Advanced Student in Groups
I have just had a call from an adult student with 10 years traditional background as a child, who, since seeing more advanced students playing at the my first recent piano concert, she is eager to get ahead and move faster with the program, feeling like she can take on lots more new materials each week. She has enquired about private lessons and is happy to pay any extra charges associated with that. I am unsure what to do. I generally prefer to teach in groups but don’t want to quash her enthusiasm buy moving too slowly for her. I feel like the group is progressing at a rate that is usual and I give arrangements and variations wherever possible.
I pointed out that other students in the group with no prior experience pick up the new songs as easily as her (but perhaps with less confidence!) and that her eagerness to learn is a really good thing. I’ve also told her that progression is swift for all students and, before long, she will have more than enough songs to be keeping alive and/or rearranging. I have not started the accompaniment program yet with this group and think this may also impact on her view of things (ie she will have another stream to get stuck into).
One possibility for me could be to move her to a level 3 group and catching up on the remaining level 2 songs and half of the accompaniment program would certainly give her more to chew on, as it were but this might also create more work for me?
I’m wondering what advice you all can give me – I want her to be happy and fulfilled but don’t want to make a mistake with moving her up too soon. Private lessons are also an option for her but as a group teacher, I like to avoid those if possible. Am I trying too hard to tailor lessons to meet the needs of students who say it is “too easy”and “want more”and want to move faster/progress quicker?
I am a product of the Simply Music Program and still a student now and I remember feeling not dissimilar in my first few months – I felt I was picking up the new material possibly quicker than my group members but my (very experienced ) teacher kept me where I was and I have progressed just fine. I would love to hear what you think /what tact should I take?
Julia B., California
You know your student, the circumstances and the make up of your groups best, so ultimately it might just be a matter of trusting your own judgment in terms of what’s best for everyone involved. Lots of times there are different options in a situation, and all of them have their pros and cons — in other words, there may not necessarily be a right choice and a wrong one.
The only thing I’ll mention, is that if you do decide to move her to the more advanced group, this could be the perfect time to do it, since the first half of F3 involves finishing Light Blue, Minuet and Star Spangled Banner. I have generally found my fast moving students have learned these quite quickly, so it may only take a couple of private lessons on the side to help her catch up. If she is enthusiastic and excited right now, this may be a huge encouragement to her.
Another possibility is to have her attend both classes for a few weeks (if she is willing) until she has caught up with the more advanced group. This worked well for me once. I had two groups back to back that had come from a traditional background and were moving fairly quickly. The first group was 3 siblings. The 2 older sisters were able to move much faster than the younger brother so when they were nearing the end of Foundation 2, I decided to bump them up into the 2nd group and keep the younger brother on his own. It went very smoothly with no extra work on my part, because I chose to have the two girls attend both lessons for several weeks. They joined the F3 group right when they were learning Fluff Pie.
Meanwhile they continued in their original class until they caught up on the first half of F3. It meant they were learning double songs for that time period, but they absolutely loved it and it gave them the challenge they needed. It also allowed me to work with the younger brother at his own pace without always trying to squeeze in extra things to keep the sisters challenged. It turned out to be very good for the 2nd class as well who benefited the addition of the two highly motivated sisters to liven things up. I also used it as an opportunity for students from the second group to experience teaching arrangements or variations to the new students.
Leeanne I., Australia
I would try to keep her in the group, explain the long term benefits she will have by learning in a group environment. I would not “jump her ahead”, learning slowly gives the long term benefit.
Reiterate she is learning a new way of learning.
Have you introduced Comp and Improv? This is a real challenge for traditionally trained students.
Has she done any composition on her own?
You can start off by suggesting the whole group write alterative lyrics to a song they have learnt so far, bring them to the next lesson and play and sing for everyone.