Shortest attention span. Ever.

Posted by: IPlayPiano

Shortest attention span. Ever. - 10/10/12 02:26 PM

Well, I had my first lesson last night with an adorable/cheery/excited 6 year old girl... with a VERY short attention span! I think it's about 5 seconds. If I can't get it out in 5 seconds I've lost her to intrusive and curious thoughts... "Do you have markers?"..."what's your husband's name?"..."I like Tucker!" (my dog). I am floored that I was even able to teach her hot cross buns! I LOVE her to pieces and she brings tons of joy to my studio!

Anyone else have students like this?
Posted by: AZNpiano

Re: Shortest attention span. Ever. - 10/10/12 02:28 PM

I weed out students like this.
Posted by: Peter K. Mose

Re: Shortest attention span. Ever. - 10/10/12 02:35 PM

She sounds like me as a teacher.
Posted by: LadyChen

Re: Shortest attention span. Ever. - 10/10/12 03:39 PM

I had a student like this. I enjoyed her quite a bit, but she definitely kept me on my toes. I made sure to be extremely prepared for her lesson, because if I took even 5 seconds to find something in her book, it was all over. I would try to ask her questions (about the piece we just played, or general quizzing/review on music terms, whatever it took to hold her attention on MUSIC) while I was finding the right page in her books.

Also, her lesson was so exhausting because I had to be completely focused on her for the entire lesson (not to say that I'm not completely focused on my other students, but with them, I can at least take a few seconds to gather my thoughts). I ended up scheduling myself a 15 minute break after her lesson smile.

She has moved on to another instrument now, so I'm happy she is still persuing music, and slightly relieved that I don't have to hold her attention anymore!
Posted by: pianomouse

Re: Shortest attention span. Ever. - 10/10/12 04:48 PM

Lady Chen's input is good, I'm doing the same. I wouldn't give up, it's worth the effort, and with time, it will get better. She'll grow and hopefully, will have to learn to focus as well in school.
What helped in my case was that I tried to have just one single goal for one lesson, so we focused on the same thing during the whole lesson, regardless what we were doing. For example: try to keep sitting on the bench, don't play when I'm talking,... Yes, this doesn't sound like piano lessons, but first, these things need to be established. Also, when such (funny) interruptions came, I said: 'Let's first finish this, then we can talk about your question.'
Posted by: LadyChen

Re: Shortest attention span. Ever. - 10/10/12 06:22 PM

Originally Posted By: pianomouse
Also, when such (funny) interruptions came, I said: 'Let's first finish this, then we can talk about your question.'


I have a student now who is quite chatty, but he stays on topic at least. At his last lesson, he stopped after every bar to make a comment on what he had just played. And I said, "Ok, let's finish playing this page and we can have a discussion on it afterwards" but I must have sounded a little frustrated because I could hear his mom and older sister giggling in the background. Apparently, this little guy needs to "discuss" EVERYTHING. I love his inquisitive mind though!
Posted by: Mozart'sGal

Re: Shortest attention span. Ever. - 10/10/12 06:36 PM

My student is six and the same way. He's always talking about computer games or asking if he can play with my old Nerf Guns(I save those for a treat at the end of the lesson). He REALLY likes to talk about the pictures on his little pieces.

The comments bring a lot of laughs, but I always carefully direct him back to his music, and tell him he can play a game or with the guns if he does a good job the rest of the lesson

I don't worry about going off topic to some degree as he's only six

Once I had to use Tom and Jerry in an example because he was completely obsessed with them that week. THAT caught his attention!

He then wanted to know if Jerry could hang-glide off my arm into the piano to get away from Tom... grin
Posted by: Monaco

Re: Shortest attention span. Ever. - 10/12/12 12:36 AM

Not in a rude way or anything, but, do remind him that it's not nice to inter..... OH! Look! A butterfly....
Posted by: ten left thumbs

Re: Shortest attention span. Ever. - 10/12/12 02:51 AM

Aye, she's only six! laugh

Here's what I did with a student where the questions became a deliberate strategy to prevent us doing any actual hard work. I bring a large 5-minute timer. The student is not allowed to ask questions unless the timer is on. I put it on mid-way through the lesson. So we have 10 minutes free of her questions, 5 minutes in which she may ask anything, then 10 minutes where she can't ask questions.

