Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Benefits of Review

Summer lessons can be challenging, especially if you have students who are gone for about half of the term at camps or on vacation.

Such has been the case with one of my most motivated students this summer. He was a star practicer over the spring term and worked extremely hard, but this summer both his attendance and practice have been sporadic, and it's been really hard to make consistent progress with the amount of time between lessons.

Two weeks ago, after a lesson following another long break, I decided to abandon my plan for the summer and simply focus on review of previous material and concepts. The following week when he showed up for lessons, I challenged him by telling him we were going to look at some former pieces. We looked back through his books and picked a few favorites for him to review and work on over the week. And that's been our mode of operation for the past two lessons.

I can't even begin to say what a difference it's made! By keeping things positive and letting him choose some of his favorites, he's had fun without feeling like we're backtracking. I've also taken advantage of this opportunity to review some of the past 'problem pieces' to reinforce concepts where he's a bit weak. Finally, I've been incorporating some fun, off-bench activities into the lesson.

There are some times when taking it easy for a few weeks and falling back on good old-fashioned review really is the best option. And I'm thrilled at the positive results I'm seeing from this slight detour. With a few weeks of review, I can be certain that this student will be more than ready to jump into the next unit come fall.

That's been my most recent teaching 'aha' moment. Can you remember a specific time when review of material was a lifesaver for a particular student?


  1. Just this morning I had a little 5year old I have not seen for a month. I was wondering how to proceed because I knew she would feel unsure. Review to the rescue. I put some titles to older pieces into a nesting doll and we pulled them out one at a time. She was pleased and felt confident in her playing. You are right, sometimes taking it slow brings everyone back to the same page.

  2. What a cute idea! I love it! I love discovering creative new ideas, thanks for sharing!

  3. I agree with you, Sarah. Changing the lesson flow with review time can be very helpful with younger children. Sometimes I will disguise it as "let's plan a mini-recital for your Mom next week". Then we'll have fun picking out 3 or 4 old favorites to review and perform.

  4. Love that thought: disguising review!

    Review is SO important with younger kids, you're right.

    I think it's also a great way to build confidence with any level, in that it allows students to see how far they've come. Often, a student will say something like, "Wow! I remember this piece used to be so hard" or "I really struggled with that section when I played it before" and now they can look back on it and see their progress.