teaching very young students

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I have a degree in piano pedagogy, but have recently encountered a problem that I'm not sure how to deal with. Most of my students are from the ages of 8 to 13, but I have recently started teaching a 4 year-old. She is Asian, so there is a slight language barrier, but the biggest problem to me is her short attention span and just not knowing how to teach her age group. She can't read, so that makes things difficult. She does know her alphabet, numbers, left and right hands, etc, but I need help knowing how to teach her and knowing what method to use. We are currently using Bastien's Piano Party, but she says it's too hard. i know there is also a problem at home with the parents not taking time to help her, but they want her to have lessons. Can someone please help me?

-- Deborah Leaverton (jdpupper@pionet.net), March 02, 2002


4 years is a bit young - she might be better off in a Kindermusik/Musikgarten/MYC type program.

If her parents do insist on piano lessons, you might look at those methods best geared towards younger beginners (Music Tree, Music Pathways, Music for Little Mozarts...)

Best of Luck!

-- Jason (jsifford@pianoped.com), March 02, 2002.

4 years old is not too young for piano, in my opinion ... and almost every child will complain that something's hard at first, then play it over and over and over and over again when they master it, saying how easy it is.

Are you using all three books for Piano Party? If you're just using the lesson book, then you'll need to provide supplemental pieces similar to those in the lesson book and you'll need to provide theory assignments.

But this leaves out the most important problem you have: the parents are not practicing with the child. I require that at least one parent be present at the lesson with the child if they are 3-5 years old. That's so they'll know what to do when they're practicing with the child. You'll have to show by example how they should work with their child. The short attention span can be

If the parents do not have any time in their schedule to fit in 10 minutes per day actively practicing with their child, then I would offer as a solution that they take 3 lessons per week (at your full rate -- no discounts) so that the child can practice with you.

If they balk at that, then I would tell them that lessons without the full support of the parents at this age would not be beneficial for the child, and she would be more successful if she waited until she was around 7 or 8. At that age, students can complete assignments on their own without needing supervision from others. 5 and 6 year old students *may* be able to complete assignments without supervision, but younger students absolutely need Mom or Dad or a guardian for guidance and to help keep focused on the assignment.

If the parents still insist on lessons, then rather than just piano, I would take some lessons just to listen to music, and to do singing and movement games with the child to help break up the boredom of "just sitting" at the piano.

I've had better luck with Music for Little Mozarts than Piano Party, becuase MfLM seems easier to teach from. Piano Party is a good method, though, and my students who have used that method have had impressive performances at recitals. See if you can get the teacher's guides from Kjos, because they provide invaluable insight on how to teach the method successfully.

-- James King (jlking3@ix.netcom.com), March 02, 2002.

I love teaching 4-year-olds! But it all depends on the method you are using, and typically, a private lesson structure where the child sits for 30 minutes at the piano is just not going to work. I teach Harmony Road Music Course, a group approach. It is similar to Musikgarten, Kindermusik as far as singing, movement, different activities, but it differs from them in that it is also keyboard-focused and the students have songs to work on each week and a recital after a few months. I've taught both private and this program for almost 20 years now and a group approach, in my opinion, is best for this age. If you don't want to get involved with Harmony Road (there's training, etc... that's required), you could start with another method that's more traditional, but teach lessons with two kids at a time, then add activities like singing, rhythm, movement, etc... to address the short attention span. And, also involve the parent (like an early contributor said). Make the parent a part of the lesson, thus making him a part of the at-home practice sessions. Students do much better when Mom knows what's expected at home and how to help. H

-- Alexandra (alidoremi@aol.com), March 03, 2002.

Also check out Stipe Publishing's SING & PLAY and WRITE & LISTEN, and AT THE BEGINNING by Rhoda Rabin. Go to this site for more info:

http://www.pianoteaching.com/cgibin/ubbcgi/ultimatebb.cgi? ubb=forum&f=10&DaysPrune=1000&SUBMIT=Go

-- John Bisceglia (bisceglia2000@yahoo.com), March 11, 2002.

Oops! Simply go to www.pianoteaching.com and look under EARLY CHILDHOOD MUSIC.

-- John Bisceglia (bisceglia2000@ahoo.com), March 11, 2002.

I've had great success with the Music For Little Mozart series. It even tells you how to go about teaching this age group. I'd also read At the Beginning by Roda Rabin. This might help you get in touch with that age group. But I found that being flexible and sensitive to the students needs, wants, and likes it's a breeze. The children really love the stuffed Beethoven Bear and Mozart Mouse. It is an excellent stepping tool to introducing composers.

-- Diana (dstocksd@sbcglobal.net), July 21, 2002.

I have a three year old student and it is all about the method of teaching. Have you ever looked closely at the Suzuki method. Starting young is what he recommends. I have seen wonderful piano playing from Suzuki students who started out very young and are excellent readers also. This would be worth looking at!

-- Heather Overly (ht@overlyactive.com), November 03, 2004.

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