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Any suggestions for teaching a 4-year-old boy?
#2287216 06/08/14 03:00 AM
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I've finally got some students coming up, after about 5 months of worrying no one would bite. I have 3 girls ages 18, 11 and 8, as well as a 4-year-old boy.

I'm looking for thoughts regarding teaching the four-year-old.

I have "My First Piano Adventures" books A, B and C and am hoping to use those as the lesson book. However I know it would be most engaging for a four-year-old to have the lesson broken up into digestible sections.

What have been your experiences teaching this age? What would you have liked to know starting out? If you've used "My First Piano Adventures" with this age, how did you approach it?

Last edited by Maechre; 06/08/14 07:21 AM.

I love sight-reading! One day I will master it.

http://www.youtube.com/user/Acrozius?feature=mhee
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Re: Any suggestions for teaching a 4-year-old boy?
Maechre #2287338 06/08/14 12:02 PM
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Is the plan for this 4-year-old to take 30 minute lessons?

Re: Any suggestions for teaching a 4-year-old boy?
Maechre #2287342 06/08/14 12:24 PM
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Yes.


I love sight-reading! One day I will master it.

http://www.youtube.com/user/Acrozius?feature=mhee
Re: Any suggestions for teaching a 4-year-old boy?
Maechre #2287363 06/08/14 01:30 PM
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I teach 4 year olds all the time. I don't use books at all, just the Suzuki recordings for home listening, until they develop the ability to read text then we start reading music. There is a lot of singing together and learning by copying. I don't care what anyone says, 4 year olds love rote learning, that's why they watch the same movies over and over again or want their mom to sing Wheels on the Bus 900 times during car trips.

I have a couple little games to teach note names and finger numbers, bt I don't like to get too gimmicky with games. I'd rather show how much fun playing the piano is for me, and invite them to play with me too.

You do need to change the task or the piece every 10 mins or so with young children, and just accept that there will be days when nothing will "get done" in an adult sense. If the parents are on board and can sit with the kid so that practice is a shared activity, that helps a lot.

Oh, and try to make at least one of the lesson tasks physical movement, like running across the room to the piano to find note names, or dancing around while singing the piece, or practicing right and left by stomping rhythms with feet, or just taking a jumping break before moving on to the next task at the piano. Jumping breaks have saved so many lessons.

Re: Any suggestions for teaching a 4-year-old boy?
Maechre #2287389 06/08/14 02:30 PM
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I love teaching 4 year olds but I would suggest NOT focusing on piano activities for a good while but on singing, movement, walking/tapping to a beat, hand shape songs, etc... using the piano to reinforce hand shape songs, 2 and 3 black key clusters, highs and lows, and even 'some' notes on the piano (but using pointer and not actual finger numbers). And remember: boys are very different from girls; their attention span is much shorter, much more energy, and usually less fine motor skills. So a 4 yr old boy is really much younger than a girl the same age.


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Re: Any suggestions for teaching a 4-year-old boy?
dumdumdiddle #2287938 06/10/14 02:26 AM
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First of all, congrats on the new students!

About the four year old: I don't teach kids that young.

Understanding some of my reasons might help with your approach. I don't think children this young are ready to learn piano using normal teaching tools (By normal I just mean the tools we use for students 7 and older). I think the successful music activities for these early ages focus on music exposure, music enjoyment, and building some musical fundamentals that can be built on later when ready to really dig into learning piano. By the way singing is an activity that accomplishes a lot of that... and I think children should be singing very early.

So I guess my point really is that working with a child that young is a completely different thing. You're not just adapting a little.... you will need a whole different toolbox.

Also a danger that I'm concerned about with children that young: are they going to be burned out or the parent tired of spending the money before they're old enough to really learn a lot? Some parents start the child at four, give it three years, and say, "well, we've done the piano thing..."


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Re: Any suggestions for teaching a 4-year-old boy?
Maechre #2288442 06/11/14 09:03 AM
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Thanks for the thoughts so far.

I found this idea for the first lesson on pianostreet.com. http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=4020.0

I think I might approach the first lesson like this, and then teach by rote for a while, providing accompaniment.

Quote
[Quote
i have a 4 year old boy who is going to take piano lessons. I don't think it's best to start him out on the piano right away (in terms of playing)]


I completely disagree.

Here is this 4 year old boy, in a room with you and this magnificent, wondrous sound making machine, and you intend not to let him use it?

Is he going to pay any attention to you? I doubt it.

This is what I suggest you do.

