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Best practices Lesson Plan Ideas Mindset Music and Science

How to get concepts to stick for music students

What cognitive disfluency teaches us?

I’ve been thinking about this for a while.

We are drowning in information these days. There’s so much information that our eyes glaze over.

The boards of education of every school district in America are touting the importance of having information about student attendance, test scores, reading ability, curriculum, assignments, and so on. And everywhere, we see charts, graphs, and tables. How can we keep up?

It’s so easy to put all this information into a pretty chart, but do we really understand it?

The Educational Benefits of Ugly Fonts

A few years ago, I read an interesting article in Wired called The Educational Benefits of Ugly Fonts. They discussed a research study where student volunteers were told to read some information. In one group, the information was easily scanned and read with a clear and legible typeface. In the other group, the same information was presented in an ugly, hard to read font. The students had to really work at making out what was being said.

The results?

The students faced with the ugly fonts actually remembered and retained the information better than those with the easy-to-read fonts. This is called cognitive disfluency.

“People process new information along a continuum, from very fluently (with great ease) to very disfluently (with great difficulty). Researchers have long recognized that people prefer fluently processed stimuli across a broad range of dimensions. A more recent stream of research suggests that disfluency sometimes produces superior outcomes.” – Adam Alter, a professor at NYU. See an interview here.

I was once given an assignment to copy the music for a Beethoven string quartet by hand. This was for a composition class at Juilliard School of Music. By the time I had written a few measures, I began to really get into the structure of the piece. It also helped me to retain some of the phrasing ideas that Beethoven was using.

I’ve done this kind of exercise before with creative fiction writing. I copied by hand the opening chapters of some of my favorite novels and short stories. “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a favorite. After a few pages, my mind started to flow with the longer, mellifluous and magical phrasing he is known for.

In advertising classes, copywriters are given sample sales letters and told to write them out by hand for at least 30 minutes a day. After a few weeks, they are ready to start writing their own sales copy.

These are all examples of cognitive disfluency in action.

Smarter, Faster, Better

In Charles Duhigg’s book Smarter, Faster, Better, he describes how a Cincinnati public school turned itself around using cognitive disfluency.

“In 2008, the Elementary Initiative was launched. As part of that reform, Johnson’s principal mandated that all teachers had to spend at least two afternoons per month in the school’s new data room. Around a conference table, teachers were forced to participate in exercises that made data collection and statistical tabulation even more time consuming.”

Teachers were required to make handwritten index cards with each student’s data and then transfer the information to long rolls of butcher paper lining the walls of the data room.

“It was intensely boring. And frankly, it seemed redundant because all this information was already available on the students’ online dashboards… ‘The rule was that everyone had to actually handle the cards, physically move them around.’… “Handling the cards, she found, gave her a more granular sense of each student’s strengths and weaknesses..”

This made me think of my process for music lesson planning and notes.

I have been writing lesson notes by hand after each lesson for the last six years or so. I then transfer them into my Music Teacher’s Helper to send to the parent and keep a running record for myself.

What I’ve noticed is that I am incredibly cognizant of where each and every student is on their path and what the right next step for them is. I’ve been training a few teachers in this method, and they too are getting wonderful results. The fact that I’m handling the data gives me that deeper understanding.

So the counter-intuitive act of making it harder to input data to a system (and my brain!) has enabled me to retain it in a more readily available form.

When To Use Cognitive Disfluency

Cognitive disfluency is an advanced technique.  It is best used for understanding big conceptual or structural knowledge like in the understanding of how Beethoven composed a string quartet or Picasso created a cubist portrait.

For basic concepts, you want to be very intuitive and easy to understand.

Once your brain understands the basic building blocks of any activity –  it chunks the information together.  This is how you can drive a car and listen to the radio without getting into an accident.  The small blocks have been made into habit routines that are chunked together.

However, this is exactly when many people miss information.  They back the car over the tricycle because they are not as carefully monitoring the environment the way they did in the first month of driving.  The same is true when viewing the fancy charts of data or understanding a finished piece of music.  You can easily gloss over the real details without internalizing any of them.  And…forget about retaining the information as it was never stored in the first place.

