VMT053: What to do after method books

Method books are comforting and sort of…easy for us teachers. We know everything is moving along nicely when we keep turning those pages. But what do we do when students graduate from a method book? Where do we go next?

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You’re listening to episode fifty three are the vibrant music teaching podcast. I’m Nicola Cantan and today we’re talking about what to do when your student graduates from method books.

Hey there beautiful teachers I hope you’re having a wonderful week so far. I want to talk to you today about when students move on from method books because I see this question come up a lot. Something with the gist of what do I do or my student moves out of method books or what do I do with method books are not right for my student. How can I still come up with a good way of levelling everything and know that they’re making good progress.

That’s the crux of the issue because method books while they all have some form of flaw. The great thing about them is that they give us as teachers and our students and their parents a sense of progress. You know that you’re heading in the right direction and that you’re getting somewhere if the pages keep turning. But when we’re juggling lots of different things potential different repertoire and other projects how do we know that we’re moving forward. That’s the big dilemma. How do we structure it when we don’t have that method book to follow along. And I think this is why many teachers end up either going the whole way through a method book series all the way up to level five or six or seven or whatever it has with every student or many teachers in this part of the world and several other countries go from a method book into an exam system because the structure makes it easier and it does it makes your teaching easier you know where you’re going. You don’t have to think about it too much and it’s all mapped out for you. But the map isn’t always going to match your student and your teaching philosophies. It’s not always going to be an exact fit. In fact it’s never going to be an exact fit is it. So I’d like to offer an alternative way to look at it an alternative pathway. When you think that method books aren’t the right fit or when you think it’s time to leave them behind.

Many teachers do move out of method books even after level one or level two maybe Level Three beyond level three. They’re not the best fit for many many students. Some will thrive on that and that’s fine. But you don’t want that to be the default for your entire studio is to take them all the way through all the levels just because it gives you a structure you can form your own structure and build things together in a way that makes sense and a way that allows you more creativity more of the things that you want to fit in the games. The improvisation the composing the stuff that doesn’t seem to fit it can fit more easily when you’re building out the curriculum that you want to have. And I talked more about creating your own music teaching curriculum for your students in episode 31 and 32. So I’ll leave all the links that are relevant to today’s episode. As always at vibrantmusicteaching.com/53 because this is episode 53 when you do move out of those method books you have all this opportunity but you also have a lot of potential confusion because when you’re able to do anything what should you do first and how do you know that you’re moving forward. Well let’s start with the books and then we’ll go from there. Books are not everything. And this is a big reason why sticking just religiously to method books tends to not be the best way to make progress with your students is because while the repertoire is just one element of what we need to teach but it is an important one.

And when you move on from the level to safety of method books it can be hard to know what to give your student. My biggest recommendation when it comes to repertoire after method books is just start to give your student choice. That’s one of the valuable things about not being in that rigid structure is there’s so many ways they could go. But there being so many ways that they could go can end up with you spending hours and hours online researching all these different options and trying to figure out what the coolest option is for your particular student what they’re going to enjoy the most when you could just ask them to put it on them. The best way to do this is just create a YouTube playlist. Just put together a few different options. It doesn’t have to be an entire book. If you’re considering different books just one or two pieces from each book say or if they’re individual pieces then just a list of the pieces put together those playlists and you can have them for multiple students right. If your students all move out of their method books at level two then you can put. Together playlist of a bunch of options that you like for around level two or level three and send that to your students once they get to that stage or send it to their parents if they’re younger and ask them to listen to it and tell you which ones they like best.

There are so many different options out there so I won’t go into them but I would recommend having a mix of all different types of genres there include classical you don’t know what your students going to like so don’t assume that’s not what they’ll choose. Or maybe you include classical as a standard part and then they get one choice book as well. Either way give them some element of choice. This is not just valuable for them in the short term because they’re going to be more motivated to learn those pieces and enjoy them more and play them with more expression. It’s also better for them in the long run because. Eventually we want our students to go out there and be independent musicians of some sort. Hobbyists or actual musicians who play with a band or are teachers themselves whatever they want to do with music in their life. If we want them to continue playing they’re going to need to be able to go at their choose music that is at the right level and play it. I’m giving them this step on that path that we select from different options and then pick it out and we learn it. It’s very valuable for them in the long run. So send them youtube playlist if you’re into the site piano pronto.

