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Students Won't Practice! (Read 4203 times)

Offline pianoisthebest23

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Students Won't Practice!
« on: March 13, 2015, 01:03:32 AM »
Hi Everyone!

I'm 17 and recently started giving piano lessons for the first time, beginning in February. I am teaching four beginner students in the same household ages 4,6,9, and 11.

The 9 year old loves piano and I have almost no issues when teaching him. However, the other three are another story. The 11 year old says that he has practiced, but his music sounds the same, if not worse than when I assigned it to him the week before. Considering he already plays the flute, knows the key names, and can read music, I'm pretty sure he hasn't been practicing. The youngest two have told me that they didn't practice, claiming they forgot or didn't have time.

I always ask them if they would like to work on certain pieces before I assign them and they say that they do. I've asked if they would like me to bring in music for their favorite songs/pieces, but they can't think of any. I also give them tips on managing their practice time, such as picking a certain time each day, and just working on a few measures a day. The biggest issue is that they want to learn new pieces every week, not continue with the old ones, but by moving on, I feel like they will get into the habit of never really mastering anything. On the other hand, I don't want to bore them, I want them to enjoy playing.

Their parents are not encouraging them to practice at all, just assuming that they'll do it on their own. I'm trying not to get frustrated, but week after week this keeps happening. Any advice?
"Time is still the best critic, and patience the best teacher." - Frederic Chopin

Offline quantum

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Re: Students Won't Practice!
«Reply #1 on: March 13, 2015, 02:38:15 AM »
Teach them how to practice.  Do a live practice session during your lesson which has them doing practice activities with your guidance.  Show them how to take what they learned in lesson, and apply it during their practice time.  Show them how to become problem solvers and self-learners during their practice session.  Often it is not enough to just give a checklist of things to do during the week.  Students need to be given a tool set in order to accomplish items on that list.

Many students are unaware of what practicing involves: the process needs to be shown to them.  Say you have a student struggling with measure 32-34 of a piece, and you send them home to improve that spot.  All too frequently a student may run the piece beginning to end a few times and call it a day.  They do the same thing every day for a week thinking their practice has been sufficient. 

If a student shows up at lesson stating they have not practiced that is a perfect time to turn a lesson into a lesson on practicing.  Do the work they were supposed to do during the week during lesson, guiding them through a practice session. 

Have your students record themselves.  Anything they have at home will suffice, a smart phone, tablet, laptop, etc.  Ask your students to evaluate their own recording.  Have them identify items that have improve and items that need work.  Have your student formulate a practice strategy for improving items that need work.  The point of the exercise being that they are becoming actively involved in the development of their skills. 

For students that get bored quickly with only a few pieces, don't be afraid to assign a greater number of pieces with goals stretched over a longer time.  For example, instead of 2 pieces to be completed in 3 weeks, try 5 pieces in a span of 6 weeks.   Of course that number would need to be adjusted to the individual student.  Having music at different stages of learning is helpful for a larger number of pieces.  You might aim to spread the larger amount of music across several lessons on a rotating basis, as opposed to covering everything on a weekly basis. 

It also helps not to beat a piece to death during lesson.  As soon as you detect they are piquing interest in a particular piece, quickly switch to working on another one.  Leave them longing to do more with a piece, as opposed a feeling of exhaustion with a piece.  You can pick up where the lesson left off with that piece another week. 
Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline thomasshiraza

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Re: Students Won't Practice!
«Reply #2 on: March 13, 2015, 07:45:36 AM »
Then please talk to their parents, and tell them that their children dont have any interrest in playing.

Offline pianoisthebest23

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Re: Students Won't Practice!
«Reply #3 on: March 13, 2015, 07:13:30 PM »
Quantum,

Thank you so much for this advice! I especially like the idea of assigning more pieces over a longer period of time for my oldest student. I'll talk to the parents about the kids recording, as I'm not sure they have iPods/phones/electronics themselves, but we can definitely figure something out. The tip about switching pieces during the lessons when they start getting interested is great. My youngest students are hyperactive and easily distracted, so maybe this will also help them to stay concentrated more on the lesson.

I'm also thinking of having them do a "recital" (in a few months or so) in their house, just for their parents and maybe grandparents, so that they have a goal that they're working for, instead of just playing by themselves.

