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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Depersonalizing Instructions and Criticism

Often parents find that their kids are more responsive to the instructions of the teacher in the lesson than they are to instructions from the parent at home. Children don't like to be dictated to, and so as teachers and parents we have to find ways to get them to cooperate without having it seem like the instruction is coming directly from us.

Here are some ideas:
  • Give the child choices, but be sure only to offer options you're willing to accept.
  • Make a game board, perhaps with zones of different colors. The child can roll dice, and draw a card that corresponds to whatever zone her piece lands on. Cards can have instructions on them (e.g. "Play the shifting spot in Minuet 1 seven times slowly with a ringing G and a ringing A) You can control from practice session to practice session which cards are in the stack. There might be a pink zone for posture exercises (and pink cards to go with it), a blue zone for reviews, a green zone for working/polishing pieces, a purple zone for reading etc. If each zone has at least 6 spaces on the board, then you'll be sure to get work done on each of the categories. When the child's game piece reaches the finish line, that is the end of practice for that day. (You can also build into the game rules consequences for not cooperating. For example, refusing to do what the card says means you have to move your game pieces back five spaces).
  • Tool Box - Each tool corresponds to a different skill to develop (hammer for staccato bows, wrench for "finger-bow-go" etc). Let the child decide which tool his needed to help whatever piece or passage you're working on.
  • Playing Cards - Child draws from the deck. If the suit is red, the parent chooses the activity, if the suit is black the child chooses. The number on the card can determine how many times to repeat it. Ace is high.
  • Roll Dice
  • Let the child be the judge. If the task is to play the hopping finger notes in Song of the Wind (for example) 8 times, let the student decide whether a given repetition can count. Ask a specific question like, "Did your fingers lift up before they moved to the A-string?" This is also a good way of assessing the level of the student's focus, and comprehension of the task. If you disagree with the "judge's" ruling, resist the temptation to say so.
  • Let a stuffed animal be the judge (for young children, obviously).
  • Be willing to acknowledge your child's feelings. Be prepared to listen.
  • Make a practice to-do list with your child, and then simply allow him to check tasks off when they're accomplished.
There are endless possibilities. If any parents have ideas that have worked for them at home, please share them in the comments section.

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