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What do you think would help students improve the most?

Getting students to practice better and more
Trying a different method
Improving your own teaching skills
Other

What would help students improve the most? (Read 2252 times)

Offline nancytanaka

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What would help students improve the most?
« on: June 21, 2016, 07:47:55 PM »
Hi everyone!
I'm interested in seeing what you music teachers think would help your students improve the most...
Thank you, I'd love to get a lot of input on this!

Online lostinidlewonder

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Re: What would help students improve the most?
«Reply #1 on: June 22, 2016, 08:56:49 AM »
A disciplined student who practices consistently and works hard on their practice method will go very far.
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Offline briansaddleback

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Re: What would help students improve the most?
«Reply #2 on: June 22, 2016, 09:47:12 PM »
Right perspective on piano and music.
Work in progress:

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Offline kawai_cs

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Re: What would help students improve the most?
«Reply #3 on: June 23, 2016, 02:37:56 AM »
Right perspective on piano and music.

Hmm, seems not to work so well for you though lol
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Offline briansaddleback

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Re: What would help students improve the most?
«Reply #4 on: June 23, 2016, 05:40:58 AM »
.
Work in progress:

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Offline marijn1999

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Re: What would help students improve the most?
«Reply #5 on: June 25, 2016, 08:57:31 PM »
I think it depends upon several factors. First and foremost (that's why I voted for it on the poll) is the way of, and the hours spend on practicing. If you practice better, improvement will occur faster. If you practice longer, improvement will occur faster as well. That means, practicing longer and better will make improvement occur "fastissimo"?

I guess so, however, that's not the only thing. Depending on the phase a student is going through, a teacher will be of great help. In the first phase a teacher will help the student to play the piano. The second phase it will learn, or maybe better, go deeper into the concept of interpretation. A really good teacher (the sort of teacher I'm striving to be when I'm older, :D) will also introduce the student to harmony, counterpoint and theory. Since my teacher didn't do so, I decided to begin learning it by ways of self-study about one year ago. Then, in the third stage, the teacher is of no help anymore, the student knows how to practice by himself and knows how to find the best ways to overcome technical difficulties. At this stage, the student is ready to proceed to go to conservatories.

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Marijn
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Offline klavieronin

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Re: What would help students improve the most?
«Reply #6 on: June 26, 2016, 12:48:38 PM »
I made quite substantial progress in my first 5 years of learning the piano and I put it all down to discipline, perseverance, and having a good teacher.

Offline jasonlim9090

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Re: What would help students improve the most?
«Reply #7 on: June 29, 2016, 05:56:17 AM »
I think getting them to like piano music would be the best way. Basically, cultivate interest.


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Offline dinulip

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Re: What would help students improve the most?
«Reply #8 on: July 15, 2016, 09:46:09 PM »
I will answer this question like Jessye Norman has already : Repeat - Repeat - and Repeat! :)  Just as simple as that! :)

Offline keypeg

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Re: What would help students improve the most?
«Reply #9 on: July 16, 2016, 06:23:08 AM »
I will answer this question like Jessye Norman has already : Repeat - Repeat - and Repeat! :)  Just as simple as that! :)
No it's not.  You can repeat wrongly.  You can repeat mindlessly.  I'm thinking maybe you are leaving out a few things.  :)

I noticed that the OP who asked the question has not responded to anyone.

Offline keypeg

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Re: What would help students improve the most?
«Reply #10 on: July 16, 2016, 05:23:02 PM »
I have a problem with the way the questionnaire is set up since it's asking to isolate one thing as the most important.  The items are:

- 1) Getting students to practice better and more   
- 2) Trying a different method   
- 3) Improving your own teaching skills

The word "method" is a problem word in piano, since it often means "method book" rather than methodology - which is meant here. (OP?)

1)  It would have to be better and/or more.  If a student is practising a lot but poorly, then he is learning to play poorly and in that case "less" might be the right thing - less, but with full concentration in the right way.  If the student practises well, but not often enough, maybe "better" isn't needed.  It depends on where the student is at, and what the problems and their cause. 

