I teach a lot of young students and we often use music games to reinforce what they are learning (as you may have gathered from my website!). I’ve noticed recently that you can actually tell a lot about a student’s learning style just by playing a game.
Recently, for example, I was helping someone with time signatures and we decided to reinforce what we had learnt with a fun activity.
Once the game had loaded I was fascinated to see that when the instructions flashed up, they immediately clicked through the buttons without even reading what was on the screen! Their philosophy seemed to be, ‘let’s jump right in and we’ll work it out as we go along’.
It actually meant that we had to start the game again because they had no clue what to do!
Thinking about it afterwards, it occurred to me that this was the approach this particular student took to learning a piece of music too. Never mind the key signature or other such matters, if it sounds wrong they’ll deal with it as they go along!
Sometimes this kind of courage or bravery is great and, in fact, I also have students at the other end of the scale who need much more encouragement to start playing. But a bit of planning before starting makes all the difference (and means I don’t have to keep constantly saying ‘F sharps’ or point out any other missed accidentals all the time!)
So how do you help students with this kind of learning style?
I’m sure every teacher has what I call ‘musical doodlers’ who can’t keep their hands off the piano even when you are talking (that’s another story). So sometimes physically moving away from the instrument to have a look at the music first can be very beneficial. This way we can focus on the score without distractions and the temptation to dive straight in.
We can look for patterns and other important things, such as roughly where all the notes are that are affected by the key signature etc. With the younger ones this often involves getting the crayons out and using colour to highlight repeating notes and bars.
Giving students the role of ‘teacher’ is also helpful. I might say, ‘right you be the teacher and tell me what I need to look out for before I start to play’. We may even have a go at an observation game by letting them look at the music for a minute or so, before taking it away. They then have to tell me how many things they can remember about it!
I’d love to hear about your strategies for teaching students with different learning styles.