I say this only as a last resort. As a six-year old, she is acting normally and she will probably calm down.
Posted by: Marco M

Re: Shortest attention span. Ever. - 10/12/12 03:41 AM

Please take into account that it could be an "Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder" (ADHD). You will quickly find information on it on the internet. If you find it reasonable, please speak with the parents about it. They might have the same observations from elsewhere in the students life as well and then need and can help the child!
There is plenty of professional recommendations available, how to best help and teach those kids. You need some stronger nerves and patience than with other kids, but for the good of the kid it is worth to invest it.
Posted by: malkin

Re: Shortest attention span. Ever. - 10/12/12 08:10 PM

Originally Posted By: Peter K. Mose
She sounds like me as a teacher.


Or me as a student.

I'll be rather competently playing along, and then realize that I have forgotten the name of the composer of the piece I am playing, so I have to glance to the top of the sheet to look, oh--right, OOPS where was I?

Or I might be playing along, and see a reflection in the front of my big shiny upright--is that my friend Ben and his dog walking by? I have to look. Wait--what piece was I playing?

Ambulance goes by--lose my place.
Dog barks--What's going on?

But when I get completely focused, I could practice for hours and the house could probably burn down around me.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Shortest attention span. Ever. - 10/12/12 08:16 PM

Originally Posted By: Monaco
Not in a rude way or anything, but, do remind him that it's not nice to inter..... OH! Look! A butterfly....


<SQUIRREL!>
Posted by: Mozart'sGal

Re: Shortest attention span. Ever. - 10/12/12 11:05 PM

Originally Posted By: ten left thumbs
Aye, she's only six! laugh

Here's what I did with a student where the questions became a deliberate strategy to prevent us doing any actual hard work. I bring a large 5-minute timer. The student is not allowed to ask questions unless the timer is on. I put it on mid-way through the lesson. So we have 10 minutes free of her questions, 5 minutes in which she may ask anything, then 10 minutes where she can't ask questions.

I say this only as a last resort. As a six-year old, she is acting normally and she will probably calm down.


HAHA! Genius!! That made me laugh!! grin
Posted by: Liezl Tajanlangit

Re: Shortest attention span. Ever. - 10/13/12 02:56 PM

Originally Posted By: ten left thumbs

Here's what I did with a student where the questions became a deliberate strategy to prevent us doing any actual hard work. I bring a large 5-minute timer. The student is not allowed to ask questions unless the timer is on. I put it on mid-way through the lesson. So we have 10 minutes free of her questions, 5 minutes in which she may ask anything, then 10 minutes where she can't ask questions.


I do exactly the same thing but i give 10mins or hard work and 1-2mins of "fun" where they can do anything they want like say all kinds of jokes they've prepared for me.. or even play with my hair and tell me what to do with my tongue and my eyes to make funny faces off of me.
Posted by: pianomouse

Re: Shortest attention span. Ever. - 10/13/12 05:44 PM

Originally Posted By: ten left thumbs
Here's what I did with a student where the questions became a deliberate strategy to prevent us doing any actual hard work. I bring a large 5-minute timer. The student is not allowed to ask questions unless the timer is on. I put it on mid-way through the lesson. So we have 10 minutes free of her questions, 5 minutes in which she may ask anything, then 10 minutes where she can't ask questions.

This is great! And it can be handled really playfully... Thanks for the idea :-)
Originally Posted By: Marco M
Please take into account that it could be an "Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder" (ADHD). You will quickly find information on it on the internet. If you find it reasonable, please speak with the parents about it. They might have the same observations from elsewhere in the students life as well and then need and can help the child!

