As I’ve taken on more younger students in my studio, I’ve been learning a whole lot about teaching the young beginner.  Here’s some of what I’ve learned lately.  It might be obvious to many of you, but for those that don’t accept young students, it might encourage you to give it a try.

  1. Definitely don’t rely on the materials in any one or (several) method books to be enough to reinforce concepts or to be engaging enough to introduce them.  I’ve used Bastien, Faber, and Alfred’s young beginner series extensively, but I am constantly supplementing them with worksheets I make myself or that I find online.
  2.  Always have a back-up plan in case your tiny tot comes to lessons that day and has forgotten or “forgotten” everything they’ve learned so far.  The tiny can be unpredictable this way.  This usually will mean teaching the same concept with a different game, activity, and/or worksheet.
  3. Allow tiny tot to improvise EVERY lesson, even if he or she is not yet ready to do most things on the piano.
  4. Structure to lessons.  Make sure your lessons are predictably structured so that the child learns how lessons will work.  Do be reactive entirely to the child’s mood.  My new plan for structure will go something like this:
    • Wash hands
    • Improvise
    • Review Finger Numbers and RH and LH
    • Review last material
    • Introduce new concept
    • Apply new concept thru a game.
  5. Review, review, review.  Just when you think they’ve nailed a concept, the child will have it completely upside down and will need to re-learn.
  6. Hide your dog or other cute and distracting pet.  I have a shih tzu named Petunia who mostly just lies around while I teach, which is normally fine, but the younger students get incredibly distracted wanting to pet her and play with her.
  7. Beta-test any games you create for your students.  It is not ideal to figure out that you’ve forgotten a key piece of the game or made a rule that doesn’t make sense when you are in the middle of playing with a young child.  Play the game before you try it in the lesson with an at-least-semi-willing adult.
  8. Remember, some days tiny tots will have bad moods, not feel like cooperating, or just be in the mood to do the opposite of what they are supposed to do.  On those days, take deep breaths and do the best you can!piano lessons

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