Monday, August 22, 2011

Engagement- Keeping the Student's Attention

       Dr. Randall Faber talks a lot about child-centered teaching. I have been thinking about what that means to me. I want to be centered on my student. I want to take my ques from the messages they are sending me. If I were not child-centered what would be at the center of my teaching? My lesson plan? My goals for what I want them to learn?

 A key to child-centered learning is engagement, according to Dr. Faber.
   "Are we operating on the student’s 90% attention capacity, or 6%?  Just like perception, attention can’t be forced.  It must be invited."
    What tools do we, as piano teachers have to invite attention?
    - Our open- hearted personality
    - Our own love of music
    - learning games
    - asking questions that invite curiosity
    - our ability to pace activities

 " When a student tries to contribute and direct learning, do we inwardly swat them away and stick to our lesson plan?  Harnessed attention is a gift, and yet we so often forego perfect opportunities for learning when the student shows interest."
    I know I have the teacher voice in my head saying, "We have to learn two new songs today. You are pulling me in the wrong direction."
    Last week I had double booked accidentally and I had two boys here together. One was in the second half of his hour lesson and we were about to work on the notation to his own composition. The other, who showed up, was a student who had been waning in interest. I went with my gut intuition and invited the older boy to teach the younger boy his song. I marveled how inspiring the teacher was and how attentive the learner had become. My agenda was not completed but something better happened.
   According to Dr. Faber, "One secret to engagement is the idea of curiosity.  Curiosity is a wonderfully useful state of mind!  It engages attention, and is a prerequisite to learning.  Not only should we let the student lead learning with curiosity, but the teacher must also model curiosity."

    "What if" are words which lead to interesting reasons to repeat a song or a phrase. My student's "What ifs" are always more adventuresome than mine. What if we play this phrase higher, or on the black keys, or backwards? I try to have three attention grabbers ready at every lesson because I know I will have to recapture their interest about every ten minutes.
   You may want to read Joy's notes on Dr. Faber's talk at NCKP 2011

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