In this case, I wouldn't worry about this, if the student were older, it might be worth to consider. But generally, it's wise to handle this topic with great care.
Posted by: ten left thumbs

Re: Shortest attention span. Ever. - 10/14/12 05:12 AM

Originally Posted By: Mozart'sGal



HAHA! Genius!! That made me laugh!! grin


Many thanks for the comments on the 5-min timer idea. The idea arose out of discussion of a student here on the forum. This student has difficulty focussing her attention. It is a powerful trick, and I am amazed what I can do with her now I have a way of harnessing her focus. She is simply not allowed to distract us with all sorts of questions. She is allowed to for 5 minutes (but she rarely does, because we have started the lesson in a 'right, let's get on with it' attitude.
Posted by: IPlayPiano

Re: Shortest attention span. Ever. - 10/30/12 11:58 PM

Well, folks. I am now stumped.

I tried everything. Her behavior has turned into ignoring instructions, lying down on the bench, spinning on the floor, playing random keys, etc. I have tried to make lessons musically exciting and motivating. Today I hid blue and red quarter notes around my house and had her hunt for them, arrange them for right and left hand and tap them with me. Well the hunt went well but after that it was all downhill. What's worse is that her mom was only 10 feet away in the living room and didn't say anything until I finally addressed her "Mom, we are losing focus over here." She addressed the child "Susie, you need to listen and obey, please." The child immediately focused on the task but only for a few seconds. I believe the child means no harm at all but just cannot remain focused.

So, following the lesson I asked the parent "Is this a behavioral issue or is Susie simply not enjoying lessons?" She responded by giving me permission to be stern with her daughter when I need to be. Concerned, she went on to ask "Is it common for young students to behave this way?" as if she had no idea her daughter's behavior was not normal. She said she would make sure that Susie gets a good pep talk before the next lesson.
Posted by: MaggieGirl

Re: Shortest attention span. Ever. - 10/31/12 12:17 AM

My good friend is going through this with her son. There might be something going on but at this juncture she is working on behavior modifications with a therapist before any official diagnosis.

Some things that help - 2 15 minute lessons a week instead of 1 30 minute lesson.

A couple things to consider: have her stand at the piano instead of sitting, if a focused student walks in the door take advantage - save scavenger hunts for restless times, when she is supposed to be listening- give her a squishy ball to hold and have her repeat what you just said. If mom is in the room, engage mom. Have her on the bench with her daughter. Yes, it will be like giving lessons to two for the price of one, but mom needs to step up a little.
Posted by: ten left thumbs

Re: Shortest attention span. Ever. - 10/31/12 05:30 AM

I would want to know how things are going at school. Will she obey the teacher when there's 30 in a class? Is she playing up because she has your attention and she likes to make you jump?

Sometimes when I've had a kid with challenging behaviour I've found that trying to pander to it (games, etc) just makes it worse. Things have gone better when I keep a tight leash - structured everything to the nth degree. Sometimes I think the Suzuki idea of bowing to begin and end a lesson might help.

As for the mum, in the lesson, she has a difficult call. If she speaks up to try to restore order, she may feel she is undermining you. Certainly you need a stern option here. But that may be easier for all is mum is outside the room. Nothing worse than the kid getting instructions from all sides.
Posted by: Ann in Kentucky

Re: Shortest attention span. Ever. - 10/31/12 07:54 AM

IPlayPiano,
I would tell the parent that the child is not ready for piano lessons. She needs more time to mature so that she is able to listen to instructions. I would suggest waiting a year or two.