3)  If there are weaknesses in teaching skills, then how can a student be taught to practice "better"?  Or if most of a teacher's students have the same kinds of weaknesses and problems, then it's likely that this needs to be addressed.  There could even be a combination of 1) and 3).  If the instruction has weaknesses, then the practising will reflect that, and failure to progress can also lead to lack of motivation and less time practising.

I don't think that there can be one answer.

If "method" means "method book" there is also the question of how the teacher is using any book, since tools are merely tools and it is the teacher who does the teaching.

Offline kav3nrhul3

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Re: What would help students improve the most?
«Reply #11 on: July 18, 2016, 02:51:16 PM »
 I think the most important thing is practice.  How do you get the students to practice?  I just graduated college.  Most of my assignments were online and the teacher would give us a week most of the time to get the assignment done.  I noticed that when the teacher would give us a week to complete the online assignments i would wait for the last minute to complete the assignment.  When i would start the assignment early i found myself becoming more and more interested in the subject and wanted to spend time on the assignment and time on doing it right, and i would go back and study it more.  By opening up the assignments early i realized that i got more out of the homework and my grades were better and i scored better on the tests. 

I found out that with my teaching i was giving the students assignments over a week period to get them to practice but they wouldn't practice until right before their next class.  So i use a program now that tracks their practice minutes and i encourage them to use the program the next day after their lesson, i have noticed that they practice more and better now.  I know this may be a little confusing but.  Its working and they have never done better.  By me getting them to practice the day after their lesson with me they have been practicing a lot more throughout the week.

Offline taipeiteacher

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Re: What would help students improve the most?
«Reply #12 on: October 06, 2016, 07:27:42 PM »
A child is going to practice a piece they love (and would love to show off to their friends). That's why I think the teacher's selection of the piece to be studied is the most important factor. The piece has to be pitched just right - not too hard, not too easy. Three pieces at one time is best I think, and after 3 weeks they can be retired for a while before being picked up again for finishing off and polishing.
Factors that are not so helpful for the student are 1) fear (of failing an exam, or of being scolded by the teacher), or 2) being spoon-fed information that's over their head ("this is the re-cap-it-u-lation")

Offline dogperson

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Re: What would help students improve the most?
«Reply #13 on: October 06, 2016, 08:19:16 PM »
students need to be instructed HOW to practice in a meaningful way.  From my personal experience with four qualified piano instructors, not one has discussed HOW I practice, or offered guidance on how to practice.   As a child, I was in love with the piano and therefore practiced for hours a day.... but it was not as effective as it could have been.
 
As an adult, I have done independent reading on how to practice effectively and implemented effective practice techniques.  If you are a teacher, your students should not need to do this. .. effective techniques for practicing should be part of training.

Offline vaniii

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Re: What would help students improve the most?
«Reply #14 on: October 07, 2016, 12:45:14 PM »
students need to be instructed HOW to practice in a meaningful way.  From my personal experience with four qualified piano instructors, not one has discussed HOW I practice, or offered guidance on how to practice.   As a child, I was in love with the piano and therefore practiced for hours a day.... but it was not as effective as it could have been.
 
As an adult, I have done independent reading on how to practice effectively and implemented effective practice techniques.  If you are a teacher, your students should not need to do this. .. effective techniques for practicing should be part of training.

The miss-conception is that a lesson is different from practice.  I teach my students that the lesson is a good practise session.  In the lesson I show them what they need to do at home and the point is they keep doing it at home.

The problem here is many people do not understand the difference between practise and performance.

Many students perform when they should practise, and practise when they should perform.  A telling question is when you ask:

"Who are you playing for"

They will answer:

"Myself"

Which shows in the manner in which they play; that is, not paying any attention to what sound they are making for any potential listener.  Instead, the sound they make is secondary to the sound they hear in their head.

