69/100 – Jig-saw Learning

What do you do when a pupil turns up at a lesson, declaring that she hadn’t done any work on the piece from last week because “it is too difficult”….

Let’s pretend she was a violin pupil learning to play F natural (“2nd finger back”). She wasn’t, but this bit of music is easiest for me to insert into this post and will do nicely to explain what I mean by “jig-saw” learning.

I picked one bar: the one that goes “I was one I” and we worked on that, sorting out the notes, fingering, rhythm, bowing, until it was “as easy as eating chocolate”

The Day I Went to Sea


Then we looked for every time that bar appeared in the music, (bars 6 and 15) and made sure that she could still play them. I marked them with a lightly pencilled tick. Then we discussed bars 11 and 12, and agreed that they were nearly the same, wrote in the bowing and played them a few times. Finally we came to the conclusion that bars 9, 10 and 18 didn’t present much of a problem. So, we wrote in the bowing and practised them and marked them with a pencil tick. Finally we went through the whole piece, with me singing the missing bars and her playing the marked bars.

This week, for this piece, she will work on just these bars in isolation, making sure that she does the correct bowing, correct rhythm (long short long short for bar 2, or short-short-short-long-short for bar 12), and knows the letter names of the notes (F, A, and a stray G). ¬†As I pointed out to her, that’s ten of the sixteen bars sorted, and we’ll do the others next week.

I’ve used the same method over and over in all my teaching, on various instruments, at some stage or other. Seems to work for me…

Poppy divider


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