Go to the piano, and encourage him to make sounds. He can use fists, he can play cluster of notes, he can play single notes, he can use just one finger or both hands, he can play loud or soft. Let him do whatever he wants. As for you, control your wish to “teach”, and instead observe. You are waiting for something. And this something is the moment when he run out of ideas. He will start fascinated and interested. But as he exhaust his repertory of ideas, he will get uninterested. This is the moment you must intervene and give him another idea, another thing to try. By the way, at this age this may take more than one lesson.

Here are three things to try once he gets tired of bashing the piano (in this order):

1. Tel him to play only on the black notes. No matter what the plays it will always sound good and have a vague “Chinese music” feeling to it.

2. Tel him to play RH fingers 234 the three black keys as a cluster (chord) and LH finger 23 the two black keys as a cluster. His job is to play them right on the beat. You can use a metronome, but I prefer to do something else. The point of this is to get him used to the idea of playing to a regular beat and start using the fingering that will be later used in scale playing. The something else I do is this. I play on the bass (LH) the notes F# and C# (thin crochets) alternately. He must be together with me. Once he gets the hang of going together, I introduce my RH and play this melody (quavers): D#-C# - A# - C#-D#- C# - A# - rest – D# - F# - D# - C# -A# - rest – rest –rest – rest - D#-C# - A# - C#-D#- C# - A# - rest – G#-F#- A# - G# - F#. Repeat as long as you wish.

They just love the sudden “organisation” that appears (first what sounds like randon clusters – then I add the bass what regulates the beat, and then the melody comes out of nowhere and fits everything perfectly).

I call it the “Chinese clock”. You can tell a story about it if you wish. He may master this the first lesson or not. It does not matter, how long it takes, just keep at it, since these are important basic skills.

3. Now you play on the bass the following chord progression (do it in broken chords, it is nicer): LH: C – RH: CEG – LH: A – RH: ACE – LH: F – RH: FAC – LH: G – RH: GBD and back to the beginning. Tell him (as you go through this progression) to play anything he wants as long as it is white notes only. It will always sound good and he will feel that he is actually playing something (and he is!).

Notice that the plan above follows a structure: (1) he can do whatever he wants. (2) he is totally limited in what he is allowed to do. And (3) he goes back to do what he wants, but within a certain limitation (only white notes). So we have thesis, antithesis and synthesis = Dialetics!

Watch like a hawk for signs of his attention drifting. As long as he is focused let him keep at the activity he is on. That is when learning is at its most effective. The moment he drifts change the activity. If he is an unusually concentrated child he may keep on (1) for the whole lesson. This is perfectly all right. If he is unusually unattentive the material above may not be enough to cover 20 – 30 minutes (which I am assuming is your lesson time. Be prepared to go through the same material for several lessons. It is not how much material you teach that matters. What matters in the end is how much did he learn.

Can he read fluently? If he cannot, I would not bother with the staff for a couple of weeks, or even a month. Instead, on this first lesson tell him about C. Make sure he leaves the lesson knowing where all the Cs on the piano are, and make sure that he finds the C by reference to the black notes. Again, do that at the piano with an activity I call “Jumping” he must jump up – with his finger, it does not matter which - and down the keyboard playing all Cs in sequence, and he does that by visually locating the 2 black keys and pressing the white key to the left. Can he tell left from right? Next lesson, tell his about the Fs (they are to the left of the three black keys, so this both reinforces the Cs and avoid confusion). Keep adding one note at a time (in this order: C – F – E – B and last A and G: expect trouble with these last two). When he is really good at this, teach him to say the notes first in order (ABCDFG), backwards (GFDCBA), and skipping (EGBDFAC) and skipping backwards (GBDFACE). Skipping is very important because it will lay the foundation for the staff later on (lines and spaces follow the order EGBDFACE)

This should be enough to see you through the first lesson and for him to leave the lesson wanting more!

Also very important is that over the course of the next weeks you find out what kind of music he likes. So that the pieces he loves are the pieces he learns how to play. No one bothers with what they don’t like. (At this age the sure bet is nursery rhymes and Disney/Children’s TV songs). Ask mum what he watches, what he hums, what he is singing at school.

By the way, I personally do not follow too rigid a plan. I make a plan (it is very important to have something to fall back on if everything else fails!) but I am always ready to let go of the plan and improvise according to the behaviour/personality of the student.

Good luck.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Bernhard


I love sight-reading! One day I will master it.

http://www.youtube.com/user/Acrozius?feature=mhee

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