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#2050804 - 03/19/13 12:30 PM Advice for teaching the very, very young? (3 or 4 yrs)?
jampff Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/16/13
Posts: 8
I just read the thread from the parent teaching their own six-year-old... and it made me wonder about something for a separate thread.

What is the youngest student you'll take? And does anyone have any tricks up their sleeve for teaching the very young (3 or 4)? Any related thoughts? The youngest I've ever taught is 3. And that was quite an adventure... the way it came about is an interesting story, which perhaps I'll share. I don't know that I'll ever take another 3 year old, but I did learn A LOT from the experience. It really stretched me because I used the opportunity to develop some pretty cool strategies for that age group that I'm really proud of... But I would like feedback from others too.

Thanks.
_________________________
Piano teacher & church musician
"I'm not the best piano teacher. I'm the best piano teacher I can be right now."

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#2050808 - 03/19/13 12:37 PM Re: Advice for teaching the very, very young? (3 or 4 yrs)? [Re: jampff]
ezpiano.org Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1023
Loc: Irvine, CA
Teach your baby music at home !
Great for those parents want to be their kid's music teacher.
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Watch the introduction video on YouTube
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#2050809 - 03/19/13 12:39 PM Re: Advice for teaching the very, very young? (3 or 4 yrs)? [Re: jampff]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5523
Loc: Orange County, CA
I don't have the patience or the energy to chase around kids who are 3 or 4. They are probably more suited for group lessons with kids their age.

Occasionally I've taught a few 5-year-old kids who are emotionally mature and can sit still for an extended period of time.
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Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2050949 - 03/19/13 04:04 PM Re: Advice for teaching the very, very young? (3 or 4 yrs)? [Re: jampff]
AndyJ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/29/12
Posts: 219
Loc: Near Dayton, Ohio USA
Originally Posted By: jampff
What is the youngest student you'll take? And does anyone have any tricks up their sleeve for teaching the very young (3 or 4)? Any related thoughts? The youngest I've ever taught is 3. And that was quite an adventure... the way it came about is an interesting story

I've never taught piano, but I was not quite five when I started learning it. A young music professor had moved into town and lived half a block away. My mother told him she wished she'd been able to keep up the piano lessons she'd taken as a young girl. He told her he thought he could teach anyone to play piano using only Bach's two-part inventions, and he'd love to try it out with her. His technique was not a success in her case, but I wanted to do what Mom did and she acquiesced -- though I had a more conventional teacher with experience teaching kids.

Fifty-three years later I'm still at it, and I don't know whether I'd have kept going if I'd started later. So I encourage you to give it a try!

-Andy

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#2051019 - 03/19/13 06:19 PM Re: Advice for teaching the very, very young? (3 or 4 yrs)? [Re: jampff]
jampff Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/16/13
Posts: 8
Thanks, Andy:-)

I actually have already given it a try. I've been teaching the youngster for quite a while now, since he's almost five... but I know people will ask again.

Some things I learned about working with the VERY young:

1. I made a giant floor mat with the piano keys printed on it, and we would practice jumping on the C, the A, the F, etc., just to help with key recognition. "Put your right hand on the B and your left hand on the D", etc.

2. Keep things changing! You can't stick to one activity for longer than ten minutes. And even that is pushing it!

3. Stickers. More stickers. Consider buying a sticker company so you never run out, because by the end of your lesson he should be COVERED in them.

3. Play the piano for them, and let them dance. At first I didn't want to do this because my conscience told me that I wasn't teaching, and therefore I was wasting time and parent's money. BUT... after reading some enlightening articles on the subject, I realized that it was absolutely a valuable exercise. First, it was his favorite part! Of course:-) And, he was appreciating music from the piano. It was teaching him that the piano is good for something, and motivating him to play it. As a three-year-old before lessons, he didn't know enough about pianos yet to understand what it did when he saw one... so playing for him regularly (fast-paced fun music) helped him. We ended up doing this for about a minute or two in between activities.

4. Allow short diversions. Attention spans are SO SHORT at that age. If I force him to talk/think about NOTHING but the piano the whole time, his span runs out and he gets frustrated... and productivity goes to zero. If I allow him every few minutes to have a (short) conversation about his puppy/preschool/haircut, etc. I'm buying more attention span time. These conversations usually started randomly, out of nowhere. I consider it an investment. Then, when we return to our music, he's fresh and focused again for another few minutes.

Even from all I learned, though, I still remember feeling like I wasn't doing a fantastic job. Believe me, I worked hard for that kid! I've had others ask me about the earliest age I'll take, so that's why I thought I'd ask if anyone else had suggestions as well...
_________________________
Piano teacher & church musician
"I'm not the best piano teacher. I'm the best piano teacher I can be right now."

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#2051047 - 03/19/13 08:11 PM Re: Advice for teaching the very, very young? (3 or 4 yrs)? [Re: jampff]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5947
Loc: Down Under
And don't forget to sing. . .
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#2051054 - 03/19/13 08:34 PM Re: Advice for teaching the very, very young? (3 or 4 yrs)? [Re: jampff]
The Monkeys Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/13/12
Posts: 430
Loc: Vancouver BC
But does it really worth the hassle?

