VARK

Music Teacher Freebies

One of the wonderful things about the Internet is that I have been able to learn and use free music teaching resources developed by fellow music teachers all over the world. Now, it's my turn to start sharing some music teacher freebies.

Teaching Music Using VARK Learning Preferences

Each person's learning style is unique. Music teachers can teach more effectively with a basic understanding of VARK learning preferences and teaching strategies.

On Memorizing Music

Often, a piece of music becomes memorized after practicing it many times. However, for a piece to be truly memorized, musicians should incorporate more than one type of memorization. This is a great article on the different types of memory that music students can use, called "Music Memorization". Yes, it's similar to the VARK Learning Styles. Harmonic or analytical memory stems from read/write learning.

(c) 2011 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB. All rights reserved.

A New School Year to Try out New Ideas in the Music Studio

Summer flew by far more quickly than anticipated. All of my plans to learn new repertoire, reorganize my home and just relax were replaced with...busy-ness. Now, we're in the beginnings of another year of music teaching. Last week was intense as I was burning the midnight oil to make all sorts of cool handouts for my music students.

After having my students take the VARK Learning Preferences questionnaire last year, I discovered that my students fall under three general categories:

  1. Visual (mostly in combination, Visual-Aural or Visual-Kinesthetic)
  2. Aural-Kinesthetic
  3. Read/Write

Most admitted on their registration forms for this year that music theory and piano technique were their least favorite music subjects. I bore that in mind with this year's handouts.

This year, I incorporated more charts and diagrams (V). I was respectful of white space (V) and included succinct examples (K) and explanations (R). These were followed up by visual demonstrations (V) with the student copying me. My aural students and I discussed various sounds, my kinesthetic students and I discussed how our arms and hands should feel.

Feedbackhas been extremely positive so far. "It's easier" is the most frequent comment.

The trick is that I need to teach music theory and piano technique differently from how I was taught. I was taught written theory first. My students need hands-on, keyboard theory first. It's more fun this way.

(c) 2010 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

Learning Style Modalities & Music

At this year's CASSA Piano Pedagogy Workshop, there was a session on learning style modalities. I was quite excited about this session as it is an area I've been curious about ever since my science fair days in junior high. What I particularly enjoyed was that the presenter, Victoria Chow, B. Mus. Westminster Choir College at Rider University, spoke specifically about teaching tools and strategies to use when teaching. She spoke about three out of the four VARK modalities:

  • Visual: learn by look, easily distracted by movements
  • Aural/Auditory: learn by sound, easily distracted by noises
  • Kinesthetic: learn by feel, distracted by....themselves

The fourth, for those who are curious, is read/write (or tactile). Everyone has the ability to learn through any combination of these modalities. However, we all have one or two that we are strongest in.

Some of the music teaching suggestions Victoria gave are:

  • Visual Learners: music theory/analysis, demonstration, handouts
  • Aural: singing the tune, assigning moods to sounds, listening to recordings of performances, lessons, practices
  • Kinesthetic: theory/analysis, blocking chords, rote teaching, touch

At first, I thought I was a Visual-Kinesthetic learner but after taking the VARK questionnaire, discovered I am a tactile-kinesthetic learner. That explains why I was weakest in sight reading and ear training growing up (I have improved since I began teaching). It undoubtedly explains why I've been most challenged by my students who are strongest in auditory learning AND very weak in my strongest modalities.

Since the workshop, I've been playing closer attention to my students as they play something old and something new. I've also been paying closer attention to what they're focusing on while I'm talking. I have a good split of tactile-kinesthetic and kinesthetic-auditory learners in my studio. Next would be visual-kinasthetic. And then there's my handful of pure auditory learners.

This year, I'm singing more to my students (and still coaxing them to sing too), demonstrating and having them mimic me and doing more "on the spot" recordings and playbacks to my auditory learners (my digital recorder is great for this). I'm finding that I'm relying on Solfège a bit more to cater to this group.

I've been putting greater emphasis on sight-reading this term to build up all my students' visual learning, talking about patterns and reading intervallicly. With all students, I keep drawing everything back to "sound, look and feel" and then having the students jot down whatever notes they need to help remember. I've even adjusted how I write in their assignment binders for the tactile learners, listing specific ways to fix a trouble spot.

All in all, it's been extremely helpful. Although, I'm stumped as to why my some of my auditory learners are reluctant to bring a memory stick (to copy their lesson recording from my computer) or recording device to their lessons.

(c) 2008 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada.