Working with Various Levels in Class
Has anyone had students in the same class, in the same foundation level, but doing different variations, arrangements, etc? I am just thinking that no matter how equally you relate the information, some students (in the same class) will want something extra. Does anyone do this? If so, how do you actually carry it out in the classroom?
My groups are small – 2 or 3 – and here is what I do. I present an arrangement and explain that everyone does not have to learn the whole thing, but that there will be ingredients that we will be using as we progress. That way, when we get to playing the arrangement in a lesson, everyone would have a turn at the piano, playing whatever ingredient is featured in that arrangement. For instance the Dreams 3 left hand, with the concept that it can be moved around and used for improvising. I would have a private conversation with the parents/students who need more challenge to let them know that I expect the full arrangement from them.
Teaching the arrangements in a group requires lots of thought and flexibility. Some people have all they can do to remember foundation songs, and others are sailing through and needing more.
Sheri R., California
Teach it to everyone but tell those who it might feel like too much homework for the week that for that week it’s optional for them but the one who wants it obviously will be required to work on it. When the others are ready for it the other student teaches it and because the others have been exposed to it previously, however briefly, it will be easier to learn.
This new year I had a set up conversation with all my parents and to the students that everyone is different and a mini-lesson on individuality, “strengths” and “weaknesses.” I drew an analogy about classes at school. I also asked, even though the teacher may instruct the same information, if there are some classmates who are more prepared with their homework, or who study more than others, etc.? Of course, they all answered, yes. I asked them if some students might understand or may be stronger or weaker in certain subjects because of more interest or better understanding, etc. They of course answered, yes. I also asked about different feelings that might come from it. . . If they compared themselves to other students and if they were the “A” student how they might feel. One said, “irritated.” Well you can develop the conversation however you feel best suits your piano students and parents. . .
I was able to relate those scenarios to the piano studio environment. We talked about how some are more diligent and consistent practicing,etc. (They all agreed.) With that as a preface, I communicated to both parents and children that they will be times where I introduce more materials (arrangements, variations) to a couple of students and some may not be assigned or taught the same material in that particular lesson. We talked about how it wouldn’t be fair to give someone who wasn’t quite ready for it if they already overwhelmed with what they already had . . . We talked about how some who might feel ‘bored’ or ready to move on and how they need to more to continue to grow and how that would only be fair to one who worked more on their projects, etc.
It has been interesting because for those who didn’t listen or applied themselves, they felt the “pain” when they realized that their choices actual had a consequence attached to it. This holds them very responsible for their job as a piano student and that their choices do truly have an effect on their outcome and was really up to them.
After the holidays, I like to do a new year’s resolution student evaluation and goal-setting lesson. They took their evaluation home the first lesson of the new year and needed to complete it by the very next lesson. This was explained and discussed in class and was to be done with the parent.
It has worked for me and it has been hard on those who have “slacked’ in their piano, even the emotional ones learn a great lesson and it has only made them want to improve.
Molly B., New Hampshire
This is a great way to address this question. Francis, could you share your evaluation form with us? I have this issue with a group of 5th grade boys. One has significant learning disabilities. He has managed to keep up with the frequent use of the videos. But now with the reading program, he is having great difficulties. The others are having differing levels of success, so each boy is at a different place in the TFMM book. It’s not working very well for me at this time. Any thoughts?