A New Year in the String Classroom

It’s a fresh new year and I am so excited to be back at school! The holidays actually dragged on for me this year, not only because it was an unusual -20C out almost every day so we were stuck indoors a lot, but because I couldn’t wait to get started on some new goals!

I always look forward to coming back from the holidays, since all the school performances are over until the end of March. This gives me the time to really focus on teaching technique and the nitty-gritty of playing which is what I excites me the most.  I thoroughly enjoy seeing the progress the students make when they learn to master new skills.

These are some of the things I usually teach this time of year:

Gr. 9 Beginners

  • Learn to tune their instrument themselves with a tuner
  • Introduce finger patterns
  • Begin two octave scales
  • Learn to shift up to III or IV positions

Gr. 10’s

  • Learn to tune their instrument by ear by listening to each note
  • Learn to play up to V and IV positions through single-string scales
  • Memorize two octave scales up to 2b’s and 2#’s
  • Memorize a fiddle tune – jig

Gr. 11 & 12

  • Learn to tune their instrument by only relying on an A
  • Review single-string scales and follow up with a shifting assignment
  • Memorize two octave scales up to 3b’s and 3#’s (Gr. 11) and 4b’s and 4#’s (Gr. 12)
  • Memorize a fiddle tune – jig or reel


I’m also starting a New Year’s Resolution tradition of teaching students how to isolate and learn the steps to breaking a bad habit. The students pick something they need to correct, like their bow hold, bow arm or left hand technique, and have two weeks to focus on correcting their habit. More on this in a future post.

This year, I also have some goals for myself. They mostly centre around classroom management, which I confess, I don’t always prioritize because string students pretty much do whatever you ask of them. But the result of my inattention is that as students get to know each other better and become more comfortable with each other (I build in a lot of group work, partner work and community-building into the classroom), my classes get extremely chatty and it drives me nuts!

I was inspired over the holidays by this blog, by Michael Linsin, author of Happy Teacher Habits, and the Classroom Management Secret, both books of which I am now devouring. I’ve already started implementing many new strategies, and so far so good! Can’t wait to share them with you.

After an unusually crazy 1st term this year (a retreat, assemblies, field trips, and concerts), I also want to work on slowing down and taking more time with student interactions and, well, all interactions. And I want to work on keeping my office tidy and organized at the end of every day.  Not sure how successful I will be with that one. Perhaps I can recruit a student to be my secretary for volunteer hours…. There’s an idea!

Hope you are enjoying your first days back to school as well. As I keep working on my personal goals, stay tuned for my upcoming posts about establishing routines in the string classroom.


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