Friday, October 7, 2011

Teaching Sight Reading: This Works For Me

After years of making do by grabbing old lesson books for students to sight read from or even trying to write my own sight-reading exercises, I've stopped trying to reinvent the wheel and purchased a full complement of sight-reading books to keep in the studio.

I decided on Sight Reading And Rhythm Every Day by Helen Marlais and Kevin Olson and got all 10 levels. I'm not using them as they are intended - sending students home with their own copies to do a short daily exercise. The truth is, I think that my higher-achieving students would practice, not sight-read, and my other students would just not do it. Instead, we're taking about 3 minutes of the lesson to sight-read one or two short exercises from one page. At the beginning of the year, I decided on a starting point for each individual student in one of the levels, and we marked that page with a sticky note with the student's name. At each subsequent lesson, we move the sticky note to a new page and choose another short exercise or two. We're only doing about 1/4 of the book, but they are actually sight-reading something at every lesson, and moving forward in some sort of planned way rather than haphazardly.

I think you could do this with any series of sight reading books. I do like these books because of the extensive levels that make them appropriate for all of my students and the variety of things to do. Some of the exercises involve pencil work, such as filling in bar lines or circling guide notes. To keep from marking up the pages, I've covered those exercises with clear packing tape. The students can mark on it with a dry erase marker, and the marks wipe right off. If you look closely at the photo, you can just see the edges of the packing tape on the next to the last exercise.

I'm curious to know how other teachers deal with sight-reading! I hope you'll share your ideas in the comments!


Anonymous said...

clear packing tape -- what an ingenious idea! When I think of all the hours spent erasing all those pencil marks :)
Thanks for the tip. I love these books, too, and I think they've helped my students be more independent readers (both with rhythm and meldoy on the staff).

Leah said...

Great idea!

Wendy Chan said...

Hey Laura, I love these books too and have been using them in my studio. I've been using sheet protectors for notes using dry erase markers. I just cut of 2 sides of the sealed edges and it slips on perfectly on the pages.

Heidi said...

I love the packing tape idea too! I've used moveable clear "page protector" made from a large clear piece of contact paper folded in have for theory book activities during lab time, but the tape would work great for smaller sections.

Jen Fink's free sightreading challenge sets (on are great practice for sightreading too. (Look under the teacher resources curriculum tab.)

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Ben Chan (Benechan), Dip ABRSM said...

Great blog piece, see also the Piano Sage's
8 Essential Piano Sight Reading Tips: for exams, or learning a new piece