The right answer is:

"I am playing for my audience"

An audience is anyone who is listening to what is being performed; that can include the performer if they are performing to them-self, or the teacher in a lesson.  The difference between experienced performers and newcommers is that the newcomer is trying to impress people and so does not really think about the sound they are making.

From the begining, my students are made to understand this fact; it does not just develop with experience, it is somthing that needs to be nurtured.

1) the lesson should be an example of what and how to practise
2) ever time a musician practises or performs, they should be thinking about the sound they are making, not the superficial spectacle
3) make every student understand the true meaning of what it is to be a musician; that is a person who uses sound to convey expression to an audience (whoever that may be, self or otherwise).  DO NOT play for ego.

http://toolsforlearningmusic.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/overcoming-ego-what-do-we-mean-by-word.html

PS:

Just a thought, if in a maths lesson you are taught doubling (2+2=4, 3+3=6), and a teacher spends at great length a period explaining how to go about the exercise.  After one week of completing the task, doubling will be learned and understood.  However in music, the same analogical lesson would be carried out, however the student will proceed to go home and either:

a) not complete the task until the night before it is due, thus making the exercise moot.
b) carryout their own version of the task based on ego (20+30=45, 64+73=200,000), the point here is though they tried to carryout advanced addition, the task of doubling has not been completed, and answers are wrong; wasted time.
c) not complete the task at all because it does not fit their long term agenda, and the entire exercise is pointless and irrelevant in their opinion.

The following week, to the dismay of the teacher, they cannot continue with any activities because they have to spend time going over material that has already been taught, more importantly correcting mistakes.

In reflection, the most useful tool would be to make students responsible for their own learning.  There is no easy way to do it, but it is vital for progression.

Offline dogperson

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Re: What would help students improve the most?
«Reply #15 on: October 07, 2016, 01:06:35 PM »
Vaniii,
I think you have missed the intent of my post:  I have spent hours practicing every day, both as a child and as an adult... and truly always  followed instructions.  But what was never discussed, which you have not addressed in your reply, is teaching students the principles of effectively practicing repertoire which include: - not starting from the beginning  - isolating problem sections/measures and working on them, etc. etc.  Yes, as a pianist you need to listen for the sound you are making both when you practice and perform; but how do you make your time more effective so that goals are reached quicker?   That is what I am trying to address. 

Your post is discussing students who do not practice or who do not follow directions.... that was not my case, and I'm sure I am not alone.  I practiced and practiced and practiced but was not provided direction in how to practice repertoire and had to learn the elements of effective practice myself.  I now concentrate on problem sections, limit starting at the beginning each time, and break up practice sessions into small goals.

Your post does not address this topic and I am suggesting that this level of detail of HOW to practice should be discussed with your students.   

Offline vaniii

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Re: What would help students improve the most?
«Reply #16 on: October 07, 2016, 10:42:41 PM »
Vaniii,
I think you have missed the intent of my post:  I have spent hours practicing every day, both as a child and as an adult... and truly always  followed instructions.  But what was never discussed, which you have not addressed in your reply, is teaching students the principles of effectively practicing repertoire which include: - not starting from the beginning  - isolating problem sections/measures and working on them, etc. etc.  Yes, as a pianist you need to listen for the sound you are making both when you practice and perform; but how do you make your time more effective so that goals are reached quicker?   That is what I am trying to address. 

Your post is discussing students who do not practice or who do not follow directions.... that was not my case, and I'm sure I am not alone.  I practiced and practiced and practiced but was not provided direction in how to practice repertoire and had to learn the elements of effective practice myself.  I now concentrate on problem sections, limit starting at the beginning each time, and break up practice sessions into small goals.

Your post does not address this topic and I am suggesting that this level of detail of HOW to practice should be discussed with your students.   

I understand your post and the situation that you have encountered over the years.

I acknowledge the situation fully, but rather, have commented on the general situation.

