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A very slow start

What would you do?

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#16 agricola

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Posted 19 November 2018 - 13:41

I have two pupils who are around 10 and are slow learners at the moment.  Neither started with me and both arrived with all the letter names written in on their pieces -- which always rings alarm bells for me as I take it as a sign that the previous teacher was running out of ideas about how to move forward.  Usually this means the pupil has serious problems rather than that the previous teacher did not know what they were doing!

 

If there are any magic solutions for slow learners I have not found them yet, but things I try to do include:

 

- getting the parent on board as quickly as possible to help with flashcards, sit with the child while they practise, attend (and pay attention in) lessons, and in one case I have suggested the parent should also have a few lessons on note-reading 

 

- trying to build the child's confidence by teaching in very small steps which are then practised in the lesson, praising all progress and keeping the atmosphee light when they struggle

 

- keeping all signs of tension and puzzlement out of my own behaviour, eg deliberately lowering the pitch of my voice if I can feel myself getting frustrated

 

- giving the pupil some control by letting them choose between activities.

 

I like to use games and puzzles in beginner lessons and two I find very useful for getting an insight into how the child is thinking can be found on the Susan Paradis web-site.  One is a set of cards which have to be sorted into Right / Left hand and finger numbers.  The way the child sets about this task can be illuminating as can the other which is a little jigsaw puzzle of a keyboard, requiring some spatial reasoning to put together.  Both of my current slow learners were unable to put this together without help.

 

There is also the question of whether the child really wants to learn. One of mine clearly did from the start as I could see she was making valiant efforts to work out her notes.  The other apparently didn't as she was very reluctant to come into the room or approach the piano to start with.  However, with a little persistence and help from the parent and a lot of game-playing this has been turned around -- in her case the reluctance was caused by panic and lack of confidence.  She is now making progress and enjoying playing.

 

I have mentioned in posts before that I have a long-term pupil with Downs.  She eventually managed to pass Grade 3 piano and can read a music score quite well although I do have to keep on her case all the time to ensure she does not get lazy.  This gives me confidence that if you are very, very patient, go very slowly indeed and have the pupil's cooperation they will be able to make music at some level eventually.  The pay-off for me is that I have learned more about teaching from the pupils who puzzle me that from the quick learners.


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#17 jenny

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Posted 19 November 2018 - 15:26

If anyone has had experience with teaching pupils who are dyslexic, I would be grateful for advice. The girl's mother has told me that she struggled when she first started reading, but is now a good reader. She's expecting her to have the same kind of problems with learning to read music.    


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#18 The Great Sosso

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Posted 19 November 2018 - 16:46

I had a dyslexic student and it wouldn't surprise me if that is the diagnosis of your student, jenny.  She too could seemingly not see where the notes were sitting on the stave.  It was all very perplexing. 

 

One thing that helped was colour.  In the early pieces, which often have two or three repeated motives, we would colour in the iterations in the appropriate colour, and she would learn each one - effectively by wrote - then she was able to play the entire piece, prompted by the changing colour to change the pattern she was playing. 

 

Unfortunately this particular child was just not that interested in learning the piano given the effort needed with her learning difficulties so she eventually decided to quit (and went on to be very successful on clarinet, and self-taught bass guitar, and I am told occasionally has a go at writing her own chordal songs on the piano!).  Her very telling complaint about the piano was "all the notes feel the same".  I did wonder if a more chordal approach to learning piano (so probably not the usual route in) - since chords, once you get to using the black keys, inversions etc, all have a very distinctive feel - would have been more successful.

 

I found a book on teaching piano to dyslexic students helpful: https://www.amazon.c...c for dyslexics . (it didn't cost as much as it now does when I bought it - eek!)

 

 

and this article online: https://www.teachpia...wonders-for-me/ is also good.

 

 

 


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#19 jenny

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Posted 19 November 2018 - 17:02

Thank you so much!  The advice in the link looks really helpful. This is all very new to me and will be a challenge, but a very interesting one.   


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#20 zwhe

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Posted 19 November 2018 - 17:55

 

 

I found a book on teaching piano to dyslexic students helpful: https://www.amazon.c...c for dyslexics . (it didn't cost as much as it now does when I bought it - eek!)

