Students moving ahead on videos
Karen T., Illinois
Students deciding to move ahead on the videos is a problem, and in the long run it sabotages their progress. Yes, it is true that if the student continues to sabotage his own learning, even after all of our instructions and reinforcements, it is their fault, not ours. But I believe it is essential that the student knows what is going on very clearly.
If Simply Music isn’t working for someone, they need to be crystal clear about the fact that it is because they are not willing to receive the instructions and perform them properly. That will avoid anyone being able to say with any truthfulness that they tried Simply Music and it didn’t work. Because that is just not true. Simply Music does work. It is the student’s diversions from the set program that are causing error.
If I have a student quit, I want it to be clear in their own mind that they quit because they were not willing to learn at my pace (or willing to practice, or whatever the issue is). And if the student continues to divert from the program, and stay in lessons, they will continue to hear from me about it.
I can be so sweet, and smiling, and nice, and all the while just send them right back out the door if they haven’t practiced. Or very kindly ignore the fact that they have learned from the video ahead of my instructions. I will proceed as if they know nothing, but I’m very kind about it. They will either have to change their ways, or quit lessons, and if they quit lessons I want to make very sure they are not blaming me for it.
If you compromise the lesson, you have compromised the integrity of the entire international SM program. Not being hard on anyone here, I just see the absolute importance of the bigger picture.
Anneka S., Australia
I guess I follow three steps:
- Big grin, confirm their enthusiasm and commitment. “I love it when people really get carried away with this program. Isn’t it great. Wow, I’m really impressed with the energy with which you have taken this on.” In my groups I ask if anyone else has been working ahead as well.
- I sometimes joke that it’s really great to work ahead because everybody else will think they’re really clever to get it so quick… Then I remind them that they can’t, for all the reasons that I have outlined before; people will miss out on learning strategies, they won’t have strong foundations, they’ll be bored in class, they’ll forget fast, they intimidate the others. I remind them of the curriculum overview in which they agreed to follow my instructions. I elicit a promise that they won’t work ahead from the video, as Ginny does.
- Then I tell them what they can do with all their spare enthusiasm; here it is:
- Firstly, there’s playing their pieces with real rhythm and expression (loud, soft, space, lingering, emphasis, pedal, etc.)
- There’s the Dreams Arrangements.
- There’s the humpty dumpty variation of playing the Jackson Blues left hand (CG, CG, CA, CA) with a humpty dumpty rhythm.
- There’s syncopation (and 1, 2, 3, 4).
- There’s the Honey Dew – Dreams duet with the HD chords in the LH and the Dreams melody in the RH.
- Soon there’s the blues scale that you can give the whole group fairly early on. Whereas less eager people can take quite a while to just tack that to the end of Jackson Blues, or to play it as a duet, the keen can try playing it over the JB left hand already.
- With Honey Dew or Amazing Grace I invite people to “figure out” the melody in the RH and play the chords underneath. Once they got that you can also break those chords up…
- You can also invite them to make up their own improvisations or melodies over the Night Storm LH.
But best of all I find is inviting people that want more to come up with their own compositions, or arrangements of existing pieces (figuring out the RH and putting chords or notes underneath it in the LH). This is a lovely thing to encourage with your students anyway.
Lastly, with my groups, if people are really advanced (commonly because they had prior experience) with careful management, I let them join a more advanced level simultaneously, with which they eventually catch up.
Kevin M., California
Firstly, I do not condone students going ahead on the video to learn songs on their own. The videos were specifically designed and edited to be used by the student in conjunction with learning with a teacher. The lessons the students attend with the teacher provides so many different levels of learning, strategies, and many foundational aspects of Simply Music. These are needed not only for future songs and lessons, but also to help the student use the video as a guide to review what they need to do at home, at their own pace, to play the song and prepare for their next lesson.
Having said that, since I have taught this method since its inception, I know how valuable a tool the video is not only for the student, but for the teacher as well. I need to ensure that my students are able to learn from the video. So one of things I do, when teaching Night Storm for example, is to teach the most of the song, but leave out the LH Tailpiece (where the thumb stretches up to F# then drops a half a step at a time, along with the language ‘together, alone together alone together’). I let the student know that I have let part of the LH out on purpose, and ask them while watching the video, to pay special attention to 1.2.6. I ask them to do exactly what the video says, and say to them that if Neil gives verbal instructions, to make sure to use those and be prepared to say them aloud, in front of me, next week while playing the song. If my student comes back with the Tailpiece learned correctly, I know I am off to a good start and that this student is using the SHMs correctly.
If the Tailpiece is not correct, I know I need to go over how the student and/or parent watched the video, then coach them on how to be more successful. I will ask the student to show me EXACTLY HOW they watched 1.2.6. Once it’s clear that they 1., either didn’t watch the video or 2., did not pause after each event, or 3., didn’t have the video and piano and/or Practice Pad in line with their video (or whatever else the issue was), I will then work with them until I am sure they are clear on how to use the SHMs and are confident in their ability to learn from the video.
I will periodically test my students with other songs in the same or other levels to ensure we are on track. I absolutely do not advocate a student learning a song completely on their own, from the video. Obviously, if they learn it incorrectly, it takes so much more to erase the mistakes and, as I said earlier, these videos were specifically designed to be used in conjunction with a teacher.
As a side note, the Learn-at-Home program has been edited and designed for the student who doesn’t yet have a teacher in their area and, as such, it has much more ‘self-instruction’ type of information.