As I mentioned last week I often send my students links to various books on their because they have full audio so I show that to parents or to the students book it says here. Click to listen and you can just listen to as much as you want and that’s great because I can listen to an entire book then if that’s what you want them to do and really get a sense of Is this the right style for me.

Do I love these pieces which is awesome for them. If you do want some kind of classical repertoire that is still sequenced in a good way. I have two recommendations kind of three two recommendations though mainly my favorite series is called masterwork classics and it’s put together by Jane McGrath and it’s wonderful. It’s really good. Really good mix of things. And it goes all the way from level 1 slash to is the first book and then all the way up to level 10. Now it doesn’t mean you have to go through all of that and it doesn’t mean you have to do all the pieces in there. But if you want some kind of leveled repertoire that is great as an option that’s not a method book because it doesn’t include instructional material and you don’t have to do it in order but still has some of that structure and so that plus a pop or rock or whatever book of your students choice could be great. Or there’s another series called developing artist which is part of the piano adventures fever universe. And those are really good as well. I mostly have both options so that siblings can be in different things if I want that kind of option for both of them.

I go to would be master at classics and then I sometimes use developing artist as well. Speaking of Jane McGrath though the other half third option is her pianist guide to standard teaching and performance literature. So if you don’t have that book it is very handy. I have it in a Kindle version so it is available there. I think it was pretty pricey in the hardback when I looked at it or in the hard copy when I looked at it and I opted for the Kindle and that’s actually great because I can search it. So it’s it’s way better.

So that is she has put together. I mean the hours she must’ve spent putting together that book it’s incredible. All of the standard teaching and performance repertoire just like it does.

But she puts together all of these pieces in her own leveled system which is what master works classics is based off of as well.

But it’s great for looking up those options for pieces when you know a composer that you want to introduce a student to or you want to explore different things at the right level or you want to check if a piece seems like it’s really at the right level for that student so you can craft your friends okay. They learnt this piece and she says that’s Level 4.

As she says this one is Level Seven so maybe it’s not the best fit. There’s never going to be a definitive levelling system but I do find her is good. So that’s a couple of different options for leveling your classical repertoire if you want to still included slash for seven students depending on where you’re at with that and then options for letting students choose their own books as well. The other thing you need to think about when students have left method books behind is their goals and your goals for them. Do they want to sit exams. Is there a certain piece that they would love to learn. Like if they started piano especially for older students they started piano because they’re in love with Claire de Lune well create a pathway to get them there because that’s where they want to be right. So keep that in mind. Or maybe they want to get into bands and play with other musicians. Maybe they want to play in church maybe they want to accompany musicals. You need to keep in mind where the student is going and not have a one size fits all curriculum.

You can have a base curriculum that serves to give you a template but you always need to keep in mind and keep checking in with what a student wants especially younger students they’re going to evolve with where they want to go with music. And that’s great and that’s why we have to provide all the skills they need to explore any area that they might want to get into. But we also have to put them on the right trajectory for the goals that they have that their parents have and that you have for students in your studio.

So you need to provide some kind of structure apart from just repertoire and it needs to be sequenced without rigidity and that is really why this year started creating the piano power booster curriculums because this is the frustrating thing about not having a method book is that you don’t know where you are at any stage and it’s even more difficult than it is a method books to align very games and improvisation activities and other things align those. Along with what they’re learning because they’re jumping all over the place. But you need to have some kind of sequence so that’s really what the piano power boosters to do. They’re one of what I call my but the pieces plans. So they’re all about everything except repertoire. And I have these plans for specific areas like the chord crash course or the circle of fifths odyssey on many others. But I put together the piano pair boosters this year so that students for at least the first three years maybe more of their study have this alongside their pieces. And it gives you a structure for the second half of the lesson because I don’t think you should be spending the entire lesson on a method book or repertoire of their choice about half maybe a little bit over half could be spent on pieces and then the rest should be spent on other stuff playing by ear singing together improvising together exploring theory especially through games and composing and the piano power boosters are sequenced way for you to do that.

