Modelling the Learning

This week we have been thinking about how we start our lessons. The beginning of our lessons set the tone for what's to come, perhaps introducing a concept, or recapping on last lesson's piece, and it should almost always begin with music, as is supported by the sound before symbol approach.

But today I want to discuss something that I think is absolutely crucial for the group set-up. And that is teacher modelling (sp. different in the US, I know!!).

So why should we model the learning?

It is not enough to verbally explain what the task for the lesson is, even playing a recorded track of the piece doesn't suffice (although I am definitely getting excited about adding backing tracks to the KeyNotes program, but I absolutely wouldn't want them to replace a teacher's live performing).

Successful modelling of the task is crucial for learners' access to the learning objectives and ability to use their independent learning skills once they are at the keyboards/pianos. You are giving them the tools to be able to achieve to their potential with regards to the piece they are learning and learning points that come with that piece (using a certain articulation for example).

Students are always inspired when they hear the piece live and are keen to get learning!

All different learner styles will be able to access a teacher-modelling session. Visual learners will see your hands and the notes on the page, auditory learners will hear the piece and your instructions, and kinaesthetic learners will enjoy singing and even having a go with you at the piano.

This is where you are giving your instructions and explaining the task and there is honestly no better way than through the music itself.

So what do I mean by modelling and what do the success criteria look like when it's as impactful as it should be?

When I model the learning I like to call it my "Maria Von Trapp" moment - I am sitting at the piano, the children are all standing around me, often singing, always listening, and occasionally joining in!

I play through the piece that we are to learn, ensuring that I include the following:

- a play-through/sing of the piece at which point the children are listening and looking at the music.

- singing along to my playing.

- taking them through the different challenges. I play all the different difficulty levels that they might get to - this is really important so that they know that there is somewhere to go with the piece and makes sure they are focused once they get to the keyboard.

- going through things that may go wrong! So through my experience of teaching my workbooks many times over, I know exactly where and what the common mistakes are! I am therefore able to pre-empt them and ensure students are paying extra close attention to those areas.

Modelling pieces we are learning is important, but modelling a composition task is even more essential! We may think that we can simply instruct our students to compose a piece about the woods (for example!), but we really must do the actual composition ourselves in front of the children. Sportscasting on exactly what decisions we are making, how we are trying to make our music sound, what impact we are trying to have. I also get students involved in my decisions - "Do you think the music should be high or low for when the butterfly comes in?" I go through the musical elements (pitch, tempo, dynamics, texture, structure etc) but I also take them through how to make effective melodies that can be sung back and sound tuneful! I even talk to them about ending on the home note (often a C) and how that sounds like a full stop! Without all this guidance their own attempt at composing would look very different.

There are plenty of videos of my "Maria Von Trapp" moments in my Facebook group. If you are not yet a part of this free group (which also contains lots of training), do join here: Group Piano Pioneers

Bye for now, Melanie x

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