Tuesday, January 15, 2013

We are STARS at Sightreading

  Today was a rough day.  My patience was tested and I can feel it in my shoulders and my neck. I am not sure why I struggled so much, but I did.  I did not yell at the students, but rather just smiled the "I'm frustrated and tolerating you" smile and waited.  A few caught on and told their peers to be quiet, but today I was tested.  I am not sure if I passed or failed, but I am exhausted.

   That aside, the title of this post relates to the art of sightreading.  Sightreading can be tricky for young musicians.  They have not gained all of the tools it takes to be able to look at a piece of music and play it effortlessly the first time, even if it is a relatively simple piece.  A few years ago the language arts teachers were using a system called  "Preview and Highlight".  This is a way to look through a reading passage (think standardized tests) and be able to get the main ideas and topics by means of looking for key phrases (First, Second, Third....etc) and highlighting those phrases.  I thought that I would be able to adapt this to sightreading.  I used the S.T.A.R.S model that can be found in the Yamaha band method and started utilizing it into my 6th grade bands.  After completing this for each piece in 6th grade band, the students have a handle on this method and continue to use this concept, even when they do not half the half sheet of paper (shown below) in front of them. Instead, they reference the poster that is in front of the room (see above).  An additional bonus for doing this is that students are not playing while you are trying to hand out music so it saves your ears a little bit :)  And they need a pencil to do this-no pens!

   Students receive this as a half sheet of paper and I print it back to back.  As soon as the students receive the music, they begin filling this sheet out.  Every time we talk about what to look for, how to mark their music and what STARS mean.  They use their book to look up, or double check, new fingerings BEFORE they ask me.  They write in counting of tricky passages and make note of tempo/key/time changes.

   I think it has worked pretty well for my students.  Are they playing the pieces perfectly?  Nope, but it gives them an initial look at a piece even before we start playing it.  I tell them I do the same thing every time I sightread a piece, minus the half sheet of paper.  Also, I don't really use smiley faces!

  What are some techniques that you use to successfully sightread a piece? 


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