Listening; small rewards


This month, I’m taking an SAA online course of sorts for Suzuki parents (“Parents as Partners Online“). It’s a series of short videos.

One video was notable. Michele Horner, a Suzuki guitar teacher/violin parent, advocated “listening like a maniac” — listening to a student’s working piece and upcoming pieces over and over again. (A summary of the same talk is in this SAA newsletter.) Specifically, she talked about getting great results from creating CDs containing:

  • 10 x working piece
  • 10 x next piece
  • 10 x next piece.

Her supporting anecdotes were convincing, as was a testimonial by her 14-year-old daughter. And given how insecure M’s mental image seems to be of many of her pieces — including pieces that she has played in recitals — I decided to give this a try. So I created 4 identical CDs, each containing Steady Hands (working), Meadow Minuet (next), the Führmann Tanz (two pieces ago), and the Bach Tanz (previous piece).

Review; small rewards

M and I haven’t been reviewing her past repertoire broadly enough. We  do some review songs in each lesson, but we don’t have any method for ensuring that they all get covered regularly.

So I decided to follow a suggestion I saw on a teacher’s site: write song names on slips of paper, place them in a bag, and pick out a few to practice every lesson. (Some teachers suggest practicing every review song every lesson, which strikes me as nuts. Our teacher hasn’t given us explicit instructions about how much to review.) M wrote half of the slips (and thus worked on her handwriting), and I wrote the other half. For slips of paper, we used business-card-sized blank punch cards from a coffeeshop I used to own.

These were a great choice for two reasons. First, they have ten boxes on the printed side on which I can record when, and how many times, we practice a song. Second — and more importantly — M thought they were cool. So cool that she wanted to earn them in her lesson, as “money” that she could then decorate. What better way to motivate your kid?

“Play through that song, and I’ll give you a piece of scrap paper! Do a great job, and maybe you’ll get more than one!”

On a more-serious note, it occurred to me later that I should give her the chance to decide how many pieces of paper she should get, to continue to develop her self-evaluation skills.


We practiced:

  • Rigadoon (from the review bag)
  • Steady Hands — M’s getting the hang of this and was able to keep track of her location in the song pretty well
  • Two Twinkle variations (Run Kitty & Strawberry Popsicle) at 60 bpm (practicing for her graduation recording) — after some sloppy starts, she paid good attention.

Side note: M pointed out, critically, that I had stopped taking notes on our lessons in my regular lesson notebook. I told her that I was keeping notes on the computer. This didn’t seem to satisfy her.

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