Again, thank you - I will be trying out this advice at my next lessons!
"Time is still the best critic, and patience the best teacher." - Frederic Chopin

Offline pianoisthebest23

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Re: Students Won't Practice!
«Reply #4 on: March 13, 2015, 07:19:31 PM »
thomasshiraza,

I don't believe that the kids don't enjoy playing, just that they don't know how to manage their time well, or they don't know what to do. They're always excited for their lessons when I come in, not trying to avoid them or anything. I really love playing piano and want to pass that down to them, so I'm not going to give up yet!
"Time is still the best critic, and patience the best teacher." - Frederic Chopin

Offline quantum

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Re: Students Won't Practice!
«Reply #5 on: March 13, 2015, 08:48:56 PM »
For hyperactive students you can use that energy for learning without wearing yourself out.  Prepare a diverse set of activities for the lesson.  Switch between activities quickly before they loose interest on the current focus.  Set up your lesson workflow so they are chasing you around as opposed to the opposite. 

There need not be a great number of activities for you to prepare, but the main point is to switch focus swiftly and frequently.  You can put repetition here to good use in order to reinforce concepts.  You need to always be a step ahead of their active minds. 

An example:
You: Lets work on piece A. 
Student: starts playing.  In the middle of playing focus shifts and they begin to tell you a story.
You: While the student is in mid sentence, pop up flash cards and get students to name symbols. 
Student: Starts getting giggly with flash cards.
You: Let's work on piece B.
Student: starts playing piece B.
You: Interrupts student and ask them to play from the last measure, backwards through the piece. 
Student: Starts to get the hang of piece B
You: Start piece A at measure 10
Student: Finds measure 10 and plays.  Get's stuck with rhythm at bar 14, and diverts to story telling again
You: Get student to clap rhythm while marching around studio
Student: does clapping exercise
You: Have student practice writing symbols on staff paper
Student: Draws a few symbols then starts to doodle happy faces on paper
You: Quick, as fast as you can find piece A measure 14 and start playing.  There is a prize!
Student: does task and asks for prize
You: Finish telling your story but there is one important rule: you can't talk.  You have to say everything by improvising at the piano.


Again you can use repetition, so it's not like you have to prepare a whole new set of activities every week.  Little bits of information learned add up eventually. 



Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline bronnestam

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Re: Students Won't Practice!
«Reply #6 on: March 16, 2015, 05:04:10 PM »
I don't see the point in teaching a 4-year-old in case the child does not spontaneously show a lot of interest and curiosity.

It also sounds funny to me to call such a little person "a student". They are CHILDREN. Many at that age are not even capable of brushing their teeth on their own - why give them piano lessons??? Unless they, as I said, show a very particular interest. But such children are rare exceptions.

Some 6-year-olds are also not mature enough, even though many of them are. But you have to observe them carefully and remember: slow starters are not necessarily "poor talents". They just have another curve of development, just like children shift their teeth in different ages and hit puberty in different ages. We accept the differences when it comes to physical development, but so many people have a hard time understanding that mental development also is a very individual thing.

So, maybe the young children here should not take piano lessons at all. You can have singing and rythm sessions with them instead, like they do in kindergarten. They often think it is great fun to do games that involve body movements and dancing, especially those who are bursting with energy ... 

Offline 8_octaves

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Re: Students Won't Practice!
«Reply #7 on: March 17, 2015, 08:03:20 AM »
If students don't practice, then...:

===>

 ;D ;)

Cordially, 8_oct!

"Never be afraid to play before an artist.
The artist listens for that which is well done,
the person who knows nothing listens for the faults." (T. Carreņo, quoting her 2nd teacher, Gottschalk.)

Offline pianoisthebest23

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Re: Students Won't Practice!
«Reply #8 on: March 19, 2015, 12:47:56 AM »
Thank you all for the advice! I just had lessons with them yesterday and they went a lot better when I kept switching to different activities. The 4 year old only started to tell a story once. I also think they enjoyed themselves more.

I agree that being 4 or even 6 can be too young for some, I didn't start until I was 7 myself. I wish my parents had started me earlier, but I was interested to begin with and I wasn't as hyperactive as they are. With the 4 and 6 year olds I have been doing a lot of singing and also music games which they seem to like the most.

This week I also brought a notebook, where I'm now going to write down what they should practice during the week, and some practice tips for the older students and for the parents to read so they can hopefully help the younger kids practice.
"Time is still the best critic, and patience the best teacher." - Frederic Chopin

Offline falala

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Re: Students Won't Practice!
«Reply #9 on: March 20, 2015, 10:41:55 PM »
Absolutely no way in the world will kids of 4 & 6 understand what it means to practise regularly, remember, and apply the necessary self discipline to do it. Sorry, but it ain't gonna happen. You're trying to teach a cat to bark.

When I teach children that age (actually most kids I teach up to about 11-12) I have one of the parents sit in on the lesson, know what's going on, get involved in the games etc. and follow them up at home. It's the parents' responsibility to keep it ticking over during the week - and not by sternly ordering them to go and spend half an hour on their own doing "work" they don't understand, but by sitting with them, listening & interacting while they play.