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#949022 - 11/10/04 01:45 PM New teacher with questions  
Joined: Nov 2004
Posts: 5
ArtsOhio Offline
Junior Member
ArtsOhio  Offline
Junior Member

Joined: Nov 2004
Posts: 5
I'm a new piano teacher but I have experience teaching group music to preschoolers. I started teaching a 5-year-old boy several months ago and it's been such a joy! Lessons go great and by all accounts he looks forward to practicing and to lessons.

Flushed with victory smile I started teaching a 9-year-old girl who has had a year of lessons and is in "Teaching Little Fingers to Play" Book 2. I am having so much trouble! She doesn't know the names of the keys or how to read music at all. She plays completely in position by finger numbers. Even when the book stopped putting in every number, her previous teacher wrote them in.

We spend more time in lesson reviewing the names of the notes, the setup of the keyboard and music reading not to mention how to sit at the piano and hand position. I think she and her parents are getting very frustrated. I've mentioned putting her back in book 1 of another series, but I think that would just make her quit.

What really frustrates me is that I know she doesn't practice at home (at least what I assign, she picks out songs) and her behavior at lessons. She is very "fidgetty" and plays while I'm trying to explain things. Even closing the lid doesn't phase her, she fiddles with the pedals. I'll try to get her to name the notes on a piece and she will just stop and start pounding on the keys.

I just don't know what to do with this! This is behaviour I'd expect from the 5-year-old (who spoiled me, I guess)! I assume she is bored, but as I've told her, we can't move forward until she learns at least a few of the keys (she wants me to point out middle C to her before each song). Apparently she got through 2-3 songs a week with her previous teacher.

Any ideas? Should I just bite the bullet and put her back at book 1, page 1 and hope it takes this time?

The 5-year-old comes to lessons with a parent (they participate but don't get in the way). Do you think this would help my other student stay on task?

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#949023 - 11/10/04 02:48 PM Re: New teacher with questions  
Joined: Sep 2004
Posts: 677
divadeb Offline
500 Post Club Member
divadeb  Offline
500 Post Club Member

Joined: Sep 2004
Posts: 677
That kid is WAY too old to behave that way. No parent would be willing to pay for lessons if they realized how their child was (pardon my French) screwing around during her lesson time. I would get the parent in and explain your concerns. Do not be overly diplomatic, that behavior is totally unacceptable. Let the parent know that you need to see improvement in the child's cooperation and concentration or you will not continue to teach her. And yes, put her in a beginning theory book. Insist that it's your way or the highway, basically. Piano lessons are not about "getting through songs". They are about learning to play. If she refuses to learn to read the music, rat her out to her parent. If the parent doesn't care, drop the kid.

I know that sounds hard, but if they aren't teachable, it's wasting your time.

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.

#949024 - 11/11/04 05:05 AM Re: New teacher with questions  
Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 282
cranky woman Offline
Full Member
cranky woman  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 282
Phoenix, AZ
Hi Arts,

I agree with Deb that your student is too old to behave so poorly. Her suggestion that the parents sit in, is right on. Most of my younger students parents sit in on lessons for the first year, even transfer students that had lessons with another teacher. I find that having the parents close by really is enlightening, for me as well as the parent!

It does sound as if this student is uninterested, or maybe even has an attention issue. First, I would definitely put her back to her proper level, but change methods. There are so many wonderful methods out there that are more inspiring and creative methods than what your student is currently using. Here's some great methods that might hold her attention better: Celebrate Piano(pub. by Frederick Harris), Piano Adventures by Faber and Faber (pub. by FJH), Hal Leonard also has a good method, but I don't remember the exact title, then there's also Alfred and Bastien, but their music, IMO, is less interesting than the others mentioned.

You may also want to give her some sheet music. There are so many great pieces to inspire students. Catherine Rollin, Robert Vandall, Melody Bober, Randall or Nancy Faber have all composed wonderful pieces for beginners that might inspire your student to want to practice. These are sold in collections as well as sheet music. Sometimes the right piece, one that sounds difficult, but really isn't, is just what a student needs to feel success. If I were you, I'd spend some time in the music store picking out just the right piece for her. If she knew how much time you spent choosing music just for her, she might just be more inspired to practice. smile

It sounds as if you're on the right track in that you shut the piano lid and encourage her to pay attention. You may also want to try changing the lesson to include music games. Kids will do pretty much anything if presented as a game. I also pay my students with "music money" for proper behavior and for practicing. Then they can "purchase" items (candy, small toys, pencils, gift cards, etc.) with their money. This is a GREAT tool in keeping them motivated and on task. Check out this website: www.tcwresources.com where you can find fun games and music money.

Good Luck!

cranky woman laugh

#949025 - 11/11/04 05:31 PM Re: New teacher with questions  
Joined: Oct 2004
Posts: 11
pianocamel Offline
Junior Member
pianocamel  Offline
Junior Member

Joined: Oct 2004
Posts: 11
Lillington, North Carolina
Hi Arts,

I had a student in a somewhat similar situation this past summer. He didn't have the attention problems you are having, though I agree that the parents need to sit in on lessons and know what's going on. He did, however, have the same problems musically. He read only by finger numbers and didn't know any of the keys.

I am glad to say that we started over with the Hal Leonard Piano Lessons, and he has gone through two books in five months, and is starting on the third. We have used the accompaniment CD's that you can get to go with the book, and he loves them! We work on some during lessons, then he goes home and comes back with them near perfect every week. It's great!

I'd like to say thank you to cranky woman for posting that link to tcw resources. I had never heard of them. Those games look great!

Hope all goes well for you!


Moderated by  Ken Knapp 

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