Teacher’s Corner: by Adam Cicchillitti

Having fun in the classroom!

Though most of you intrinsically understand the importance of having fun during the music lesson, there are often moments of frustration that creep into our student’s practice when the student faces a difficult teaching point. Ensuring that the student effectively understands a teaching point, demonstrates his/her understanding through several repetitions in front of the parent and teacher and finally is able to correctly integrate the teaching point into home practice is paramount to the child’s musical evolution.

The responsibility of motivating the child to persevere during these crucial moments in early learning lies with the teacher and parent. Most of us understand this instinctively but many lack the tools to keep the children engaged when faced with critical teaching points that must be repeated several times when the child becomes bored or distracted. In my experience the two most effective methods of getting kids to retain the lesson in their short and long-term memories is for them to have fun and to integrate movement into the lesson.

Usually a child’s body language can help you determine their level of engagement. Maybe they’re looking at the clock often or drooping their shoulders. Sometimes when a child is faced with a difficult task the simplest thing to do is get them to stand up and “shake it off”. Often I get up and demonstrate this shaking motion do the kids don’t feel silly, but often they’re excited to do it. Other times, I get them to stand up with their instruments and walk around with good posture, ensuring they don’t hit their guitars on anything. Moreover, I get my students to emulate their concert performances by walking “on-stage” and “off-stage”, making sure they bow before and after they play. You’ll see that just a little extra physical movement during a lesson can go a long way!

When I travelled to Pittsburgh and had the privilege of working with Suzuki teacher-trainers William Kossler and Mir Ali, I observed teachers who had a lifetime of working with children and who were able to convey a deep enthusiasm for learning the guitar. Kossler showed up to every lesson with a binder full of stickers and toys appropriate for every song and situation while the parents sat in the class and took notes. The kids were beyond attentive, in fact they were totally absorbed in the world that Kossler had created and in the challenges he laid before them.

Here are some ways that I like to have fun with the kids:

Challenge games – get a barrel of monkeys and every time the child does several successful repetitions he/she can go fish with their monkeys to make a longer chain. Watch out! If one of their monkeys fall of the chain when they fish, they have to start over.

-Using a jenga game, every time your child misses a challenge you can remove a block from the tower! Make sure the challenges aren’t too difficult. Great for concentration and memory.

-Hide an object in a room when your student is out of the class. When the child comes back in the class, begin playing Suzuki tunes softly if the child is far from the object and loud if he or she is close. This is always a favourite.

These are just a few examples. There are literally thousands of music games and you can even invent your own. Playing games and having fun will make a world of difference in the retention of the music lesson and the motivation to practice teaching points at home. Remember to choose a specific focus every week and don’t try to do everything at once!