3 Winter Break Practice Ideas

3 Winter Break Practice Ideas

In many studios, there is a week or two around the holidays with no formal lessons. It is always discouraging to come back at the start of the year and feel like progress has been lost and we have to spend a few weeks catching back up to where we were again after winter break. Don’t let this happen to you!

In an ideal world you can see this break from lessons as a time to share music with visiting family members, listen (and maybe even practice) more with the break from school and many activities, and a chance to have extra time to make progress on material you have been working on with lessons.

Sometimes a little extra motivation to get the instrument out daily is really helpful. The following ideas are geared to those who need a little extra motivation or dose of fun during these weeks off from classes.

3 Fun Practice Ideas for Winter Break:

1. Paper Chain Practice

There have been a few years when I handed out colorful strips of paper to students to take home over the break. Each day of practice they would add one link to the chain. Then everyone brought their paper chains to hang in the studio in January.

You can do your own version of this at home and even keep the paper chain going through the month of January!

2. Review or Listening Project

Winter break can be a great time to make the skills we already have easier. It’s a great time to make sure your review pieces are all easy without having to juggle new assignments from the teacher.

Make a goal to play each review song a certain number of times over the break. Make it a goal to watch youtube videos of 10 great performers on your instrument.

Choose some ideas for review from this list of 20 ways to review your pieces.

3. Winter Break Bingo

This is something I have done the last couple winter breaks. The bingo squares are a mix of listening activities, informal performances, and ways to practice specific assignments.

I have a few versions to address different ability & skill levels.

The Beginner version includes things like: have a 100% happy practice, make 10 bow holds, watch a video of Rachel Barton Pine playing Happy Birthday on Youtube. 

Make a goal with your students, or your own children, about how many Bingos you want to get over break. Two, Three, Blackout? This may depend on your travel schedule and other factors but, I have found almost everyone can get one bingo and it keeps them thinking about their music over the weeks off.

You can download my bingo cards or use a blank template to make your own.

When I first started doing this the squares were hand written and over time I have typed them up to look more professional.

I love hearing the fun and creative ways students have been able to do the activities over break. I have also gotten thank you’s from parents because this activity has made it easier to motivate their young child over the break.

Here is one place you can download your own blank bingo card to start building your own ideas: BlankBingo (1)

You can also get a copy of the bingo cards I am using this year sent to your email by requesting it here >> Suzuki Triangle Bingo Cards 

That gives you a few ideas of how you might keep practice going over the winter break. I would love to hear what your family or studio does in the comments below.

For some additional ideas about practice during this busy time of year you can read the article 5 Creative Ways to Keep Practice Going During December

Rules for the Practice Room

Practice is a daily activity for musicians and music students everywhere.

Practice Rules

What spoken and unspoken rules for practice do you have in place to make sure it goes smoothly at your house?

Thanks to readers in the Suzuki Triangle Community for sharing your ideas and helping this list take shape! See which rule didn’t make the cut at the end of the list!

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5 Creative Ways to Keep Practice Going During December

Keeping Practice Going during December

This is the time of year when it’s easy to get focused on the new year coming up.

We tend to take stock of the year: What were our goals this year? What did we accomplish? What are our goals for the coming year?

It’s a process I love and encourage you to try.

But today I want to talk about something else.

Something that we can lose sight of in the shuffle of all the holidays and all the reflecting we do this time of year.

There are still 33 days left of this year at the time I am writing this article. That’s just over 9% of the year that’s still left.

33 days is plenty of time to: improve a skill, complete a month long practice challenge, or prepare for an upcoming performance. There is still time to make real progress before the year is over and finding a fun way to keep momentum going is really important during this busy time of year.

It’s too early to throw in the towel and decide we’ve accomplished all that we’re going to this year.

With that in mind: here are five creative ways to keep practice momentum going and make the most of the 33 days left in the year:

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Advent calendar Practice Reward:

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20 Important Concepts Parents Learn in Suzuki ECE

Concepts Parents learn in Suzuki

Last week’s article was all about skills that young children learn in Suzuki ECE classes (Read it here). It created lots of discussion about what parents also learn over the course of attending classes with their children. So, today we’re talking all about the benefit of SECE classes for parents!

