Pedagogy Question: Forgetful Students

Question: My student acts like [she] doesn’t remember the things I asked [her] to work on at the previous lesson. What are effective ways to approach this?

Answer: There could be multiple answers to this question. I will address three primary causes behind forgetful students (sometimes neglect in disguise) that I have encountered, with ideas for possible solutions.

  • The student is not interested in learning and/or playing the instrument.

I have sometimes found this to be the case, and it takes discernment to know for sure if this is actually what is going on. In some situations, students are only taking lessons because their parents want them to, and, sad but true, this is not enough to get them going. I have found that it is often beneficial in these types of scenarios to keep things bright and cheerful – maybe even going so far as to pretend that I think they are thrilled to be with me each week. If they don’t care about learning, they won’t care about remembering what you are trying to teach them. And if they don’t care about what you are trying to teach them, there is a good chance that they also don’t care about whether or not you are pleased with their progress. Try following this logic in reverse. Build relational bridges: talk about things they are interested in for a few minutes each lesson. Let them know that you are thrilled to be their teacher, and that you want to see them excel. Relationships take time, and you may not see results overnight, but this approach is almost always going to be the most successful in the long run.

  • The student doesn’t understand exactly what is expected of them.

It could be that you as the teacher unconsciously assume that your student is fluent in your personal music lesson language. Things such as “saying note names” and “counting” are common place, everyday terms for us as teachers, but the 8 year old who has only been playing for a short time may be a little confused about what that means when they see it in their assignment notebook. Take the time to walk them through exactly how you want them to practice one of their pieces, and then verbally apply those same techniques to the rest of their music.

Another idea is to let them participate in the note-taking process. Show them what you are writing as you write it, and keep the sentences/individual assignments nice and short. If you have a tendency to assign the same practice techniques week after week, let them take a guess as to what you are going to say next. They probably already know exactly what you are looking for! Also consider speaking the assignments before writing them, and then say them again as your pen crosses the paper. All of these techniques combined will help the auditory learner, the visual learner, and the kinesthetic learner.

  • The student doesn’t understand or respect your authority as a teacher.

This is especially something of which to be aware when you are teaching friends and/or children who may view you as an adult playmate. Draw a line in your interactions between when is a time to run around the yard playing tag versus when is the time to do what they are told. When it is necessary to play with someone who is your student, keep in mind that they are your student, and maintain a gentle firmness in your overall bearing that will help reinforce your authority when the next lesson day comes around

 

I hope these suggestions give food for thought and prove helpful in each of your teaching journeys. In the end, you might find that you have to teach your students not only how to understand and play music, but also how to learn and grow in their understanding. That’s okay! The great part is, even if they decide to stop music study permanently (hopefully they don’t!), you will have helped to lay a foundation in their minds for all of life.

 

Are you looking for additional material to reinforce what you are teaching to your students? These theory books are excellent for working alongside any method book system. We highly recommend them!

Cover tiny file look inside Just the Facts – Book 1 Just the Facts. A unique workbook series, useful as preparation for the Texas State theory test. Instructional book. Published by Music Bag Press (M3.JTF-1).
Cover tiny file look inside Just the Facts – Book 2 Just the Facts. A unique workbook series, useful as preparation for the Texas State theory test. Instructional book. Published by Music Bag Press (M3.JTF-2).
Cover tiny file look inside Just the Facts – Book 3 Just the Facts. A unique workbook series, useful as preparation for the Texas State theory test. Instructional book. Published by Music Bag Press (M3.JTF-3).

 

If you benefited from this article, please consider leaving feedback in the comment section below. Also, don’t forget to check out my other articles on music pedagogy here.

 

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