Other teachers may not, but the lessons taught to my students highlight practice method.  The interaction shared at the piano would be redundant if this was not covered. The issues I have encounter are not really anything to do with practice method, but conception of what the actual goal is of the interaction.

Any piece of music, either practiced or performed are generally addressed in the same way, however the goal is different.  That is first understanding of the source material, then presentation (performance).

The issue I can see is allowing 'problem' bars to arise in the first place.  Usually this is because insufficient time was taken on the first play through to understand it.  Instead the student would simply plough through it, in the hopes of simply 'getting it'.

There is no difference in how one would tackle Liszt B minor piano sonata and any Czerny Etude No 1 in a beginner method book.  The only perceived difference is Liszt's piece is somewhat more flashy because of preconceptions.  The average beginner has an idea of what a pianist is, and so will try thier hardest to emulate this.

If the student knows how to count meter, unpack rhythms, find notes, the base principles are the same.

Being ready for the music is quite literally putting aside an ego; not being consumed with 'I am playing Liszt's B minor piano sonata', and actually taking to time to play Liszt B minor piano sonata.

This makes me recall an earlier post where some one commented on Bach Scholar's tutorial of how to play Chopin's 'Fantatie Impromptu'.  The posted said (to paraphrase), "all he did is play it through slowly", he did not actually show me how to practice it.  But really that's the point; we take the time to say it slowly enough that we understand what the music is trying to say.

This concept is the hardest part to understand about classical piano playing.  We are not important as performer; yes, we are what the audience directs their praise to, however in the grand scheme we are quite irrelevant.  Try explaining that to someone who has just started lessons, with ideas of grandeur; not to mention students with almost two decades of self-indulgence.

No offence was meant by my post; we can blame teachers, however that's the easy bit.  Perception is a wonderful thing; how many times in your lessons did your teacher tell you to: "slow down", "take time to read it", "listen to what your playing", "play it again but think about the key", "try it hands separately", "Say it out loud", "now start from bar X", "now start at the begining", "whats is that note", "play it from memory", "Let go", "Count out loud" and so on.  Are these all stock phrases for the good of their health.

No ... I think most of these are practice methods.  Its easy to over look it when you are not looking for it.

---

Please forgive my incoherence, this comes after some brandy and almost eight hours of lessons.

Offline keypeg

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Re: What would help students improve the most?
«Reply #17 on: October 08, 2016, 08:39:27 PM »
The concept dogperson raises is important and it is a concern I share.  Vanii, you are talking about a different aspect.  I think the problem arises because what you wrote first time round was in "response" to what dp wrote, but it is not actually in response - it is a different issue.  I suggest that we look at each in turn.

So vanii first: I would put your concerns in the category of attitude - that a student should not come from a place of ego, of wanting to emulate a famous person, or pretend to be one, or want to play impressively.  With such an attitude one cannot go far, and it cannot lead to any sensible practising or good results.  Actually with this place of ego the word 'pretend' is operative, even if the student is not aware of it.

You write
Quote from: vanii
If the student knows how to count meter, unpack rhythms, find notes, the base principles are the same.
This brings it close to what matters to both dogperson and myself; that the student a) has learned to do these things, b) has learned to apply them to the piece they are working on.  Say for example that you don't know how to do these things - you were not taught to read (find notes), or "unpack a rhythm" and you come to a "difficult passage" - you will not know how to solve that passage and my rush through it, bulldoze through it, avoid it - all of which leads to poor results.  If you teach these things you may assume others do: that isn't always the case, and that is why this is important.
Quote from: vanii
Usually this is because insufficient time was taken on the first play through to understand it. 
My immediate thought is that a student has to reach a certain level before he can even do a play-through, first or otherwise.  At a more advanced level, yes, that should be done.  At an earlier level I would expect that the teacher has a solid understanding of the piece, where the hurdles are, what new things need to be learned (D major - learn about the C#), and that he will then teach accordingly.  I would expect the teacher at this earlier level to also say how to practise at home, what to pay attention to, maybe what order etc.  If that isn't done, then ego (your concern) rears its head.
At a more advanced level, I would probably want to know how to study the piece - not just play through.  For example, if it is in sonata form, identify the themes, notice where they might sort of repeat in another key, know how to divide up the structure so you can plan your practising over the weeks and days.  Play-through to highlight difficulties, and get at those difficulties first.  Know how to solve those difficulties.  And know that you can and should alert your teacher about difficulties you have, so he can find their cause and solutions by observing you - and not fearing that teacher's judgment.  But I would expect that all of this has previously been taught to the student.  If he knows how to do it, but chooses not to, that is ego.  If he muddles along because he doesn't know how, that is not ego.

