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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Motivating students to learn their note-reading

I got a letter on my desk last week and it really made my day.  It was from a student who thanked me for teaching her how to read notes.  She said in the letter that she had been taking piano lessons for 5 years and had always been struggling with reading notes.  She thanked me for not giving up on her.

Since reading that letter, I have been thinking about what made the difference for this student to begin reading notes.  What did I do that helped her?  I truely believe that the biggest factor is getting students to memorize their notes is convincing them to do it.  Ultimately, students must DECIDE to memorize the notes...I just have to motivate them to do it.

I have a note-reading book that I use and I believe the book teaches students the logic of the staff and how to figure out notes if they come across a note they do not already know.  It is the first step to getting students to read notes...but students need more than a workbook.

From the beginning of the year, I was continuously targeting students who were struggling with note-reading.  We did many exercises and games to encourage memorization.   I also had students make flashcards and pass them off in under one minute.  I taught students exactly HOW to memorize notes using flashcards and let them know that anyone can read notes if they memorize them the way I show them.  Here's how we do it:

Students have a few flashcards to memorize (I like to do 4 at a time).  Students say the note name on the card, AND they must pluck the note on their instrument.  Once students have all of the flashcards on the D and A strings, they must pass them all off by naming and plucking in under one minute.  Students can do this in just one week if they practice their flashcards 5 times per day and I show them that it only takes a short amount of time to practice them.

There are quite a few students to begin in my class with a knowledge of note names because they already play the piano.  These students have a bit of a head start and I use these students to quiz my true beginners.

I also tell my students stories about me learning notes to different instruments in college and how I learned the notes quickly.  I constantly encourage.

We begin class with lots of rote playing.  I don't use much out of the method book for awhile, but to get kids used to reading notes, I like to turn to the first note reading pages.  Even while doing rote activities through most of class, students can spend the last 5 minutes learning and reading ONE note - like open D.  Students need to be introduced to notes slowly, one at a time so that it won't be overwhelming.

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