Managing the Transition to Reading
I have noticed that a difficult time for many parents is right before the reading program starts. At around 15 month point, parents are expecting their children to be reading fully and start to get afraid that SM will stunt their ability to read. I have been talking about the importance of building a vocabulary before reading when concerns come up, but I haven’t been doing a heading off this problem. Does anyone have advice as to how they head off this frustration? About what song do you start reading rhythm (for me it is somewhere in the middle of level 3)? What about reading notes? I guess I lean closer to 50 songs than 30, but parents patience gets really thin around 35 songs.
Carrie L., Michigan
I used to have lots of challenges with this and with reading and parents pushing to get to reading. I’m finding that if I have conversations continually throughout the process the transition is smoother. I have started students in reading as late as Level 4 and those students have moved faster through the reading program. We typically start the reading rhythm book now in Level 3 but I believe this is a conversation issue over a parent issue.
Terah W., Kansas
I just had to reply to this! What a joyful thing to have to point out to a parent that their child can play 35 songs with no music. It’s like, “Look Ma, no crutches!” And then everyone can’t wait to get back to the crutches….
My point is–besides, ‘what a great problem to have–all those songs as tools to learn as well as play for fun’–is that most likely this is a conversation-sharpening opportunity. Of course, not knowing you, I have no idea what kind of communicator you are, but I think most things come back to this. Even done perfectly and in the most timely fashion, who is to say that the parent (or student) is even listening? I think as subject matter for discussion, listening is as important as the conversation though more difficult to assess or discuss.
That being said, my best conversations when moving forward with a frustrated parent is to kindly point out the typical progress of the traditional student with the same time or effort constraints. This usually instigates reawakening to see things a little differently. I think some of their frustration is their going back to compare with their original perceptions of music lessons and the traditional paradigm is their only default unless we keep a steady influx of subtle references and sometimes not-so-subtle declarations of why SM is the preferred method! Quantity, quality, easy and so on. All that good stuff!
Even in conversation, I have found the single-thought process useful! It’s just keeping up the steady stream of beneficial conversations towards future learning that is sometimes (many times) difficult to gauge. Many times, their angst is just a by-product of not knowing what is going to happen next–or how!
Then, too, a little confessing here. I’ve noticed that if I am experiencing some hesitation at beginning some new part of the program, it can be reflected in them back to me. And talking about it, once again, is probably going to demystify it on both ends.
Mark M., New York
I concur with the others who are saying this is a conversation issue rather than a parent issue. It’s also, then, a confidence issue on your part.
I teach a lot of content in the other streams so that my students’ progress through the Foundation stream seems slower than what many teachers seem to report. It’s not unusual for me to get to Foundation 4 and Reading Rhythm sometime after two full years in lessons. Whether that’s good or bad is another issue. But the fact is that I have hardly ever had parents/students complaining. Occasionally someone will say they’re excited or eager to get to reading, and I just validate their excitement and say me, too. And that’s it. And I do see my students have an easier time overall with reading than what some other teachers seem to report, and I’m sure it’s because of the deeper background they had before starting the reading process.
I really believe that it’s because I’m really convinced of the value of delaying reading that my conversations about the issue are convincing enough and that I therefore end up with very few issues around this topic with parents/students.
Lori N., Utah
I think the Simply Music program actually starts the reading process from the very beginning. A good reader is not just naming notes and finding them on the keyboard. They are looking for patterns, order, repeated motifs, relationship of black and white keys, half steps/whole steps. Also, eye coordination is a big part of being a good reader. Simply Music students learn to have their eyes follow (and lead) along with the hands on the keyboard first. Then they have their first experience at tracking along the page and still connecting to the keyboard when they learn Honey Dew and continue doing accomp pieces. Even the diagrams are an experience in deciphering, comprehending, tracking and transferring to the keyboard, all of which are basic reading skills.
Reading is so much more than knowing the facts. I used to teach group piano in a performing arts high school. I had students who knew the facts of reading inside and out, but couldn’t read and play a simple piece out of their level 1 book. They aced the written tests, but couldn’t play unless they got their fingers on the keys like everyone else. You have to get the physicality of playing down first. Then what you can do physically makes sense visually on the written page.
Knowing the topography of the keyboard is an important step that SM gets down solidly before bringing up the written page.
More and more as I teach Simply Music I am casually pointing out different skills along the way that apply to the reading process. I don’t let it sound like reading is the only important goal, but just mention it in a ‘by the way’ sort of manner.
Patti P., Hawaii
I think these are important points about the importance of the early steps even in F1 to the reading process. Pointing them out casually as we go along will likely reassure some parents who are concerned or questioning the delayed reading. It might also help students and parents realize that there is great value in those early steps, building toward the future.