As many of you know, I’m a huge fan of the late great John Wooden. One of the myriad of things I learned from him by reading his books, etc. is his “Four Laws of Learning.”
“The four laws of learning are explanation, demonstration, imitation, and repetition. The goal is to create a correct habit that can be produced instinctively under great pressure. To make sure this goal was achieved, I created eight laws of learning: namely, explanation, demonstration, imitation, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition and repetition.” John Wooden (http://www.quotesstar.com/quotes/t/the-four-laws-of-learning-123881.html)
Building just a little on this, I propose a “Five Steps to Teaching.” To Wooden’s Four Laws I would add “Correction” between imitation and repetition. (I’ve heard him include correction to the four laws, so this is not original to me; I’m just packaging things up in a certain way.)
So, for example, here’s how the “Five Steps” would work in teaching a student how to articulate on a clarinet:
- Explanation. Discuss how the tongue should touch just below the tip of the reed.
- Demonstration. Pick up a clarinet and play a few tongued notes for the student.
- Imitation. Have the student try to copy what she’s heard on her clarinet.
- Correction. Make suggestions for improvement based on the imitation.
- Repetition. Have the student try it again.
Sometimes it makes sense to switch the order of the steps based on the topic, student, etc. For example, it might be useful to demonstrate and then explain. Or, after the imitation, the student might need another dose of explanation and demonstration along with correction. This might especially be true with tonguing. FYI, I have found that it takes a lot of work to improve one’s tonguing on the clarinet. However, articulation is profoundly important – notice the prominence of Beethoven 6th Symphony mvt. 1 and Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Scherzo on orchestral audition lists.
For more wisdom from John Wooden, go to http://clarinetmike.com/rsrc_teaching.html (scroll down)