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Practice Tips: Extra-ordinary Practice!


PRACTICE TIP:  Extra-ordinary Practice!

from Sarah Montzka, Suzuki Violin and Viola Faculty;
Associate Director, Barston Suzuki Center

As parents and teachers, we understand the undeniable and lasting brain benefits that come from long term study of a musical instrument. In a Suzuki program, character development is an added priority in our work. So how do we stick with it and remain committed to the process when faced with a grumpy young practice partner?


Step One: Recognize and reframe a mid-semester “slump” as an opportunity for growth; an opportunity to develop crucial traits like perseverance, grit and follow-through.


Step Two: Understand that your child’s behavior is perfectly normal. Children are inherently drawn to “new” and that’s okay.


“Novelty Theory argues that children’s behavior during an activity is initially determined by the degree of novelty inherent in that activity. As novelty diminishes, children habituate to or become bored with a particular activity, and their concentration on that activity wanes; unless prevented, they will eventually seek novelty by switching to another activity.” (School Recess and Playground Behavior: Educational and Developmental Roles by Anthony D. Pellegrini)


Step Three: Think creatively and use variation to your advantage.


Our challenge, as practice partners, is to prevent our daily practices from becoming mundane while still diligently preparing the homework—-yes, including those endless repetitions. Your mission is to bring something new to each practice session. The content will likely remain the same, however, the delivery methods are endless.


Imagine your teacher has asked you to sing a piece every day. The goals (correct notes, in tune, steady rhythm) remain the same each day. The way you sing it, though, can vary.


Monday:            Sing it in a cowboy voice

Tuesday:           Opera style!

Wednesday:     Sing it pianissimo

Thursday:         Sing while marching

Friday:              Sing like a chipmunk

Saturday:         Sing it while holding your child upside down

Sunday:            Pass a bean bag to the beat while you sing


Ten repetitions to tackle? Set aside a goldfish cracker for each successful repetition and then eat them together. Count pennies, use stairs, count in different languages, make a silly face after each attempt, go on tour and “perform” each repetition for a different piece of furniture in your house. . .
the possibilities are infinite!


This month, I challenge parents to design practice sessions using new, creative and varied ways of exploring weekly content. Set aside some time to plan your upcoming practices and ask yourself how you can best harness your child’s natural love of new experiences. By incorporating variation and “the unexpected” into your practice sessions, my hope is that you will experience moments of joy and partnership.


Happy Practicing!


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