What do you use for your lesson planning?

You may want to try the harder, less convenient way for greater results.

Feel free to forward this to your friends, music teachers, clients.

A version of this article first appeared at the Music Teachers Helper Blog.

Categories
Music and Science

How to raise your IQ by 7 points

I came across this article in Inc magazine yesterday.  And it was surprising especially since the headline didn’t reveal the “secret.”

Want to Raise Your IQ? Neuroscience Says to Take Up This Easy Habit

It’s probably not what you think, but it’s scientifically demonstrated to improve how you think.

Most of us think of IQ as a fixed thing, like an SAT score. You take a test, they tell you how smart you are, and that’s that.

Turns out that’s wrong.

Neuroscience is demonstrating that brain functioning is actually far more fluid than previously believed.

For example, research out of the University of Zurich shows that doing one simple thing can actually raise a person’s IQ. And we’re not just talking about children, whose brains are usually considered more pliable than those of adults. This works for both kids and adults – even those of advanced age.

So what’s the trick? Is it using flash cards to learn more advanced words?

No. It’s also not meditation, solving a Rubik’s Cube, or taking ginkgo biloba (though none of those could hurt).

It’s learning to play a musical instrument.

That’s right — playing music significantly improves brain functioning, and can raise your IQ by seven or more points.

Read the full article at Inc.

This is just the latest in a series of studies proving the connection between mental development and music education.  I have a roundup of articles that all prove the benefits of learning a music instrument. 

Categories
Music and Science

A Roundup Of 12 Articles That Prove Benefits of Music Instruction

There have been so many articles of late that show the benefits of music education.  I thought it would be helpful to collect a bunch of the best ones I’ve seen in one place.

For parents, here’s a great starting point for research.

Here’s a treasure trove of articles that can back you in your efforts to win over your significant other, parents, or grandparents as to why you are spending so much time and money searching for the right music teacher for junior.

For music teachers, this makes for a handy marketing materials list.

These are all very informative but if you have only time for a few, I recommend reading numbers 3, 4, 9, 11.  These are from PBS, Time, National Geographic and WBUR in Boston.

12 Articles that Discuss the Benefits of Music Education

  1. Twelve Benefits of Music Education
    http://fhands.com/ujtwRkI (childrensmusicworkshop.com)
  2. 20 Important Benefits of Music In Our Schools
    http://fhands.com/GrLjXLX (nafme.org)
  3. The Benefits of Music Education
    http://fhands.com/1Okt6A6 (www.pbs.org)
  4. This Is How Music Can Change Your Brain
    http://fhands.com/qP9JUtx (time.com)
  5. Long Term Benefits of Music Study
    http://fhands.com/o4IKETK (wheaton.edu)
  6. The Importance of Music Education
    http://fhands.com/SeW5WtQ (thehumanist.com)
  7. The Benefits of Music Education
    http://fhands.com/OqgVbgn (rcmusic.ca)
  8. How Playing a Musical Instrument Benefits the Brain
    http://fhands.com/9IVfO0W (davidwolfe.com)
  9. Your Aging Brain Will Be in Better Shape If You’ve Taken Music Lessons
    http://fhands.com/UK8z7L5 (nationalgeographic.com)
  10. How Playing Music Benefits Your Brain More than Any Other Activity
    http://fhands.com/16BSBQy (brainpickings.org)
  11. How Playing Music Affects The Developing Brain
    http://fhands.com/5oEPNuZ (wbur.org)
  12. How Learning to Play an Instrument Can Improve Your Life
    http://fhands.com/EDgHVsY (austinclassicalguitar.org)
  13. Added April 25, 2017:  9 Ways Learning An Instrument Strengthens Your Brain.
    https://www.musical-u.com/learn/9-ways-learning-an-instrument-strengthens-your-brain/
Categories
Music and Science

Seeing Music Everywhere

This is so beautiful.  I saw this a while back but came across it again and just struck at how simply beautiful this is.  Music is everywhere.

Categories
Music and Science

The Effect Of Music On Our Brains

If you haven’t seen this awesome animated video from the TED-Ed series, you’re in for a treat. Highly recommended and shareable to your students and parents of students too.

