A Case of the Blues in Level 4
I have two students, both in Level 4, who have a bad case of the blues….a definite valley syndrome. Neither of them want to mark their playlist, let alone keep all their earlier songs alive. Both moms are very supportive
Simply Music moms but they’re struggling with the ongoing resistance and are in their own valleys because of it.
I’ve asked the kids to grade their playlist songs as 1, 2, or 3, in order to manage how much time is needed on a given song per week. That’s still too much for them. I have navigated both these students through many “valley” episodes over the last two years and they’re both great little pianists.
I’m in Reading Rhythm with one and Reading Notes with the other. Both are well underway in the Accompaniment program. Composition is somewhat of a struggle.
I need some ideas here and know you have them! Thank you in advance for your suggestions.
Also, next week will be the 100th lesson anniversary for each of them. Any suggestions for how you celebrate such a milestone is welcome as well!
Shanta H., Minnesota
Hi Karen – I have 6 students who are at or near the end of level 4 and 3 who are just beginning it. Here’s what I do with large playlists:
Around the middle of Foundation 2, I start having “Playlist Days” every 6-8 weeks. I listen to enough of a song to ascertain the shape it’s in, and I mark each song with the following:
E = play every day that you practice
4 = play at least 4 days per week
3 = play at least 3 days per week
2 = play at least 2 days per week
1 = play at least 1 day per week
-1 = as needed, less than once a week (I have only used this one for myself so far)
* = project, used in conjunction with a number above. This means a song is mostly in good shape but there’s one trouble spot that needs work even if the rest of the song doesn’t get played that day.
I also make a big point to level 1 and 2 students that they need to get a lot of repetitions of the early, “easy” songs in NOW, because by the time we get to Foundation 4, I need them to be able to maintain Dreams come True on once or twice a week so that they have time to do all the other projects we’ll be working on.
Also, when we’re doing I IV and V in Accompaniment, I ask them to make a second page of their playlist for Accompaniments only – that way they can see if there are any keys they’re neglecting.
Having a large playlist can feel so overwhelming, especially for children. What I tell them is that they can play the 1’s and the 4’s on opposing days and play the 2’s and the 3’s on opposing days – this can help them manage the time more efficiently when they’re trying to manage all the multiple learning streams and projects. We have to acknowledge that we are asking a lot of them, and give them tools to help organize themselves!
Also – not sure if you have done the teacher workshop on Managing Practice time or not, but I found it tremendously helpful with my higher level students. With all of them really, but the impact was real and immediate for the higher level ones.
Nicole O., California
Oh, those valleys… I’ve got some Level 4 students who are just now coming out of a very DEEEP valley. It was helpful to just be honest about where they are. We had lots of conversations about where one student currently was on the chart, but also talked about where she’s been in the past. One girl nearly quit 4 times and was hanging on by a thread. Everything started to shift when as we began preparing for our last Performance Party (which was on Sunday). The focus changed and now (post party), they’re all feeling like they accomplished something grand and are excited about moving forward, recommitting to practice and so on. I can’t predict how long this mountain top experience will last, but it’ll be good for us to talk about this in our next class. Where are we today?
When my students reach their 100th lesson, I usually plan a party that takes the place of their lesson. I’ve done it on all different levels – big and small. Sometimes the party includes gifts from me, plus cupcakes and/or pizza. It just depends on how much time we have. I like to surprise them with this and not mention anything until they come to their 100th lesson. Now that my studio has grown, however, I don’t always have the time for this. In that case, I’ll decorate my studio with streamers and balloons, have cupcakes ready and we’ll have our lesson in half the time and spend the other half eating and playing for each other.
Acknowledgment of how far your students have come may help them get over this hump.