Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.


Aha Moments

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Sarah asked during our last blogoversary,* "I would love to see a blog post on "aha" moments while teaching." At first, the question puzzled me. Aha moments? Those are few and far between, let me tell you. There is much flashcard drilling and posture reminding and scale assigning, but I hardly ever get the privilege of seeing a light bulb moment with one of my students where everything I have been teaching suddenly falls into place for them. Then I realized that the aha moment is as much about me, the teacher, as it is about my kids, the students. So, in no particular order--here are some memorable aha moments for me and my violin and piano students from the last five years of teaching. 

  • Getting formal training (Suzuki Teacher Training for violin and a Piano Pedagogy class for piano)! I still have lots to learn, but I sure have learned a lot!

  • Practice recital. Why not have all my kids come together a few weeks before the recital to play music-related games, eat snacks, talk about performance techniques, and play their songs for each other in order? It eases their nerves, motivates them to have the songs performance-ready sooner than the day before, and gives me another chance to hang out with some of my "favoritest" people.

  • Intervalic music reading. It had been years of slow plodding in the music-reading department for one of my students, and then one day, as he struggled yet again with reading a song-in-progress, I called out the interval of the next note. A whole new world opened up for him, and we have never looked back.

  • Practice sheets, a practice chart, and a practice contest. Where have you been all my life, you wonderful motivators of practice, you? I implemented the practice sheets last fall, now writing all the week's assignments in a handy graph and specifying exactly how many times per day everything is to be attended to. Throughout the week, my kids mark in their days every time they practice, and now I have an easy way to keep them accountable for practicing, and they have an organized method for referring to assignments! The practice chart/contest, which started in January and continues until June, involves a poster-board sized chart and graphs every student's practice days. The accountability and multiple awards and prizes up for grabs (most days practiced, most consecutive days practiced, most practice by a beginner, and most practice over a weekend) have been a wonderful motivator for the kids as well!

  • Double joints were not a pleasant aha moment, but they were one nonetheless. How to keep those pesky joints curved, firm, and strong when they want to be angular, mushy, and weak? At least now that I've identified the problem in my students, I can work on fixing it with all manner of strengthening exercises (play dough, gathering up an entire sheet of newspaper in one hand, and "OK" signs with all five fingers play prominent roles in these exercises).

  • Anything can be a game if your attitude is right, and my students and I love our games.

  • One of my students was in for a rude awakening when she engaged me in a battle of the will--she underestimated my stubbornness, however, and her aha moment has gained me respect and obedience in every lesson since.

  • Watching some of my students take off with their composition project and come back with incredible, beautiful pieces. I am inspired by my students every week.

* This is the very last unanswered question! It has been challenging and inspiring to answer everyone's questions from last year, and we hope that you have more on your mind, because--believe it or not--our blog anniversary is next week, and will be full of special guest posts, giveaways, and an opportunity for your questions.

Photograph Credit: Nathan Russell. Used by permission under the Creative Commons License.


  1. thank you for sharing these! helpful!

  2. I need to start using Cathy's assingment sheets! Maybe starting in the fall...I've just become more and more convinced over this past year! :)

  3. Charis--do you teach?

    Sarah--You'll love it! Takes a bit of getting used to for everyone, but it's worth it. We converted the chart to Excel and created a similar one for piano. I'll have to email them to you--no sense doubling the work!

  4. I love this! I've always been leery about using practice sheets or something of that nature, but I'm starting to think it's the best way to keep the students accountable and motivated. And I love giving my students composition projects too! Especially the ones who think that there's no way they could ever write a song - and then they come back with something beautiful. :)


  5. Melody--you know, none of my teachers ever used practice sheets, and I had done quite well for many years without them, so I too was hesitant. If it isn't broke, don't fix it, right? But the rewards have been fabulous:

    1. I am much more understanding of a student who had a good practice week but is not able to play an assignment well. Is it too hard? Did I not explain it well? Does he just need more time on it? Is he not practicing carefully?

    2. Any student who practices 4 days or less gets a practice lesson--we go over everything, but they get the same assignments again. I'm all about mastery, not getting by!

    3. The emphasis is now more on the process--the diligence and hard work required, and less about the results seen in one half hour lesson.

    4. I have a column on the sheet for times per day, so a day of practice is based on if they played everything the required number of times, not a certain amount of minutes (I was a kid once, and I know how talented they are at frittering away 30 minutes of practice). ;-)

    If you make the jump, let me know how it works for you!

  6. I totally agree with you on the practice contest! I've just begun using that technique with my kids for this semester, and already have seen amazing improvements. Why did I not see that sooner! (and the value of stickers is so under-estimated)
    And a hearty AMEN to Alfred's piano course too...

    One of my favorite Aha moments is when I have been struggling with how to explain a concept (like scales, triads, key signatures, etc) to a young student and then suddenly I have an aha moment and discover how to communicate it so much more effectively. Teaching makes me learn so much myself!

    It's good to hear someone else's take on teaching. We have such a wonderful job, don't we? Sometimes it can be hard to remember.
    My piano professor just gave me some encouragement for teaching, and I'd love to pass it on:
    "The most important thing is that at the end of the year they love it even more than they did at the beginning." <3

    - Lydia H.

  7. It's amazing how I have to simplify my communication with younger children! Since I start them as early as 4, suddenly college-level definitions of sharps, scales, and chords seem ludicrous. ;-) So I would definitely concur with your aha moments of explaining these concepts to students and learning more about myself through those opportunities. My kids teach me so much!

    Great quote, too! Thanks for commenting.


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