When parents ask what the best thing for them to do to get their young child ready for lessons is, I always recommend these classes to them – they really are the best way to prepare for the instrumental studio.

And that’s not only true for the students.

SECE is also the best way to prepare as a parent for your child to begin music lessons.

It can’t go without being said that SECE classes develop so much more than music readiness skills, as you’ll see from the points below.

As Suzuki taught us “Charactor first, ability second” and that is reflected in all we do in classes each week.

We are developing musical skills, language skills, and small motor skills (to name a few) but even more so, we are developing wonderful people with empathy, sensitivity, and the ability to treat people and instruments in class with care.

That parents in class develop the concepts below, is both a natural consequence of the class, and also something we quite deliberately work to help develop as teachers. Parents start to discover these concepts through the things we say as teachers, careful observation of their child through our example, and through the journaling process at the end of each class.

SECE really is an amazing source of development for children and for us, as their parents.

Here are 20 important concepts that parents learn in SECE Classes:

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20 Skills Developed Through Suzuki ECE

20 Skills Developed through Suzuki ECE

The longer I teach Suzuki ECE classes the more amazed I am by all that children ages 0-3 (and their parents) are learning from week to week.

There are so many amazing moments of seeing a children grasp a new concepts during each class!  Below are some of the most striking examples of skills children are developing in SECE classes. You can read them below and also I’ve made a word art printable of them that you can get by email HERE.

 

The ability to keep a steady beat

Pre-Literacy Skills

Counting

Social Skills

Ability to focus & concentrate

Musical Timing

Turn taking

Pitch

Awareness of the musical scale

Creativity

Interacting and cooperating with a teacher

Bonding with parent/Caregiver through working together in class

Sharing with classmates

Sensitivity

Beginning Group/ensemble skills

Vocabulary & language skills

Confidence

Singing on pitch

Crossing the mid-line of the body

Fine motor control

Suzuki ECE

Special Note:

Sometimes people think that all ECE classes are the same. After teaching others I disagree . . . you can read my article about what makes Suzuki ECE unique HERE.

I think that others have the perception that  SECE classes are just a lot of singing and tapping a steady beat, and wonder if teacher training is needed to really teach the class well.

As Suzuki instrumental teachers we tend to bristle when people say they are Suzuki teachers and also: “I use the books but have never taken any training.” If this is you, please don’t be offended, but it’s just that Suzuki teacher training is about so so much more than the music in the books.

In the same way, SECE is so much more than a list of activities done in class each week. Trained SECE teachers use these activities in a complex way that weaves together their in-depth knowledge of: child development, musical development, parent education strategies, and activities to develop social-linguistic skills.

To watch a class in action is wonderful and as someone who had a degree in Early Childhood Education, and years of teaching experience (both instrumental and in other ECE music programs) when I watched my first SECE class,  I knew right away that this class had something way beyond what I had seen or experienced before in classes like it.

I can’t recommend getting training enough. And, if you’re a parent I can’t recommend finding and joining a Suzuki ECE class enough if there is one in your area.

I’d love to hear in the comments what you would add to my list of skills above and if you’d like to download a printable PDF of the word art used in this post you can do so here:

The Impact of Music from Birth [A SECE Parent Interview]

Parent Interview Music from Birth

Teaching Suzuki Early Childhood Education (or SECE) classes is truly one of the highlights of my week. The development in the children we work with happens literally before our eyes and there’s no doubt that music is having a wonderfully positive impact on both the  students and families.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a parent in a SECE class? How young is too young to start attending? What might your child get out of Suzuki ECE that sets it apart from other programs?

I am excited today to share an interview with a parent in our SECE program who started attending classes with her daughter when she was just 7 weeks old.

At the time of this interview, Summer is just over two years old. I was excited to ask Heather, her mom, about their experience in the program, how it has impacted Summer over these past two years and why SECE is still an important part of their lives two years later.

