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Logical Cause and Effect

I love games of all sort.  Computer games, console games, board games... you name it.  I've talked about disc golf a lot on this blog.  Part of the appeal of that sport for me is that it feels game-like.  You have to strategize about your shot and you get to throw brightly colored plastic (just like dice).  I grew up playing games but it wasn't until I started teaching that I appreciated everything games can teach, specifically board games.

The best thing about games--and I've mentioned this in many blog posts--is that they create a neutral party.  Even if it is you versus another person, that competition is still within the confines of the game's rules.  So even if we don't realize it this redirects a lot of frustration.  In the practicing environment this is invaluable.  Telling a child to do twenty repetitions is demanding.  Rolling a twenty on a dice leads to a good-natured groan followed by the challenge of trying to actually do something twenty times.

But there are other hidden skills we learn as well from playing board games.  Good practicing often boils down to having a plan and strategizing about how best to break down a particular problem.  While board games don't necessarily teach you how to break down the mechanical skills required to play an instrument, they do teach you logical cause and effect.

To me, logic is not a skill that is emphasized in the school systems.  Test taking is usually about deduction.  There are four answers and you narrow down which is the most correct.  Math teaches you how to think sequentially but lacks the variables of every day life.  Students will be taught algebra and then are assigned homework that forced them to solve the same formula a bunch of times.

This is why board games are so useful when it comes to developing practice skills.  A board game presents you with a challenge, you must decide on a strategy for facing the challenge and then you get to see the result of that strategy choice in a comparatively short space of time.  You choose to spend all your money early in the game, which means you have none left during the later parts of the game.  Was that a good choice or a bad choice?

You can see why this is a useful skill for a young music student, especially as she begins to ride that line between intermediate and advanced repertoire.  She already knows how to read music.  She already knows how to listen to music.  She has already been shown how to play all the tricky sections.  So it is now up to her to ask herself how to put all these pieces together and figure out the easier parts she has not been shown exactly how to play.

To me, that willingness to form strategy and apply it to the instrument is big turning point for a student.  It is the difference between dependence and independence.


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