January 17, 2011

Worksheets: Who Needs Them?

Last week I talked briefly about worksheets and gave you some resources for some great ones to use in your studio. Today I’d like to talk about actually using them with your students.

(Please be aware that all opinions in this post about worksheets are completely and totally my own. You may have your own opinion. I give you permission. You may also have a different opinion than mine. I give you permission for that, too. And I also give you permission to leave a comment below and share your opinion with me, because I love to hear opinions! From opinionated people. Moving on...)

I use worksheets quite frequently with my students. I used to think that every student needed a worksheet for every new concept they learned. I don’t overload them like that any more, but there are some I still like to use. Why?

I think that worksheets are a great way to enforce a concept. Heres an example: a beginning student is learning the quarter note. His teacher says to him, “This note with a "dirty face" is a quarter note. Now you must remember that 168 hours from now when you come to your next lesson and I ask you which note has a dirty face. Got it?”

No, he doesn’t got it. (Excuse the grammar.) Because this student is a he, said student learns things much more concretely if he is allowed to do, not just listen. So instead, his teacher gives him a simple worksheet asking him to draw 5 quarter notes. When he goes home, this students gets to leave the piano (walking=action=way more interesting and a change of pace) and draw (more action). While drawing, he has “quarter note” on the brain. (He actually might have fire engines or trash trucks on the brain, but lets hope for the best.) This is cementing the name of the note in his mind. Plus, he is coloring in each note head, re-enforcing the fact that this note has a “dirty face.” And an added bonus is that he is learning how to draw notes, which may come in very handy when he begins composing his own songs in like two decades (ok, it seems like it).

Is this reasoning only for those students called “him?” No, girls appreciate these things too. They just have Cinderella and lip gloss on the brain, thats all. No matter what the gender or age, students learn things better when they use more than one of their senses (touch) to learn how to play.

There are some instances when I don’t use worksheets. If the student is working through a theory or activity book, chances are they don’t need much more than that. If their theory book has them labeling all the C’s on the staff, then I don’t need to give them a worksheet that will repeat that activity. However, if a student is having a hard time remembering the Bass Clef notes in the middle C position, then I may give them a sheet that reviews those notes. Or maybe this student hasn’t reviewed their intervals lately, and I want to soon introduce minor scales. Out comes an interval worksheet!

There have also been times when I have printed off a particular sheet for a student’s lesson, but then during the lesson decide not to give it to them. Either I feel they don’t need the review on that particular skill, or I feel they have enough for one week, and I don’t want to overwhelm them. It just depends. As the teacher, I must have my eyes and ears open to what will be best for my student right now. None of my students were made by a cookie cutter, they all are different people with different learning strengths and weaknesses and need different teaching approaches. (Whew...that makes my job sound like hard work!)

So what is your opinion? Worksheets or no worksheets? Please, do share! Because I love opinions...


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