Questions, questions, answers, answers

The ‘asking questions‘ method that I was using for teaching children to learn, and trying to improve their practising at home, seems to be working.

Now, sometimes, in a lesson, I hear the student asking themselves useful questions as we tackle some new tricky moments!

I have one older student, in year 9, who still needs a lot of help to interpret the notation. He is someone who needs to go at a slower pace anyway; quick fire questions and explanations just confuse him and then everything stops while he pulls the threads of his concentration back together.

It is so, so, SO tempting to just tell him; “Fourth finger, this one here, on that B flat there, yes, like that,”, but he’ll never be independent if I always tell him exactly what to do!

So, last lesson, I found myself repeating a litany…

At first it went like this;

  • “Which clef?”
  • “Is the note a line or a space?”
  • “So is that ‘All Cows Eat Grass’ or Good Boys Deserve Football Always?’
  • “How close is it to Middle C?”
  • “Which finger needs to go on the note?”

After a while I didn’t need to ask quite so many questions. He would volunteer the answer to the next question before I’d asked it.

Finally, I was able to change to

  • “What question do you need to ask now?”

repeated as many times as necessary. I tried to be very careful to use an encouraging tone of voice, rather than exasperated, in order to keep the questioning positive and useful to him.

It seemed that having the familiarity of repetition helped him learn a structure and strategy to work out what needed to happen with fingers and notes in order to find his place. The consequence of going through this process was that he experienced a whole series of small successes, as he was able to answer simple questions with one hundred percent accuracy. I’m hoping that his burgeoning note-reading skill becomes enveloped in an aura of success rather than continual correction, and he develops the ability, and confidence in his ability, to be less dependent in the future.

We shall see…



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