Teaching Patterns and using my new bench
Samali D., Western Australia
Hello dear teachers,
Recently I have been experimenting with my shared lessons (of 2-3 students). I wanted to share some of my findings. I have been asking students to grasp the patterns behind pieces away from the piano. I ask them to buddy up with their parents and/or each other and I have been unfolding the patterns and getting them to process the patterns on the practice pads I have in my studio (I have 2 mounted on wood – this forces them to share and work in small groups with their parents). I use the process that is a necessity for group lessons.
I have found that learning the patterns initially by cutting out the sound sense very effective for the students. The students seem to understand/see the patterns more clearly this way therefore enabling them to have a very self-affirming result when they come to the piano to eventually play it.
When I choose to do this I am also enabling the parents with an opportunity to grasp the pattern and interact and participate in their child’s learning and in the lesson too. This generates a wonderful energy in the in the room. It provides the parents with a sense of purpose in the lesson. They are also more aware of what is required of their child during the week. Everybody wins!
When I unfolded patterns for 2-3 kids at the piano the parents don’t always stand behind us and are not as able to follow the progress of the lesson. Their participation is more limited and therefore their ability to understand the process their child experiences is compromised. When parents are asked and encouraged to be involved though they respond with great enthusiasm. They feel like an ally in the process of learning. The purpose of a parent attending the lesson changes dramatically.
When I unfold the pattern I do it first with my hands above my head just into my fingers and then later I place my hands on a paper keyboard (held by magnets onto the white-board) so that they can progress to the next step of where their fingers belong on the keyboard and eventually moving to the piano where they get the thrill of actually hearing the sound/story/symptom of the pattern. This is done either by round-robin or demonstration (by me or an individual student).
Sometimes I work from the piano and at other times when I feel that the students would benefit from it I ask the students to move closer to their parents and we process in the way outlined above. It is just another teaching tool that I use more and more these days. The shared lesson environment is unique in that it allows for both approaches. The freedom of choice is great for me as a teacher.
I recently bought a wonderful (backless) stool to replace the chair I used to sit on. It is able to rotate 360 degrees and has wheels at the bottom I sit on the left-hand side of my student and this stool enables me to get right in there next to them for when I am controlling the events. It makes me feel like a dentist! It is also easy to move out the way when the students, as a group (with their parents), come up to the keyboard for a demo.
The white board stands to the left of the stool. When I want to demonstrate on the keypad (held by 3 small magnets to the whiteboard), I just turn and wheel the stool in one swift and easy movement to the white board. This enables me to demonstrate on the keypad while seated on the stool (arms outstretched)! It is very comfortable and the students and parents have commented on how clear it is for them. I have a small sticker on middle-c (like I do on the students’ keypads too) to make it easier for them to follow my instructions.
The bench has a black leather seat and it looks fabulous next to my black piano. It is a welcome addition to my studio furniture.