Quote
This makes me recall an earlier post where some one commented on Bach Scholar's tutorial of how to play Chopin's 'Fantatie Impromptu'.  The posted said (to paraphrase), "all he did is play it through slowly", he did not actually show me how to practice it.  But really that's the point; we take the time to say it slowly enough that we understand what the music is trying to say.
I've never watched B.S. - if indeed he simply plays through slowly, sorry, that is not showing how to practise.  Paul Barton teaches how to practice a piece.  He analyzes it for the student, explains things about it, proposes various approaches to difficult sections, proposes a sequence for practising over the days and weeks to develop things.  Simply playing a section note by note slowly, that is not even good practise if that is all you do.

I had the same concerns as dogperson when I left my lessons (was forced to by circumstance) in the first instrument that I studied with a teacher.  In the last years of those lessons I began to consider that there were approaches to things, and underlying skills to things.  It is at that time, when I had figured out some things, that I met my present piano teacher in conversation, and this is a main thing that we discussed.  Teaching students how to get skills, and also how to practise, so that those habits would be there as music became more difficult, were his priority, and to learn them was my priority.
These are skills like learning how to read effectively; dividing a piece into smaller sections, starting at the end rather than the beginning, and working on difficult areas first; layering in elements of the music (which I learned from several musicians during that period), not bulldozing through a piece by playing it mindlessly over and over; being attentive and alert to what you are doing.  But when you are attentive you also have to learn how to hear things and that in itself requires a skilled teacher who can work intelligently.  As a student you may go about it wrong, or have the wrong concept in mind.
I think that dp and myself, that we are rather close in our views in this area.  Dogperson, please feel free to correct anything I wrote. :)

Offline keypeg

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Re: What would help students improve the most?
«Reply #18 on: October 08, 2016, 08:59:18 PM »
we can blame teachers, however that's the easy bit. 
I'm thinking about this.  "Blame" is stupid either way for either party.  But when you are trying to achieve something, you have to know how to achieve it, and if you are failing, you have to address the cause of that failure whatever it might be.  If, for example, a teacher writes in finger numbers for every note, and has his students imitate recordings at home, and afterward the student doesn't know how to read - in order to learn to read, that student has to learn the things he has not been taught, and must also go back and see what he was taught to do, in case those things are hampering his efforts.  Is he now overly associating notes with finger numbers, and depending on them?  Has he developed such a strong memory and a tendency to go by sound that it is hampering his attempts to learn to read?  Should he tell his teacher, "I'm concerned that I can't read, and I would like you to teach me to read." or not say anything, in order to not hurt his teacher's feelings?  You have to address what exists, wherever it exists.  That is not blaming, but finding cause, effect, & solution.
Quote
Perception is a wonderful thing; how many times in your lessons did your teacher tell you to: "slow down", "take time to read it", "listen to what your playing", "play it again but think about the key", "try it hands separately", "Say it out loud", "now start from bar X", "now start at the begining", "whats is that note", "play it from memory", "Let go", "Count out loud" and so on.  Are these all stock phrases for the good of their health.
I think that you are extrapolating from your experiences, because that is what you tell your students, and the things that some of your students may ignore and then not do at home - to their detriment.  If they then blame you for their failings, for not having followed the instructions that would have gotten them there, this is wrong.  But we are not your students, we have been taught by different teachers, and some of those teachers may not have done any of these things.
When I was studying a different instrument, there was an F that I played closer to F#.  I was told repeatedly that it was F.  But my hand was at an awkward angle - as I learned later - so I could not physically reach that F.  No amount of admonishment in the world would help, and no effort by the student would solve it, except perhaps to cause injury from strain.  If, otoh, the teacher had seen the hand angle, and had said "When you practice at home, make sure you get the angle right, like I showed you." ---- and if the student didn't bother about the angle, and instead tried to "make it sound nice", or even aimed for F without solving the underlying problem - that brings us to your scenario.
Quote
No ... I think most of these are practice methods.  Its easy to over look it when you are not looking for it.
Yes, I agree.  But not everyone is given them.

