By, Chris Ellis
A couple of days ago I was researching something online and ran across a very interesting word definition that instantly clarified study as a subject unto itself.
The word was "parse" which means breaking a sentence into its parts and identifying each part's function in a sentence. This led to further study because I am fascinated by such things.
The further study had to do with how sentences are structured and how a person reads and understands them.
This uncovered one very vital fact about learning that made everything crystal clear. That fact is that a person reading, will read and digest, or understand the first part of a sentence and then go on and read and understand the rest of a sentence. This is so automatic that we don't realize we are doing it.
The last part of the sentence builds on the first part which the reader has already read and understood. If the reader does not understand part of the sentence, he will not understand the entire sentence and anything after that is lost.
Think of a worm eating a spaghetti noodle. The worm is you and the spaghetti noodle is the sentence in front of you. The worm eats (reads) the first part, lets it go down and then eats the next part.
If the sentence makes sense, the worm digests the whole thing and goes home happy. If it is not, the worm is subject to a sudden attack of indigestion that makes him barf up the entire sentence and avoid that subject from that point on.
Once the sentence itself has been understood, the reader will read the rest of the text and each sentence should logically build on the prior sentences.
Grammar is important because it sets up language in a way that mirrors our gradient understanding of, first words, then the sentences, and finally paragraphs, chapters and so on. When a sentence is grammatically correct, it makes sense and when it is not, it doesn't. And it stops the reader right there.
Established study technology has shown us that misunderstood words in sentences block us from understanding those sentences and whatever comes after them in the text.
It is easy to see why. Our minds logically progress from one understood concept to another and the concepts build on each other. An education therefore is a foundation of fully understood basic concepts and practical exercises built upon those concepts, followed by more fully understood concepts presented in the correct order and gradient. These principles must be maintained all up the line, even for advanced studies. Without them, at whatever level, learning does not occur. It is that simple.
If any of these concepts are not understood or are introduced in the wrong order, your student can end up butt cheeks over teakettle. (In other words, crashing.)
Basic concepts fully understood and followed in a logical progression, give you your product, an educated and skillful student. *|TWITTER:TWEET[$text=Basic concepts fully understood and followed in a logical progression, give you your product, an educated and skillful student. ]|*
This brings me to music education.
SYMBOLS can also be misunderstood and will cause trouble.
There are several methods of "teaching" music which stress simple mimicry. Unfortunately they plunge the child into a swirl of new symbols and no explanation of what these symbols mean, what their function is, or how they interact and build upon each other.
In effect, you have derailed the kid before he has started.
I have tried to teach several kids who have been introduced to their instrument with these methods and they are extremely difficult to teach. They can mimic but they cannot read music at all and are resistant to learning how to read. And they are resistant to any approach to the subject of music theory.
The idea of having a student learn simply by mimicry is akin to having the child learn to read by talking to him. This skips the entire subjects of phonics and grammar which are vital to understanding what you read.
When teaching a child anything, be alert to these things:
1) Ensure that the teaching method starts in from the very beginning of the subject.
This is tricky because the beginning for you as an adult is not the same as for a child. For example, children have not learned the laws of the physical universe.
Ideas as simple as letting the piano key come up before pressing it again are lost on a child who has not learned how the universe works yet.
The beginning might be a simple explanation of how a piano or violin makes sounds.
The beginning is also different for every child. Find the beginning for the child in front of you and start there.
2) Ensure that you explain each new word or symbol BEFORE your student comes across it.
Have you noticed that when you don't understand something you feel really crappy? How easy is it to then pay attention? Not at all right? Explain the words before the student crashes into them.
3) Be alert to evidence of misunderstanding.
The child may be fidgety, nervous or upset. He may want to leave the lesson. Misunderstanding manifests in many ways. Be alert to any change in the student's behavior and find out what is going on, then handle it.
4) Make sure your student can see the thing that he is studying.
If you are teaching piano, have it right there. He needs to see it in, well, black and white.
5) When checking for understanding, don't just ask "Do you understand this?"
You will get a blank look and a nod of the head. Students have been made to feel stupid too many times to admit that they don't understand something.
Ask your student to tell you what it means in his own words. Whatever he tells you, NEVER make him wrong or feel stupid because he doesn't understand.
Learning is a team effort. You and he are there to get the information across to him.
As an instructor, the last thing YOU want to create is a student who is afraid to admit he doesn't get it. *|TWITTER:TWEET[$text=As an instructor, the last thing YOU want to create is a student who is afraid to admit he doesn't get it. ]|*
6) Look at whether the student can apply what he has learned.
If you teach him something, make sure he can then take the information and use judgment. In short, can he DO it? If he can't there is something about it he doesn't fully get.
Education given to a child with these points fully in is a gift of magnitude.
Your child will not be subject to whims and opinions of others as he will be able to observe for himself and trust his observations. A child who has been taught robotically with no care for actual understanding, thinks and acts robotically in life and that is a huge liability.
Children need to know that they are capable of learning no matter what their intelligence level. They all are capable of learning if they are taught correctly. Contact me if you have trouble.
Additionally please download and use my book "Music Symbols Made Simple, a Parent's Guide to Ensuring that your Child Succeeds in Music." It gives you all you need to set up a firm foundation for your child's future music study. If you want to contact me, click here and write to me. I love hearing from you!