Assigning Work Over Breaks

Posted by: kathy

Assigning Work Over Breaks - 07/25/00 08:05 AM

I've always taught year-round other than a couple weeks off at Christmas, when I told the students to just have fun at the piano playing the Christmas songs they had learned, as well as keeping up with technical exercises and scales. In the coming year, I have more breaks scheduled, ie 3 weeks off around the start of school, 4 weeks off at the end of school, and a couple other breaks here and there. What instructions do you give your students to avoid slipping backwards in their skills during breaks?
Posted by: Renelle Ramirez

Re: Assigning Work Over Breaks - 07/25/00 09:57 AM

If it's a short break (1 week), I think you could assign some songs for sight-reading (a much-neglected area of piano study, IMHO). That way, the student has something to work on but does not have the pressure of having to "practice 'til perfect." I figure most students aren't going to practice much during a break anyway, so why fight it?

For longer breaks, I'm not sure. I've always taught year 'round, but this year I'm going to a teaching year with frequent breaks, as you have described. I need some ideas, too!
Posted by: Arlene Steffen

Re: Assigning Work Over Breaks - 07/25/00 11:00 AM

When I was directing a preparatory department in Indiana, we didn't offer summer lessons. We provided summer assignments to our students that were loosely structured so that kids still had something to do but weren't tied down to daily practice if they couldn't manage it.

We chose two fun books for each class. The books were just below the level of their current work. We outlined the assignment for a regular warm-up routine and then the rest of it was laid out by month, i.e. in the month of June, learn these four pieces, month of July, learn these three, etc. We provided a place for them to list their favorites, which they would play for their first lesson in the fall.

This system seemed to work pretty well. It was flexible and everyone did SOMETHING. They may not have learned every piece on the assignment, but at least they went to the piano.

For my classes, I often assigned a sight reading book as well and then incorporated it again in the fall.
Posted by: Scherzo

Re: Assigning Work Over Breaks - 07/25/00 12:44 PM

I have a question. When students don't take lessons during the summer, & take frequent breaks during the school year as well, how long does it take them to complete a level of study? Some students do the least amount of practice that they can possibly get away with anyway, so I'm thinking that progress would be awfully slow.
Posted by: Gretchen

Re: Assigning Work Over Breaks - 07/25/00 12:58 PM

I have found my non summer students really fall behind. For some (esp. those who haven't even touched the piano all summer) it may take a few months of review just to pick up where we left off. I always stress to the parents that piano study at the early levels is NOT like riding a bike. You don't just hop on and go after a not riding a while.
Posted by: Lisa Kalmar

Re: Assigning Work Over Breaks - 07/25/00 01:38 PM

I always give them a new book they're interested in, slightly under their current ability level, the lesson before their final lesson and assign whatever they want out of it. I spend the last lesson answering questions and playing new pieces for them (to whet their appetite for learning.) Then I ask them to choose 2 or 3 to learn over the break and admonish them to take off several weeks from practice. I've never really experienced any significant backsliding since putting them in charge of what they play, other than the occasional goofball. I usually use the Faber or Dan Coates library btw.
Posted by: Arlene Steffen

Re: Assigning Work Over Breaks - 07/25/00 01:41 PM

I insist that students who are finishing their first school year of study take lessons during the summer. They are the ones who stand to lose the most ground. The others usually take lessons, even if only once a month.

If they don't take lessons, yes, the progress is slower. But that's the risk THEY take and I make sure they know it before they make their decision.
Posted by: Marie

Re: Assigning Work Over Breaks - 07/25/00 01:50 PM

Arlene - thank you! I hadn't replied yet because I've never taken a break! Next summer I'm debating whether to teach every other week or only 2 months out of the 3 summer months. Either way I needed ideas on how to keep students on track without continuous supervision. Good ideas!
Posted by: Renelle Ramirez

Re: Assigning Work Over Breaks - 07/25/00 03:12 PM

Parents should DEFINITELY be made aware of what happens when their kids take breaks from piano study, especially when they decide to take the entire summer off. I decided to charge more for lessons during the 9-month teaching year & offer "free" summer lessons to those who honor my studio policies. I don't know how that will work, but I'm hoping that some people will take advantage of it.