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Ideas on Learning

#6 - Where Motivation Theory Meets Reality: Activities

Music is learned progressively by participating in musical activities over many years. These activities can be as simple as a 2-year old joining his father on the couch to listen to music or as organized as a 15-year old playing in a Youth Symphony. The activities can be as frequent as daily practicing or as infrequent as a summer camp.

How these activities meet a student’s need to feel capable, connected and to have a choice -- have more long-term impact on whether a student will continue playing music than the style of music they play, the skills they learn or the level of mastery they achieve.

To meet the unique psychological needs of each violin student, it is necessary to offer a wide assortment of music activities. Some activities are created by the parent, like playing music at home as a family or listening to music on a stereo. Some are provided by the teacher, such as lessons, group classes and student recitals.

Most activities are created by the community, such as concerts, community dances, jam sessions, youth orchestras, fiddle clubs, music camps or friends gathering together to play music.

Every activity addresses students' needs differently. For instance, attending a fiddle camp will make a student feel connected. Playing in a performance will make a student feel capable. Deciding which activities to do will give students the feeling that they have a choice.

Because each of the 3 needs shift their level of importance throughout the 5 stages of development, it is helpful to have a rich variety of activities available at every age.

Students in the pre-K stage have a strong need for connection, so activities that work well include music at home and social events like fiddle jams.

Students in K-5 have a strong need to feel capable. Activities like lessons, group classes and camps are effective in this stage.

All 3 needs require equal attention in the 6-8 grade stage. Activities that suit this stage are lessons, camps — particularly ones that expose them to new friends, live music events, fiddle clubs, youth orchestras, and opportunities to work with younger students.

Students in the 9-12 grade stage have a strong need for choice and connection. The activities that suit this stage are live music events, performance and jam groups and camps away from home -- the farther from home, the better. Finally, students after 12th grade are most interested in connection. Activities that suit this stage include social gatherings like jams and music sessions.

The list of activities is limitless. Yet, most students only get exposed to 1 or 2 -- most often lessons and recitals -- which, more than not, leads to an eventual decline in motivation to play.

The students who are fortunate enough to experience a variety of activities will see their intrinsic motivation grow and will continue playing and enjoying music throughout their life.


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