How to focus student focus

Jun 03, 2022

All of a sudden it’s June! And it’s humid and warm in New York. At least today. The weather has been so unpredictable lately.

Next Saturday, I’m hosting my school, Park Slope Music Lessons, Spring Recital concerts. These events are so powerful as they act as a rite of passage for each our young students. We celebrate the growth and capture this moment in time. It’s not a competition. It’s a sharing of spirit, joy and a chance to show off in front of friends and family.

The best students in my school are the ones who participate in these recitals. There’s such a massive amount of growth that comes from learning, polishing and performing a piece in front of others.

Thinking back to my own earliest performances. I was so filled with fear. I could barely breathe let alone play anything. But like anything, the more you do it, the easier it gets.

The same goes for teaching.

So the more you teach the better you get?

Well, like any practice, it depends.

Conscious, deliberate practice with daily goals will. But the problem with most people’s practice is that it’s become routine. You run through the same things over and over again. I’ve spoken to many teachers who just flip the page in the book and basically say, that’s the lesson. There’s no thought to tailoring the lesson to the abilities and interests of the student.

And most music books are an information design nightmare.

My past life working on graphic interface and information design for major Fortune 500 websites has given me a “spidey sense” for what is too much, too little and just right. It’s kind of like the Goldilocks moment of information overload.

The Power of Post-Its

Many of you know I have been a huge fan of 3M’s little yellow sticky notes. These Post-Its are often my first line of defense in the dark arts of combatting information overwhelm. By covering large portions of the sheet music, I can contain my student’s focus into the little window. I call it a focus window. It’s like putting blinders on a horse. You block out the extraneous noise and commotion. (This works even with reading words in books, or reducing the overwhelm of a page full of complicated math equations.)

This has been super helpful in working with students of all levels, including those with special needs like Attention Deficit Disorder.

Many times, students just freak out when they see a new complicated looking piece of music. This even happens with our Musicolor Notation when the songs get longer.

<aside> 💡 The kids start to say, “Uh oh. That’s too hard. It’s so long!”


The next time your child or student is struggling or resisting to even look at a new page of music, try this. Just tell them, “Today, we’re going to just focus on this small section. You don’t even have to see the rest of this page. I’ll just cover it up.”

It’s really incredible how such a simple trick can lower the anxiety of many students.


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