How Playing An Instrument Benefits Your Brain by Anita Collins.

 

Categories
Lesson Plan Ideas Music and Science

Teaching Special Needs Kids Music

In product design, having the most difficult use-case scenarios usually creates wonderful results.   What do I mean?

Apple originally worked on creating the computer interface to make it easier for non-technical people to work on a spreadsheet.  They also added a whole subset of features for the visually impaired.  By forcing the designers to think about these special needs, it lifted the whole project to create such magical results as the iPad, a device a 2 year old can operate.  Heck, even a cat!  (Have you seen those cat games on iPad?)

When I set out to teach kids music, I discovered a gaping hole in the marketplace.  There were no methods devoted to starting kids on playing an instrument until they were much older, say 8 or 9 years of age.  The books were cluttered with useless facts that only an adult could interpret, or colorful pictures that were meant to attract the child, but instead ended up distracting from the real information.

Over the years, out of my hundreds of students, I’ve had about a handful of children who could be described as being on the autism spectrum.  While I didn’t intend to seek out these students, they naturally gravitated to me as my methods have been so successful with just about any child.

Yes, there are greater challenges in focus.  I have to limit my activities to 3 minutes instead of 6 or 8 minutes.  I may need to ask them to change positions more often moving them about in the physical space.  Or I need to give them something physical to hold or do.  These learnings I have incorporated into the Musicolor Method™, lifting the results f0r everyone.

Here’s a few articles I’ve found helpful in understand the positive effects of music on autism.

Music therapy has a positive effect on children with autism
http://fhands.com/nURrHDc (examiner.com)

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Music therapy improves behavior in children with autism
http://fhands.com/FpEWj32 (sciencedaily.com)

Music and Autism Research
http://fhands.com/1W2QlzU (coastmusictherapy.com)

EFFECTS OF MUSIC ON VOCAL STEREOTYPY IN CHILDREN WITH AUTISM
http://fhands.com/IEorLgY (nlm.nih.gov)

The Sounds Of Learning: Studying The Impact Of Music On Children With Autism
http://fhands.com/bgvbIml (sciencedaily.com)

 

 

Categories
Music and Science Teaching Methods

How Playing A Music Instrument Feeds Your Brain!

This is a fabulous little animated video.  It’s as if it was designed specifically for my students.  I’ve been send all kinds of articles to my parents through the years.  This just makes it more fun and easier to digest.  Thanks Ted Ed!

 

Categories
Music and Science Teaching Methods

Music Instruction Expands Brains!

As an independent, private music teacher, I am always being forwarded studies and news articles about the benefits of music lessons.  It definitely feels good to be on the right side of this issue!   And it certainly validates my profession.

This weekend’s Wall Street Journal has an article, A Musical Fix for U.S. Schools, which puts music instruction higher than all other so called non-academic activities.

“Kids in sports also showed increased ambition, while those in theater and dance expressed more optimism. But when it came to core academic skills, the study’s authors found, the impact of music training was much stronger.”

This seems to be one-upping another article this week in the NY Times about how Exercise Boosts Young Brains.

Breaking the day into different activities just makes sense.  You need a break from just constant focus of core curriculum of Science, Technology, English and Math.  But what the WSJ article says is it’s not just a break, but actually a boost.  And the most potent boost comes from learning, playing and practicing an instrument, so much so, that it could be a simple cure-all for all the ills of the school system.  At a calculated cost of $187/student per year, a typical large suburban school system could turn itself around.

Ava performs Lightly Row
Ava gets prepared to play Lightly Row

The list of benefits of musical training include:

  • Music raises the IQ
  • Music can reduce the academic gap between rich and poor
  • Music does more than sports, theater or dance
  • Music can be an early screening tool for reading disabilities
  • Music expands your brain, physically

I highly recommend reading the complete article.

My suburban school system provided me with an excellent music education.

I give daily thanks to the late great Andy Blackett and Peter Brasch, Sal Piccolo, Charles Weinsoff, Helen Roberts, Diane Greenspan.  I never thought I would be doing this but now it all makes sense.

Spring Recital June 2014