 

 

 

I would also recommend this book - its really useful - you can get second hand earlier editions quite cheaply.


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#21 sbhoa

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Posted 19 November 2018 - 19:41

Is there some missing understanding?

Does she understand how the notes move up the stave from line to space to line etc?

Does she realise that it's where the note head is that defines the pitch regardless of note value?

Does she recognised middle C and know which note the clef define and how?

Can she find notes on the keyboard?

 

I've found that sometimes quite bright children who are doing well in school don't pick things up as well as I anticipate even when they are starting at 9 or 10. 

The books you are using may just have gone a bit faster than she ready for.


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#22 Piano Meg

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Posted 19 November 2018 - 20:01

It's great to hear you've got a reason for her struggle! Did you ask her about it, or did the mum just let you know?

 

The boy I taught who had dyslexia was a transfer student who, after a couple of years of lessons, arrived not reading any music (and without anyone realising). He did really well with accelerated piano adventures, but we also did lots of practical activities like using a floor stave (even though he was a teenager - he didn't seem to mind), magnetic stave, and lots of writing on a manuscript whiteboard. We took it slowly, but he became a good reader. Using an interval-based approach worked for him, because he didn't have to remember which line was which. When he came, he knew "you do every green bus" but he couldn't remember which lines/spaces it applied to and he often got the phrase wrong! The interval approach meant he didn't have to rely on that memory and, with piano adventures, they gradually add more 'landmark' notes and he was able to take those on board.

 

On the other hand, my understanding is that everyone with dyslexia is different, so what works for one pupil may not work for another - you may have to try several approaches and mix and match before it clicks. Some find a coloured overlay really helpful (I think it reduces the contrast between the black notes and the white background) and I've previously tried using a stave where the lines themselves are different colours (rather than the notes) - though that means a lot of printing! I'd also recommend Sheila Oglethorpe. I haven't read the book, but have read other things she's written and found them helpful. 


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#23 jenny

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Posted 22 November 2018 - 10:58

It's great to hear you've got a reason for her struggle! Did you ask her about it, or did the mum just let you know?

 

 

Sorry I didn't reply sooner, Piano Meg. I had sent a link for Flashnote Derby to the mum with a suggestion that it might help and she replied telling me that her daughter was being tested for dyslexia. She said that she had had a dyslexia screening test done in year 4 that highlighted dyslexic tendencies but that this hadn't been followed up with the full test until now. She says that if she is dyslexic, she will be disapplied from the spelling part of SATS and will get extra time. She's really cross with the school - she feels that this is only being done now because it will help their results that they're doing something.


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#24 jenny

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Posted 24 November 2018 - 13:02

Just as an update - the girl had her lesson this morning. I had planned the lesson using some of the helpful suggestions offered here, going over some of the basics, being careful to go slowly and making sure that she understood everything. It all worked really well and she did better than I had expected. I think the most important thing was that I didn't try to rush her and I felt much more relaxed, as I think she did. I gave her lots of praise and actually was able to go on to a couple of new pieces, which I wasn't expecting to do today. We did some revision of pieces she had done in previous lessons and she did well with both rhythm and note reading, so she is obviously progressing. I saw how pleased she was after we'd worked on Au Clair de la Lune and she managed to get the 'hands together' part right. (She'd struggled with this at home.) I think it's important that I only give her pieces to practise that we've already looked at in the lesson, so that she's not having to work things out on her own. So all in all, a very promising lesson and it seems that, if she does have dyslexic tendencies, she's managing very well. 


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#25 The Great Sosso

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Posted 26 November 2018 - 14:51

That sounds like it went really well.  There is always the option that she is just a bit slower than average.  One of my students is a really slow learner.  I used to find it frustrating and worry about how to make her progress, but recently I have accepted that she just goes about 1/3 of the pace of most others her age, and that's fine.  We go slower.  She enjoys her lessons, and she doesn't mind having the same piece for a few weeks, so we just go slow.  Piano Adventures is great for her, as it is a very slow paced series (usually I get them off onto something else after the Primer, but this girl is most likely going to plod through books 1, 2A, 2B, 3 etc.  As long as she's happy, it really doesn't matter.

 

TGS X


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