I have taught numerous 6 year old kids. No one gets to spin on floor, or lie down on the bench or play random keys. And no scavenger hunts. I would stick to singing, clapping, marching and of course playing piano. If they're going to misbehave (or cry) then they're not ready for piano lessons IMO.
Posted by: Marco M

Re: Shortest attention span. Ever. - 10/31/12 09:00 AM

Please take my former answer (see above) seriously into account!
I really know kids suffering ADHD, and your description perfectly matches with their typical behavior. If the professional diagnosis at the psychiatrist or psychologist would say that it is not ADHD, you would not have done any harm to the kid. But if it would be ADHD and nobody cares about it you really make that kid unnecessarily suffer.
Posted by: IPlayPiano

Re: Shortest attention span. Ever. - 11/01/12 10:09 AM

Hi, Marco. I do of course take your ADHD concern seriously however I am very cautious in using this diagnosis. Often other problems such as dyslexia, autism or even distractions from problems at school or home can cause children to appear like they have ADHD. In addition, I do not believe that the child will necessarily "suffer" but will have to learn to adapt to society like any other child with a disorder. Obviously it is not my decision whether or not she would be medicated. That is up to the parent, however I personally would be very cautious in using prescription drugs even for children with ADHD. I believe it inhibits their ability to adapt. Just my thoughts.
Posted by: Marco M

Re: Shortest attention span. Ever. - 11/02/12 08:53 AM

I completly agree with you that it _carefully_ has to be found out, what´s the real reason behind that behaviour, and that quick medication can´t be any solution. And yes, medication slows down the child, but to the opposite, it enables in a case of ADHD self-reflection and learning from this becomes possible. Untreated, these kids have little chances to learn from their own 'mistakes', and permanent frustrations which ADHD kids suffer during their childhood later on to a very high percentage leads to low sense of self-worth, which too often ends up in agressive behaviour, drug ediction...

From the point of view of ADHD, it could help to not have other stimuli around, when trying to teach something. Then keep instructions short and clear, and repeat them more often then usual. Try to each time explain the same thing by the (almost) same (easily understandable) instruction.

Well, I am glad to have read that you have clearly in mind that this behaviour could be related to a deseas and not necessarilly just being a kind of bad habbits or loose education. I wish you both the very best, and let´s hope that some teachers will share more practical experiences with you!
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Shortest attention span. Ever. - 11/05/12 09:06 AM

I have not read all the responses, but when I have a young child that has trouble focusing, I get out the beanie babies and I set 4 or 5 of them up on the piano to one side. As the student successfully plays a piece without interruption, I slide one of the toys to the other side. The goal is to have all of them to the other side by the end of the lesson. If they succeed, they get a little prize of some kind (like a sticker or something - I try to avoid candy since sugar is probably part of the issue!).

You can also try other visual cues as to "how they're doing" and by reminding them that may help them refocus if they get off track.

edited to add: Also, be sure to keep a routine for the lesson for this student, and let them know what will this routine and stick to it each time. "OK, now it's time for our scales" and things like that. It will help calm them down if they are in an environment that is clean and predictable and they know where they stand with you at all times.
Posted by: missbelle

Re: Shortest attention span. Ever. - 11/05/12 11:15 PM

I taught K students through my school, but decided not to do it this year because most 5-6 year olds are just not ready.

I now take students that can read at least a bit, and have the focus and attention needed to learn at a lesson, and then apply that at home.

The parent needs to understand the difference between practicing and playing.

Why is the child taking lessons? Because she wants to learn piano? Or hold off for guitar or voice lessons? Because her parents think it will help her with math? Because they want a 30 minute break?

With younger students, use colored pencils and stickers, and move around a lot, marching to a beat, and play all over the keyboard in patterns and octaves. At the first lesson, observe them writing their own name, plus the music ABC's. If they have difficulty by flipping letters, trouble holding the pen, not know how to capitalize, and get distracted writing their own name, be prepared for difficulties, and that you will be spending each lesson reviewing what you did last week because practice at home/retention of lessons will not occur at their current level.

If you can handle being a music entertainer, and more of a Kindermusik teacher instead of a piano instructor, than you will be ok.

The child may yet mature.

But you need to find out why she is taking lessons, what the parents expect, and what you can handle for yourself...

Good luck!

In another year, she may be wonderful!
Posted by: lovefamilypiano

Re: Shortest attention span. Ever. - 11/28/12 01:51 AM

Last year I had a student with a short attention span who jumped off the piano bench and climbed and hid under the Christmas tree.