Enjoy!

Christine: What interested you in signing Summer up for the Suzuki ECE class at such a young age? 

Heather:  At around a month old, Summer could be quite fussy and I noticed when we would go out around others it seemed to help comfort her.  We went to a musical instrument themed play date at a friend’s house and after Summer cried for twenty minutes solid in the car, the door to the house opened and a clear triangle sounded out.  Summer stopped crying and was interested and content as she listened to the other simple instruments.

On our first day of Suzuki ECE class, Summer was 7 weeks old.  She heard the instruments and quietly listened and took it all in.

I could tell each week that she had a lot to think about from class.  She was unable to stay awake the entire class time or needed feeding intermittently but we could step out or sit to the side of the room while she napped.

It’s truly amazing to me that it didn’t matter what her mood was like earlier in the day or in the car, when class started she listened and thought. As she got older, she became more aware of and interested in her classmates too. Read more

Enter to Win 3 Books of Martha Yasuda Arrangements

Martha Yasuda Arrangements
This contest has now ended! Please check out Martha Yasuda’s wonderful arrangements here: YasudaMusic.com

Have you heard of Martha Yasuda’s wonderful arrangements for strings?

I use them all the time for fun duets, to help prepare students to play with an accompanist before rehearsals and recitals, and for note reading with older students as they work on their ensemble skills or to play duets with younger students in group class.

Here’s a bit about Martha:

Martha Yasuda is a violinist, Suzuki teacher and has been arranging music for over 15 years. She has arranged an impressive number of books for string instruments including 19 books with duets for all pieces from Suzuki Books 1 through 10, recently licensed by the International Suzuki Association. You can check out her website here: Yasudamusic.com

I find her materials a great resource to have in my studio and think parent and teachers alike will find them useful.

I enjoy them so much I wanted to give you a chance to try them too! 

Here are the details to enter:

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Are You Creating a Positive Practice Environment?

positive practice
This article was originally posted HERE on Medium.com where Christine Goodner is a top writer in Music & Parenting. 

What is the practice environment like in your house?

As a musician, and a music teacher, I know the environment we practice in has a big impact on the kind of practice we can do.

Can we focus?

Can we find something specific to improve and improve it?

Can we work through our resistance to doing the hard work?

How do we get into a state of flow where we get lost in the music and in our practice time?

If you are the parent of a young child, the practice environment is not just the room in the house where your child practices. It is not just the surroundings.

YOU are the practice environment.

This concept totally changed my perspective when I learned about it in my SECE (Suzuki Early Childhood Education) training.

As a parent, you are the practice environment. . . .

You are not responsible for your child’s attitude, their ability to focus, or their behavior.

BUT,

you do set the tone, or environment for them to work in.

Positive practice environment

With my own children I found that practice went the best when:

  • I was calm and relaxed (I would often make a big mug of tea and take deep breaths as needed)
  • I focused on their effort, not the quality of what they were producing
  • I really believed they were going to be successful over time (even if that day’s practice didn’t show evidence of improvement)
  • I ended our practice sessions with something easy or fun

When we set a positive, encouraging tone to practice sessions and praise the effort students are putting out without unrealistic expectations students can relax and really get down to the work of practicing.

Practicing can be messy, it can be frustrating, and it can sometimes feel like we are spinning our wheels.

It can be overwhelming to add a high stress environment to that mix.

When we practice in a positive environment we can work through the music we’re learning and the habit’s we’re building much more effectively.

What do you need to do to improve your child’s practice environment?

4 Books that Should be in Every Suzuki Parent’s Library

4 books every Suzuki parent should own

Practicing with our children can be a challenge.

Understanding how they learn and what we can do as parents to best help them isn’t always easy to figure out.

Suzuki parents have a big job. I would argue that they also have a wonderful opportunity.

I know that my dad and I have a special relationship because he was my primary Suzuki parent and got to know me so well during all those hours of practice.

