Suzuki teaching method: old but still effective!
The Suzuki method is a learning philosophy, a different and funny way developed by the Japanese Shinishi Suzuki (1898-1998), used specially to teach music to children. It is a method based on respect for the child as a person and on the concept that ability is not inherited but learned. Suzuki named his method as an “education of talent”, since talent is not something that is present or not innate in a child, but something that he gets trained on, acquires and develops. The method is designed for the learning of instrumental performance from an early age and is focused on children, although it can be implemented in groups of adults without any problem.
Developed in the middle of the twentieth century, this method is largely inspired from the principles of mother language acquisition. It was even called the "mother tongue method" for being based on the way children learn to speak their own mother language by imitation, repetition, listening and support at home. This method is built in fact on the abilities of listening, motivation and group work in which parents play a role of accompaniment, motivation and follow-up.
Shinishi Suzuki's approach differs from traditional teaching methods of instrumental music because it requires that learning starts at a very early age, which requires an active participation of the part of the parents in the role of "home teacher". Some of the basic principles and ingredients of the Suzuki method are:
- Starting at an early age: learning abilities begin at birth and training can start from the age of 3 years;
- Progress in stages: the child can master his subject with a sense of success, creating and developing recurrently his enthusiasm for learning. Every child is progressing at his own pace;
- Parents attend all training sessions so that they understand the learning process and feel safe when working with the child each day at home. The most important ingredient for success is the willingness of parents to devote regular and daily time to their child's training;
- Daily listening to Suzuki repertoire as well as classical music is the core of the Suzuki approach. This stems from the way how all children learn to speak their native language;
- Reduce reading of musical notes until the child's auditory and instrumental skills are well established, just as we teach children to read after they can speak;
- Creating lessons and practices in a pleasant learning environment so that the child's motivation comes from enthusiasm and the desire to satisfy;
- Regular group play and peer activities: this leads to early participation in chamber and orchestral music;
- Encouragement to play publicly in recitals or concerts: this is both a positive motivation and an opportunity to build self-confidence;
- Foster an attitude of cooperation and competition between children.
While Suzuki taught the violin, the method that bears his name is also used for teaching piano, flute, cello, viola, double bass, vocals, harp and guitar. Subjects such as mathematics, logic, calligraphy and languages are also taught in Suzuki kindergartens in Japan and other countries.
In this regard, Byrson Payne, author of the famous book "Teach Your Kids to Code" and professor of computer science at the University of North Georgia in the United States of America, claims to have applied on his 2 and 4 year old sons the Suzuki method to teach them computer skills. Payne says in this regard that "the acquisition of music for children is similar to the acquisition of the mother tongue. He must hear the music, absorb it before playing it on his instrument, the same way he heard his mother tongue before speaking it "(Byrson, 2015: XXV).
Howard Gardner, an American development psychologist and founder of the theory of multiple intelligences, comments on the Suzuki method and portrays it in a way that, in our view, would apply perfectly to children's computer code learning. Method is very geared towards learning by ear - probably a highly beneficial decision, considering the age of children enrolled. Much time would be wasted in trying to get preschoolers to read the notes, and the insistence that we put in many places to start on the score often makes them hostile to their music lessons from children who have musical inclinations"(Gardner, 1997).