OK, I think I just worked out something, and I thought I'd share it.
I have a student who struggles with sightreading. Capable student, not dyslexic, quite musically able. Every grade we do, sightreading is what occupies us the most. She learns her tunes mostly herself, often memorizing them. Gets the point of scales and arps, plays them well. Pretty good at aural too. But the sightreading - really stumps her.
We've been going through an Improve your Sightreading book for the appropriate grade. We do what it says, and then some. We prepare, play, move on, But, she routinely falls apart when it comes to actually doing it. She'll do all the rhythm stuff correctly. She even does the rhythm exercises while improvising in different keys. But, despite how well the preparation goes, when it comes to the - now do it, keep going through any mistakes, keep the pulse, give it shape, she just falls apart.
(As an aside, I feel that sightreading is my worse skill).
But I just realized what is missing. What is missing is *sacrifice*. She hasn't come to terms with the fact that she will have to sacrifice something in order to sightread. She does the preparation and focusses in turn on rhythm, key, hand shape, etc. But there is nothing that says, now when it comes to this rhythm, you may well feel you won't get it, so best to improvise straight quavers and come in with the G confidently on beat 2. Or, for this chord there are simply too may notes to process, so just play the top one and move on. There is nothing in the book, and I've really not said in as many words, you will need to sacrifice something. Best guess a note, and keep going.
Every time she is faced with the tough choice, she delays, deliberates, works it out. Gets it right, but loses pulse, then goes back to the beginning to make up for it, or takes her hands off the piano instead.
I wonder if she plays chess?