Wednesday, May 5, 2010

This morning's New York Times has an obituary article on Dr. Stanley Greenspan who developed a way to deal with atypical young learners: get down on the floor and reach them at the level of their eyes. The technique is called " doing floor time." It is very like what I do with my young students. I get my ear to be in sync with what they are hearing rather than pretend that they have any way of hearing as I hear. Once this fundamental musical contact has been established they learn with remarkable finesse.

It takes a while to establish this contact as most of their school learning is based on the opposite dynamic in which the teacher essentially demands "Do as I do; see as I see." Self-confidence grows from the child knowing that their field of perception is reliable and that it is communicable. Someone is paying attention and willing to engage them in an exchange at a level that is real to them.

Doesn't it seem obvious when you think about it?

I use a similar technique teaching adults to sing in tune. First get your face to reflect your intention to sing a certain vowel and indicate to everyone with whom you are singing that you share this intention with them. Chances are that when you all actually produce the tone it will be in tune. Surprisingly it works with adults just as it does with newborns.