The Boogie-Woogie boy was introduced to piano at 7 and didn't really start until 9.

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#2051070 - 03/19/13 09:39 PM Re: Advice for teaching the very, very young? (3 or 4 yrs)? [Re: jampff]
Barb860 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/09
Posts: 1646
Loc: northern California
Originally Posted By: jampff
I just read the thread from the parent teaching their own six-year-old... and it made me wonder about something for a separate thread.

What is the youngest student you'll take? And does anyone have any tricks up their sleeve for teaching the very young (3 or 4)? Any related thoughts? The youngest I've ever taught is 3. And that was quite an adventure... the way it came about is an interesting story, which perhaps I'll share. I don't know that I'll ever take another 3 year old, but I did learn A LOT from the experience. It really stretched me because I used the opportunity to develop some pretty cool strategies for that age group that I'm really proud of... But I would like feedback from others too.



Thanks.


Sounds like you are having a good time with this student so far! I agree with you, keep things moving! Lots of energy for these young ones (wish I had half of it!).
I teach a couple of 4 year olds and both are doing well. Had to let another 4 year old go a while back, as it wasn't working out, but these are other 2 are doing well.
I use games from www.susanparadis.com LOVE HER!!!! for the last few minutes of the lessons for these little ones. Get down on the floor with them and play the games. I also use a drum, rhythm sticks, tamborine, etc. for counting during the lessons. Favorite method for these little ones is My First Piano Adventures by Faber, books A, B, and C, for 4-5 year olds. I've not worked with a 3 year old though.

Love your idea of the giant floor mat!


Edited by Barb860 (03/19/13 09:41 PM)
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Piano Teacher

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#2051073 - 03/19/13 09:49 PM Re: Advice for teaching the very, very young? (3 or 4 yrs)? [Re: jampff]
ymapazagain Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/15/11
Posts: 65
Loc: Hobart, Australia
My youngest student started at 3 and a half (she's now 4 and a half). She is very bright and could count well, knew her ABCs, and could recognise written letters and numbers. We do a lot of games - playing rhythms on a drum, singing notes with animal sounds - because her fingers were tiny when she started they weren't piano lessons as such, more music lessons. A year on she's still only playing method book 1 level pieces (we've been using pieces from a lot of method books as just using one would have meant progressing too quickly) but she has developed a great sense of rhythm, a really good ear and singing voice, and she reads notes on the stave very confidently. I predict the next year will see a lot of progress in her actual playing as her fingers are starting to grown and strengthen.
_________________________
Private Piano and Vocal Teacher.

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#2051181 - 03/20/13 04:31 AM Re: Advice for teaching the very, very young? (3 or 4 yrs)? [Re: jampff]
musicpassion Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 1047
Loc: California, USA
Originally Posted By: jampff
What is the youngest student you'll take?


Seven years old.
_________________________
Pianist and Piano Teacher

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#2051541 - 03/20/13 07:42 PM Re: Advice for teaching the very, very young? (3 or 4 yrs)? [Re: The Monkeys]
jampff Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/16/13
Posts: 8
Originally Posted By: The Monkeys
But does it really worth the hassle?

The Boogie-Woogie boy was introduced to piano at 7 and didn't really start until 9.


Excellent question. My policy now is that I need to meet the three-year-old first. No one wants to hold back a near-prodigy (and I do have a few students that I'm glad didn't wait to start), but the truth is most kids that young just aren't ready.

In this boy's case, I had just started teaching privately (having been laid off from my school music teaching job), so I was not in a position to turn away interested students. However, I made clear to the parents that we might be moving VEEEERRRRYYY slowly in the beginning, and they were okay with that.

Right around the time he turned four, he started actually exciting me with his progress. I can't honestly say that I know he would have been better or worse off had he just waited until then to start. So was it the best idea? Not sure. Nowadays, with a waiting list:-) I can be a little more choosy in that situation.
_________________________
Piano teacher & church musician
"I'm not the best piano teacher. I'm the best piano teacher I can be right now."

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#2051601 - 03/20/13 09:45 PM Re: Advice for teaching the very, very young? (3 or 4 yrs)? [Re: jampff]
LadyChen Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/25/12
Posts: 521
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: jampff


3. Stickers. More stickers. Consider buying a sticker company so you never run out, because by the end of your lesson he should be COVERED in them.


This made me giggle -- I've definitely taught lessons to little guys that ended up like this. And it's possible that I was covered in stickers as well...

But in all seriousness, jampff's suggestions are excellent. All my students started with me quite young -- 3 to 6 years old -- and I found the most important thing was to never pause. You need to have every single second scheduled. As soon as you take a second to look down and check your notes, you've lost their attention. Keep them moving -- on the bench, off the bench, on the floor, at the table, dancing, conducting, clapping, etc -- continuous mini activities for the whole lesson. Expect to be completely exhausted after only a 30 minute lesson smile.


Edited by LadyChen (03/20/13 09:46 PM)

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