That’s a good thing the entire thing yourself and coming up with all these activities week after week. So those are available to vibrant music to members if they haven’t seen them yet. The third one was just released. So they’re inside the video library right now for you to enjoy and if you’re not a member you can sign up at VMT.ninja to get access to them.

So whether you use my structure though or your own you’re going to need to create something so that your students have a progression and you know where they’re heading and you know that you’re covering all your bases that they are learning to read well but that they’re also learning that they can improvise and they’re also learning the theory that they need to to be successful. What you don’t want is them to suddenly reach this cliff where they’ve gotten up to that point by let’s say cheating. Some form of getting by without having the real skills they need and then they fall off the cliff because suddenly it doesn’t work anymore. This happens a lot in exam systems.

And I was chatting with this before Christmas I was at an event that the curious piano teachers Sally and Sharon were running and we were chatting afterwards and we were talking about this cliff of grade 3 and most exam systems where they are learning by what I call accidental rote meaning the teacher isn’t really intentionally teaching them these pieces by rote but the student is very good at memorizing the teacher demonstrates it and they demonstrate bits of it and slowly the student just memorizes it without ever learning to read it. And without that being the intention of the teacher. So they learn by accidental rote they reach grade 3 and suddenly it’s not enough they can’t memorize these pieces anymore without having any reading skills and they quit.

And we don’t want that for our students.

So that being said just make sure there is a sequence in place that you do know they’re progressing and you have check ins along the way and the curriculum kick will help with this as well.

That was a program I ran earlier in this year vibrant music teaching members can get it inside the library and I will run it publicly at some stage again in the future whatever pieces your students choose and you choose for them and whatever other work that they’re doing just make sure that you have included different levels because that’s the biggest pitfall when it comes to reading development and not being in a method book method books are sequenced so that well good ones are anyway so that some of the pieces are really pushing a student some of them are really easy. And some are in between right there’s not a new concept on each and every page and it’s not always pushing forward because to be successful at Reading We have to sometimes be within our area of competency. We have to be able to read it without too much assistance so that we learn that we can do it. And so that we gain the fluency skills and the sight reading skills to be able to read things the first time. So if you have your student out of method books make sure that their repertoire and their other work includes some stuff that only takes maybe a week to learn quick wind stuff mostly medium stuff that takes maybe two to three weeks to learn and then maybe some projects and this depends on the student as well and their style and their stage.

But some project pieces are good that take maybe even two months or three months to learn and that can really be a driving force for some students. Just make sure that there’s a mixture in there and that you don’t end up with all projects slash challenge pieces because that will slow down their reading progression and actually sometimes lead to regression in their reading skills. OK. So I hope this has been helpful in giving you some guidance as to where to go after method book. It’s not that easy and that’s why method books are so popular and so tempting to continue beyond where they’re actually helpful because it does give us that sequence and that reinsurance that we’re going in the right direction. But it might not be the right direction. I hope this podcast has been helpful for you is on a positive note to finish up. Just keep in mind that if your student is progressing in their reading in their oral work and their technique and in their creative skills then seriously don’t worry about it don’t fret too much know that you’re moving forward. Adjust as you need to and keep going keep inspiring those students and listening to what their goals are so that they can move towards them.

That’s it for this week. I hope you have a wonderful week ahead of you. Bye for now. If you’re a vibrant music teaching member you can of course catch the full piano power booster plans on the tiny finger take off. And many musicians plans for younger beginners inside the video library. If you’re not a member and you want access go to VMT.ninja to sign up today.

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