pentatonic scale in F#. Then, the teacher asked the student to improvise something using the pentatonic scale using smooth, dreamy sounds and then using bouncy sounds.

New concepts can also be introduced through games or through customized technique exercises that prepare the student for challenges in their repertoire. These exercises can be learned by rote or written down in non-tradition notation.

Some of the preparation work can be done through at-home assignments. For example, rests can be taught through clapping a table of 1-2-3 with some of the numbers erased.

Giving practice steps to students is a great tool for preventing the practicing of mistakes. Example: (1) tap and count, (2) tap and say the hand (right or left), (3) announce the hand, finger, and starting note – then play and count, (4) play and say the words.

In closing, Ms. Jain and Mr. Sale discussed two scenarios for introducing the quarter note. The first is to start with the name and symbol, what it means, and then experience it. The second is that the student experiences the quarter note with the teacher first before shown the symbol or name.

To find and plan for concepts prepare for, the teacher can consult the table of contents of the method book or study the student’s repertoire to discover which concepts will need preparation. The teacher will also have to consider how much time it will take to prepare a particular concept. Even if the student struggles, keep the preparation segment short and sweet. The teacher can think more about how to prepare the concept and give it another try next week.

Teaching through preparation is a wonderful tool to preventing the student from learning and repeating mistakes.

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