What is the Suzuki Method?

The Suzuki Method has always been important in my approach to working with young children. I want to share with you a few details about it, since it informs a good deal of the content in my book, THE MAGICAL YEARS; 101 Activities to help your Infant, Toddler or Preschooler Grow and Thrive.

The method was developed by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki 50 years ago.

It's used to educate young children are based on 12 concepts that are applied in the classroom. They are:

1. Repetition, praise and reinforcement

Dr. Suzuki revolutionized the way that young children are taught music. He recognized early on that children had incredible natural talent and ability that would blossom in the right learning environment. He found that an environment rich in repetition, praise and reinforcement fostered achievement and a love of learning. We incorporated this concept at our schools through a spiral (process) curriculum that provides repetition and reinforcement, along with the nurturing process to build a child’s self-confidence.

2. Respect of the child

A child cannot demonstrate respect for an adult unless respect is first shown to the child. We believe that respect for a child is demonstrated in the manner in which we talk to them, interact with them, and support their developmental journey. There is no room for harsh or insensitive words. It requires that we assist that child to develop self-sufficiency skills. During instructional times, we focus on the interests and readiness of each child and tailor the lessons to their unique needs. 

3. Observance of a daily schedule and development of Weekly Lesson Plans

Children thrive on consistency and structure. Each class has a daily schedule that is an important ritual to the children. Although not cast in concrete, it provides a consistent daily framework to grow and learn for our children. The weekly lesson plan ties together each monthly theme and reinforces prior lessons in our spiral curriculum. Good lesson plans are interesting, stimulating, rely heavily on a broad range of resources, and foster a love of learning. 

4. A blend of teacher directed and child directed learning activities

Traditional teacher directed learning is core to the American educational system. However, studies have shown that child-directed learning fosters exploration and creates a love of learning, and is stimulating to the child (and their brain). Starting at two years of age, we incorporate a blend of teacher- and child-directed learning. We believe there is a place for both in our approach, and that combined, provides the best learning environment for our children. 

5. Group children during instructional time

Grouping of children is important in providing the maximum learning opportunities for each child. Young children are generally grouped by personality and age, and older children by readiness. We minimize the times children are taught as a large group. This should only be done on special occasions such as a special visitor with a puppet show, or during a special story time.

6. Is done in partnership with the parent

Our approach requires close collaboration and effective communication between the parent and the teacher. Building a trusting relationship is important in this partnership. This is a daily event. We view our role as an extension of the education that occurs at home.

7. Accountability

The Suzuki methodology provides points of accountability daily and with twice annual “check points” through the testing instruments we use with the children. We do not teach to our tests, but rather measure natural progress of each child through the tests.

8. The classroom is the third teacher

The classroom’s physical environment is a critical teaching component to our methodology. To be effective, the environment must provide opportunities, materials, and encouragement for children. Effective classrooms display the children’s work, and make a child proud of their space so that they will help care for it and “own it.”

9. Classroom management

The Suzuki method is rich in stimulation as well as praise and reinforcement. Appropriate discipline addresses self-control and the ability to recognize the developmental limitations of the child. Redirection and alternative substitutions are attained using simple techniques. These discipline techniques put the teacher in the role of facilitator and guide. Self-control can only grow when children are able to understand and experience why it is desirable to behave in certain ways.

10. Collaborative team teaching

is the glue that provides a highly effective learning environment for children. This approach not only honors the unique gifts of each teacher, but allows the team to best support the children in their growth. In a collaborative teaching team, teachers work with small groups of children, at times in a “home room” environment, at other times based on a particular subject (e.g. phonics, math, sensory), or a particular interest (e.g. art project, music, etc.). 

11. Presentation of Concept

Teachers function as facilitators in addition to being instructors. In presenting an activity, the teacher does advance preparation by choosing themes or topics, and gathering resource materials for classroom activities. Presentation of these activities is very important. It is important that teachers are curious and enthusiastic. They also act as resource persons, being available to teach skills as the need arises in an activity.

12. Experimentation and Exploration

The classrooms are set up rich in resources and offer opportunities for children to experiment and explore. This type of classroom finds the children to be busy and active. It’s important that a positive atmosphere be created to encourage explorations. As the children strengthen, support and mutual trust will be established between teachers and children.

Those are some of the most important points in undertaking this method. It truly is a journey and a team effort to provide the best learning environment for each of our children.

To learn more about the book, and see the full 101 activities, visit marlenelerer.com.

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