Saturday, November 2, 2013

Why Teach by Rote?

I recently read a thought provoking mini essay by Dr. Julie Knerr and Katherine Fisher at  Previously I had viewed teaching by rote as something I should beware of so that students don't use their ears as a crutch to avoid learning how to actually read music.  But their logic regarding learning to speak a foreign language resonated with me.  Perhaps that's because after 2 years of college courses in Spanish, I can (sort of) read the language,  but my actual conversational abilities in Spanish are seriously lacking.  As a piano teacher I want my students to be musically fluent, not just good music readers. 
I've started intentionally incorporating more rote teaching in my piano lessons lately and have been very encouraged by the enthusiasm and progress it is fostering in my students technical, aural and memory skills.  Although I've been teaching basic technical skills like pentascales and arpeggios by rote for many years.  I've steered away from teaching songs by rote for fear that my students would play by ear rather than learning to read the music fluently.

The Pedagogical Resources Link on Piano Safari include several other interesting essays.  I like the suggestion in "Assigning Pieces" to mark some review pieces for students to include as part of their weekly practice.  The "Teaching Strategies" essay includes some great concrete ideas applicable to a variety of teaching situations.  I also love the insurance and osmosis analogies.  This is a website definitely worth checking into!

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