learning styles

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.

Music Group Class Round 1 Reflections

Well, students and teachers of Musespeak Studio and To the Wind Studio have survived the first round of music group classes with this new format.  I learned three main lessons:

  1. I have gotten too complacent as far as teacher-student communications go. My students, their parents and I have an established rapport. I'm starting virtually from scratch with my brother's students. Sure, we've chatted at recitals, but a five-minute chat and teaching in 90-minute stretches are two totally different things.
  2. It is important to over-plan and have several back-up activities up your sleeve. My pacing for one of the group classes was perfect. One was all right but could use a few more activities, while the other - well we raced through my lesson plan and I wound up flying by the seat of my pants for a very long time. I have Divine inspiration to thank for the "Let's Make Up a Story with Sound" exercise that I did with yesterday's students when improvising. 
  3. When teaching at another studio, have a studio contact list on hand in case you need to contact a parent in the case of an emergency or behavioural issue. 

Overall, it was a positive experience. I've learned which students I need to be firm with and which ones I can recruit to take more of a mentoring role with the junior students.

I enjoyed teaching four lovely girls basic conducting gestures and beat patterns.  They giggled a lot and had a great rapport with each other.  

The "Get into The Groove" class challenged me the most. I will need to plan more rhythm exercises, especially ones where they split off into smaller groups. As for the stubborn ones - let's just say that I'm just as good, if not better at digging in my heels. "The Art of Practicing" also wound up being a great group of music students who were very engaged. In discussing how to practice music, we discussed stretching as well as their learning styles and practicing challenges (e.g. "When I Don't Feel Like Practicing"). The conversation also lead to areas I had not thought of incorporating into my presentation - and they should be. Thanks to them, talking about how to practice when injured and speed learning will be incorporated into my presentation. I look forward to the next round of music group classes.

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.