Fun Games for Practice

Having Fun with Practice

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In the video tutorial about the Afternoon Session, Phianne and John talk about a couple of games that help students learn a segment of a new piece or particular playing skill. The purpose of these games is to make the repetitions interesting. This is very easy to do with very young students, but you’ll soon discover that most games only last for a few days, a week at best, although it can be revisited later or be recreated in a different form.

In the studio we created dozens, perhaps hundreds of simple games and their variations to make repetition easy and fun, leading to more secure learning, typically with lots of laughter. Many of them used little objects or props that were close at hand. Adding humour to the games made them enjoyable for everyone and parents soon got the idea about how to do it at home.

The important strategy is to steer the practice session away from becoming too serious. Automatically it seems, we can easily fall into telling children what to do, setting up resistance and a little battle of wills. We know because we’ve been there too. Both extremes – bossiness or absence of direction are part of the same paradigm. It’s not that real work and effort isn’t required at various times, yet if our focus is on creating an enjoyable habit of learning and practice, a real love of music making is much more likely to develop.

As we discuss in the video tutorials, the best approach is for parents to join in the game, working together, even if it sometimes requires a bit of play acting.

Here’s some suitable games from the post, Games for the Violin Studio modified a little to suit the afternoon session.

Steps to Success

We had a carpet in our studio with large squares, but a series of stepping stones – cardboard or paper – make a great prop for repetition-type games. In the simplest and easiest version, the student stands in the first square and plays the skill or excerpt we are working on three times in a row.

If they are all correct, you can say, “Very good, go on to the next square.”

If there’s a mistake, say with friendly chuckle, “Uh-oh, stay there.”

In this way the student progresses through to the final square.

Try to work out the right number of repetitions to suit the student and situation. To make real progress, the repeated skill or excerpt must be a good balance of difficulty and achievability. Start out with easier skills to create success.

stepping stones

Make sure you and the student agree on the the required standard beforehand, even getting them to test out a few beforehand. It really has to be perfect, so repetitions need to be played slowly.

Children have an acute sense of what is good and correct, so it’s vital to involve them in the decision to advance or not, by sometimes asking, “What do you think?” improving their ability to self-correct.

Depending on age, level and personality, you can vary the game and add to the challenge during the game in several ways:

  • Increasing the number of repetitions required to advance to the next step;
  • Stepping backwards to a previous square for mistakes;
  • Going back to the very beginning for a mistake – the ‘big kids’ version.

Hidden Treasures

For a very young beginner who is just learning to concentrate, this treasure game helps to get things going. Set up beforehand by placing little treasures under a row of cups. We have a plentiful supply on hand – crystals, coloured stones, marbles, glass figures, fancy beads etc.

treasure

If the student is learning the Twinkle rhythms, you can set out one cup for each rhythm. Then decide how many times they must play the rhythm – correctly, of course – before they are allowed to reveal the treasure. At the end of the lesson, the treasures go back in the box for next time. Simple, but engaging for very young students.

Pickup Sticks

These are a great prop that can be used in lots of different ways. In one game we assigned a colour to each one of the Twinkle rhythms, setting out little bunches of sticks with the same colour.

As the student plays the rhythm repetitions, they place the sticks back in the box. This simple game worked beautifully for a two year old student for half an hour each week and at home for several months!

pickup sticks

 

 

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