Even though I really struggled as a Suzuki parent (you can read more about that HERE) I also feel like working so closely with my children gave us a special bond and helped me to understand them so much better.

One of my habits as a Suzuki parent was to read everything I could about child development, the Suzuki method, and parenting. It helped me realize how much of our struggles were just part of deal and totally normal and also when there were things I could do as a parent to better help my kids learn and develop.

One of these days I will do a huge post of all the books that have helped me as a parent and teacher. It would be a long list for sure.

For today, I am recommending four books that I think every Suzuki parent should own, read, and have on hand to refer back to.

I’m also going to share one bonus recommendation at the end of the article that I used all the time as a parent – especially as a parent with a very strong willed child.

Nurtured By Love: 

was written by Dr. Suzuki himself and is a must read for Suzuki teachers and families alike. You can read Suzuki’s personal story, how the Suzuki Method was developed and the philosophy behind it. The book is not long but I think it helps everyone who reads it have a new appreciation for what the Suzuki method is really all about.

I think this book gives an important perspective of what talent education is and also emphasizes Suzuki’s focus on developing students as people and building their character as well as developing musicians.

Helping Parents Practice

is by Suzuki teacher trainer Ed Sprunger. It has short easily digestible chapters that are extremely helpful on topics ranging from teaching rhythm to the psychology behind parent-child practicing relationships. Parents who have read this book years ago refer back to it all the time as a useful resource. One year I read a short chapter before each day of lessons and it really helped me focus my teaching well – the same could be done before each practice session as a parent for sure.

One of the most helpful sections is about why a child may be happy to do practice tasks with their teacher in the lesson but may totally melt down at home when practicing the same thing with their parent. It helped me as a parent and I am always handing the book to parents in the lesson when this comes up and recommending they read it and buy the book.

Life Lens: Seeing Your Children in Color

is written by Suzuki teacher Michele Monahan Horner and is a great resource for helping understand how to work with your students or with your child in practice. It gives great insight into different personalities of children we work with and then specific advice about how to practice with them on their instrument. I know that I and many of my colleagues have really gained new insight from this book and I recommend it to parents all the time.

Just in the past few weeks I used this resource to help a parent find tactics to work with her child in practice and putting Michele’s recommendations into the practice sessions totally turned things around. I really recommend picking up a copy. You can read my interview with the author to learn more HERE

Beyond the Music Lesson: Habits of Successful Suzuki Families

Yes, I had to add my own book to this list! Beyond the Music lesson was written specifically as a how to guide for helping Suzuki parents learn what it takes for their child to thrive and succeed. It’s what I wish I had had as a Suzuki parent many years ago and it’s what I wished was out there to hand to parents in my program when they started lessons or encountered a struggle.

In the words of Levar Burton “you don’t have to take my word for it .  .  . Here is a 5 start review from a verified purchaser on Amazon: “I’m thrilled to have this new book in my library and to recommend to my parents. I found myself wanting to bookmark every page because it’s full of pertinent information. Parents will learn how to have a great Suzuki experience. This book is good for those starting out or already in the process. I highly recommend it.”

and Here is my bonus recommendation

Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles: Winning for a Lifetime

This book has lots of dog eared pages from my Suzuki parenting days. It has great insights on how to work with strong willed children, how to deal with power struggles and tantrums and most of all it taught me to look at the big picture and pick my battles. And, how to do so in a way that set my child up to do well in life. I really recommend reading it if this is a struggle in your house.

So there you have it! Books every Suzuki parent (and teacher) should read and own.

I would love to hear what you would add to the list!

Why Slow Progress is Not a Sign To Give Up

Progress

You probably signed your child up for lessons excited about what they would learn.

You pictured them playing their instrument with a big smile and steady progress.

You may have observed lessons or group classes and seen children playing music with ease and expected to see your child do the same.

So why is progress going so slow?

Why does it feel like you’re having the same lesson over and over again many weeks in a row.

Why does it seem like you’re practicing, but nothing is happening?

Here’s the thing . . .

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