Everything you need to
teach violin to young learners
Young children love to use their imagination, they love to look at things and touch them. Kaleidoscopes is a sensory experience, designed to encourage good habits and a fascination for music from the start. And keep your young students inspired.
Music is pretty.
We think music books should be pretty too.
You want polish and detail.
They want new songs. It’s okay.
Students love new experiences; they’re ready to gallop from one song to the next. As teachers, on the other hand, are taught to apply the brakes until we’re certain a student has mastered the skills that add polish to one song before leaping to the next. We say: “Be patient. It’s not about how many songs you know.”
But what if there are advantages to a student’s impatience?
When we’re bored, it’s often because we lack the right balance of familiarity and challenge. Familiarity feels safe, yet seeking out new challenges is what optimizes our learning, because it boosts our concentration and sharpens our focus meaning we engage more deeply with the new experience. When we rely on one song as the sole vehicle for learning a host of skills, we dial up familiarity to the detriment of challenge: as familiarity rises, challenge falls, inviting boredom to set in.
A well-known teacher relates the story of a ceramics class in which half the students were told they’d be graded only on their best pot, while the rest were told they’d be graded over the range of pots they produced.
Turns out the best pots were produced by the group aiming for quantity.
The reason? This group churned out piles of work, granting them many opportunities to learn from their mistakes. Meanwhile the “quality” group struggled and obsessed over perfecting one pot.
This story doesn’t contradict a teacher’s instinct to develop excellent technique; rather, it means that developing mastery on the violin can unfold over many pieces — as long as those pieces don’t require different skills.
By spreading mastery across many smaller songs at a similar skill level, Kaleidoscopes galvanizes students’ enthusiasm and creates the kind of velocity that keeps them on the “learning edge.”
Of course students love this experience. But best of all, while they’re busy learning a new song, you can devote 100% of lesson time to establishing perfect posture, straight bowing, and the nuances of playing violin.
Your inner perfectionist will be in heaven. And your students won’t even mind.
What happens if you let a 5-year-old loose?
Well, it depends on what’s lying around!
With Kaleidoscopes, it’s simply a repertoire of two dozen songs with solfège words — that’s songs with lyrics they can sing when they’re in the bathtub. It also includes a violin, a simple map of do-re-me-fa-so, and a piano keyboard to enable the child to easily pick out the notes.
Kaleidoscopes begins on the piano. Why? Because the notes are laid out and it’s easy to make a good-sounding note, immediately. Pressing down those keys is inherently satisfying, and you’ll find that your students go to the piano again and again to play Hot Cross Buns, or to work out another song. It’s not long before they realize that those black and white keys hold every song in their world. Could music be any more exciting for a 5-year-old?
Next come the movement building-blocks — practicing those same songs, but with simple violin movements, such as pronating the right arm, or opening from the elbow. The movements seem simple and fun, but they prepare the “phonemes” for the movement vocabulary used to play violin, so the instrument will feel natural once they finally have it in their hands.
Earning the violin
The day comes when your student earns their violin. Having mastered a few songs on the piano, they approach the violin with confidence and a true knowledge of a handful of notes. They see themselves as accomplished musicians, and although violin is more difficult, they’re already on a solid learning trajectory and therefore rise to the challenge with excitement and determination.
Now things move swiftly. Having discovered they can teach themselves the songs using the solfége, these tiny new violinists instinctively know where to go next. It’s obvious that Hot Cross Buns comes first, and they play it over and over til the challenge has diminished and they’re ready for a new one — say Naughty Kitty Cat, a piece which requires quick thinking to get those fingers moving faster. And all of this happens at home.
Better use of lesson time
Imagine this: your student comes to lesson each week with a new song already learned, leaving you free to focus on posture, finger coordination, bow placement, articulation and bow division — and of course musicality.
Parents are an integral part of the equation. The student (and parent) are proud to show off the newly learned song, and the student unconsciously sets the delightful precedent that she or he will come to class with a new accomplishment ready to share. The student becomes their own teacher, while the teacher becomes a guide for learning to play more beautifully and efficiently.
What happens when you set a five-year-old loose?
Lots of music — and happiness.
Teaching young beginners is like getting an empty canvas entitled: “Insert your masterpiece here”
The empty canvas can seem a wonderful idea — so full of possibility.
But if you’re anything like us, there are days when you wish it was more of a coloring book with a little more structure — because taking on a young beginner can feel overwhelming for a new teacher.
That’s why Kaleidoscopes is designed to give teachers new to the process a set of recipes and a menu to hand. The teacher pages contain materials to help you get comfortable before you ever see your first student. In the members’ area, you can view lessons and see the learning process. Your students’ parents will receive the Parent Guide, which takes care of much of the explaining so there’s less you have to remember.
Kaleidoscopes teacher development
Every Teacher book includes detailed teaching points for each song, as well as the student book and the Parent Guide.
Teacher training, live or online, covers enough lively activities for two years of Kodály-based group classes that will keep students musically engaged as they develop literacy.
When you’re ready to take your teacher development to the next level, try the Kaleidoscopes video course, a 15-hour program available online. Or, if you prefer the classroom, register for our 22-hour Book 1 Workshop held either virtually or in Austin every summer. We’ll even bring the workshop to you if six or more teachers are interested.
Kaleidoscopes teachers can get support through our Facebook members’ forum. For more individual attention and feedback, enroll in the year-long Practicum which includes small-group seminars as well as one-on-one coaching.