Offline dogperson

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Re: What would help students improve the most?
«Reply #19 on: October 08, 2016, 09:14:30 PM »
Mine was a simple concept which I have now expressed in two posts, and therefore feel no benefit in trying to continue a dialogue.  I was not looking to blame teachers, but only asked that the actual method of how to practice (not what skills) but a systematic method of practicing be taught.   There is no reason for a student to practice for any length of time if that practice is not organized in a way that would make it the most productive.  This is not related to lack of effort, ignoring instruction, or skill development but practice methodology.

I will list some of the simple elements here (again) -
- Ask your students 'how do you practice?'   Again, I practiced as a child, so therefore I made progress, but the question of HOW I did it was never asked, and therefore I could have made progress faster if I would have know HOW to practice.
- Teach your student NOT to begin at the beginning of repertoire each time during practice
-  the first play through will identify problem sections, work on those.
- Isolate the problem measure/section and work on that section:  HS, HT, slow, etc.  Merge with other small chunks
- If any sections indicate a skill needs polishing (i.e., uneven trills) work on that skill separately
- Teach students how to do repetitive practice of a section  (staggered repeats? number of correct repeats?)
- Establish goals for each practice session.  
- Do not practice past the point you have focus:  better to break up practice into smaller chunks
- Outline with the student HOW to effectively memorize


This was not discussing:  students who do not practice, students who do not follow instructions, or students who need primary skill development in order to follow the instructions.  That is a different aspect and different topic.  


Offline vaniii

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Re: What would help students improve the most?
«Reply #20 on: October 08, 2016, 10:31:44 PM »
Mine was a simple concept which I have now expressed in two posts, and therefore feel no benefit in trying to continue a dialogue.  I was not looking to blame teachers, but only asked that the actual method of how to practice (not what skills) but a systematic method of practicing be taught.   There is no reason for a student to practice for any length of time if that practice is not organized in a way that would make it the most productive.  This is not related to lack of effort, ignoring instruction, or skill development but practice methodology.

I will list some of the simple elements here (again) -
- Ask your students 'how do you practice?'   Again, I practiced as a child, so therefore I made progress, but the question of HOW I did it was never asked, and therefore I could have made progress faster if I would have know HOW to practice.
- Teach your student NOT to begin at the beginning of repertoire each time during practice
-  the first play through will identify problem sections, work on those.
- Isolate the problem measure/section and work on that section:  HS, HT, slow, etc.  Merge with other small chunks
- If any sections indicate a skill needs polishing (i.e., uneven trills) work on that skill separately
- Teach students how to do repetitive practice of a section  (staggered repeats? number of correct repeats?)
- Establish goals for each practice session. 
- Do not practice past the point you have focus:  better to break up practice into smaller chunks
- Outline with the student HOW to effectively memorize


This was not discussing:  students who do not practice, students who do not follow instructions, or students who need primary skill development in order to follow the instructions.  That is a different aspect and different topic. 



Agree with you on all points.

Keypeg, thank you again, I also confirm and agree all points raised.

Offline keypeg

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Re: What would help students improve the most?
«Reply #21 on: October 09, 2016, 03:36:22 AM »
Vanii, dogperson - thanks.