It’s almost a silly question isn’t it? All parents want to understand their children better so that they can build a stronger relationship with them, communicate more effectively, help them with their problems, and share their joys. The same applies to teachers – if we know our students well, we can understand what motivates them and adapt our teaching accordingly.
The TAT Test
A few years ago I came across this fascinating technique, the Thematic Apperception Test, or TAT. It’s simple, fun to do and it gives insight into all sorts of issues. Underlying motives can be revealed, concerns expressed and views aired in a non-confrontational way. All you have to do is show the child a relevant, but ambiguous, picture and ask them to make a story up about it.
Motivating music practice
This was a conversation with one of my piano students, Edward, aged 6 as he studied a picture of a boy playing the violin.
Me: What is the boy in the picture thinking? Can you make up a story about him?
Edward: He’s feeling sad because he has to do his practice and his prep so he never gets to play with his friends.
Me: Does he like playing the violin?
Edward: Yes and he wants to play well … He might like to have a year of playing and then a year off. He might ask him mum if he can do that.
Me: Then would he have to practice even more, to make up for forgetting a lot in the year off?
Edward: Oh I hadn’t thought of that.
Me: What advice would you give to this boy?
Edward: Probably he could see his friends on some days and practise on others.
Me: Does he have any friends who play?
Edward: Yes – his friend, George plays.
Me: Would he like it if George came into some of his practices every week?
Edward: Ooh yes!
Me: They could make up some music together and play duets.
Subsequently, Edward began playing duets with his friend, really called George, whom I also taught. Edward started practising much more regularly and enthusiastically. Everyone was happier!
Here’s an easy piano duet to try…