Fragmenting and Level 4
Robin T., Tennessee
OK, I know I had this same issue on Greensleeves in Level 3. And, I’ll be the first to say that it has become one of mine and my students favorites, and did come easy once it was learned. The LEARNING is what is killing me. I guess I’ve just gotten so use to seeing the patterns that I have a hard time TEACHING it to my students when there is no obvious pattern.
I have two students (sisters) who are about to begin L4. And, I’ve already told the mother that we would have a “discussion” about L4 in the lesson because I felt that the pieces are getting more difficult and more practice will be required. Also, from some of the teachers I have talked to… L4 and L5 seem to cause students to have some “valleys” because of the different style of learning. So… I want to make sure everyone is on the same page with this. However, I continue to have issues with the younger child. She is very talented, but will often simply watch my hands and “have it” before I even teach it. Then, she doesn’t practice it. I’m sure she feels that it was so easy for her in the lesson that she can just wing it the next week.. but she never is able to. The older sister has told myself and her mother that she wants a separate lesson because her younger sister is holding her back. But, after discussing with the mother, I told her that the lesson is not the issue. Not practicing is the issue and separating the lesson will not solve that. As we begin on this new level, I can just feel that there will some issues coming up…
Additionally, I have noticed that there are fewer songs in L4, and I know that we have other programs we are working on as well. However, I would love to get some feedback from other teachers about how they typically lay out the songs. Lullaby especially… in terms of do you introduce over 2 weeks or go ahead and show it all. I know that they don’t have to “have it” completely (and Neil keeps reiterating the home materials), but I also don’t want to give too much. I would love to have some general idea as to how you have laid out the lessons in L4. Any help (or similar feelings of overwhelming anxiety) would be beneficial! THANKS!
Karen G., Tennessee
In the beginning… I used to try to do Lullaby in 1 or 2 lessons. Now I usually take a minimum of 4 lessons, sometimes even 5 or 6. General breakdown:
Week 1 First half – RH and LH ALONE
Week 2 Start putting BH together. I might spend 1 week on putting position 1 together and then another week putting positions 2 and 3 together. Sometimes I go through all 3 positions in one week, but I have learned to err on the side of giving less to better assure their success
Week 3 or 4 Second half RH and LH ALONE
Next week Line 3, BH, sometimes we’ll also do line 4, other times I leave Line 4 for a seperate week.
I warn my students that if they don’t do their homework and practice the small chunks that I give them that that will be their downfall as we move further into the piece. I will tell them to practice until they think they know it… and then practice it some more because the more thoughtlessly they can do hands apart (especially in a piece like Lullaby) the easier it will be to put the hands together.
I don’t know if it is just me or the song, but this is one piece my students tend for forget easily, especially if I go much faster than the break down above. Every now and then I have a student who just ‘gets’ it, but by and large, this is definitely a piece, in my opinion, where much less is much more in the long run.
While in songs we use fragmenting on there is no obvious pattern in the song as a whole, within each fragment position, there is a pattern. I just used fragmenting on an outside church hymn with one of my reading students. She was having difficulty until we looked at the piece in terms of positions. Then all of a sudden the melody began to flow without a lot of thought on her part. I know I need to find the fragments more on outside reading pieces, it makes such a difference, but it takes time and practice to get good at seeing them.
In hindsight, I believe this is where learning to give less on a given piece/project, so they can have success in multiple project streams really starts to come into play. It is so typical in the first 3 levels to get through a song in a week or two that there is a tendency (at least for me) to want to continue doing that. Well, I USED to want to do that, but I have learned. I think by slowing down with these pieces and breaking them into very manageable pieces which ensure success we are also teaching students how to have the patience to break down pieces as they get into the reading program and more advanced pieces rather than expecting to learn a whole piece every time they sit down with something new.
Mary V., California
I love Level 4!!!!
Just like Greensleeves, Lullaby and Sonata’s positions (not the sentences) and transitioning to those positions must be learned before unfolding the sentences. At least this is what we’ve learned in our studio. Finding where to begin is no longer a problem with Lullaby once they are taught from the beginning that it’s the CAGE chord for the first position.
Each student is different. I’ve had students who were able to learn the entire pieces in one lesson. These are the very dedicated and consistent students. I would rather teach 2 positions but with both hands together than teach only the right at a lessons. But again, it depends on each student.
I’ve had students where Sonata has been “hell” learning. All these students have overcome the valley that this song can bring. But it took really knowing the student and observing where the breakdown was. I gave very specific practicing strategies and we practiced in lesson how to practice it at home.
Then when the song is pretty much learned (though may not be a score of 5 yet), we begin playing the song starting at different positions (not always in the beginning). This has reinforced the learning of the positions and patterns. I’ve done this even with private students and time and time again, the song comes back fluent! The grouped students are forced to stay closely tuned as they do not know when they’ll have to continue to the next pattern.
Sue C., Australia
I have a shared lesson (2 brothers) in level 4, so they are also in the reading and accompaniment program as well. We are in the middle of Deep River. I am taking 4 lessons to teach this, maybe 5, even though I could teach it in 2. I have discovered from trial and error that it is better to go slowly or they will not be ready for the next level. Of course if they
come to the next lesson and can easily play the whole song, I will move on to the next. I approach each song like this, expecting to go slowly.
One of my students raced through to level 5 and then nearly pulled out of lessons. I have gradually recovered the situation, but it is best not to get to that.
My current thinking is to keep students in level 2 for longer than I have previously. I think in the past, I have been so keen to get them in the next level when they would have benefited from more foundation work.
Cindy B., Illinois
Robin, one of the things I’ve found necessary in Level 4 is to talk very specifically about how students practice. By now, they’re starting to discover that if they continue to play everything on their playlist every day, it takes too long. By now, you as a teacher are discovering that if you try to teach every stream in every lesson, you can’t do it in 30 minutes.
The workshop audio file that is available from Simply Music that talks specifically about practice is called “Managing Practice Time” by Kerry Hanley. What I’m doing now is based on that workshop, dividing work from play every single day. I have to take 10 minutes, sometimes more, to talk about how to manage keeping within a 30 minute practice time. A student who’s been able to get along without practicing until now, like the sibling you mentioned, won’t be able to finish level 4, and to slow the pace of lessons down for her sake is very unfair for the sibling who’s obeying your instructions.
I’d level with the Mom, that if she and her daughter can’t come up with a way to do what you say, with 6 days a week practice, she will be unable to experience success in level 4 and beyond. At this point, it may be a matter of starting her in a 15 minute per day regimen that doesn’t waiver. I’ve run into this before and take the full blame – the point is not that they learn every assignment and be able to play every song on the playlist – in the early levels the point is that they master the approach – the daily, same time practice, checking the playlist, singing melody with accomps.
You’re absolutely right that moving them both to private won’t solve the younger girl’s dilemma. It may ultimately come down to saying that you’ll be willing to move the older daughter to private or an existing group, but you won’t teach the one who won’t follow your instructions. I’ve had several instances of this – it’s gone 50/50. Some manage to work it out, some don’t.