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Avoiding excessive talking while teaching

Posted By: Andamento

Avoiding excessive talking while teaching - 05/16/19 01:19 AM

I haven't recorded myself teaching, but I sometimes sense that I'm using more words than I need to teach a concept. What strategies have you used to keep brief and to the point (when words are necessary), while still giving enough information to assist students in understanding?
Posted By: Peter K. Mose

Re: Avoiding excessive talking while teaching - 05/16/19 02:26 AM

I can never be accused of being brief and to the point. But sometimes I just say, "Sorry, I'm talking too much. Give it another try."
Posted By: outo

Re: Avoiding excessive talking while teaching - 05/16/19 03:51 AM

Don't know if I am being rude but I sometimes (kindly) ask my teacher to shut up smile She does not talk much but there are moments when I really need some space to think to get what she said and I cannot do it if she keeps talking further.

It may not work with children but with adults just make sure they are comfortable enough to tell you if you do.

Posted By: Animisha

Re: Avoiding excessive talking while teaching - 05/16/19 04:12 AM

Try to ask more questions! Instead of a whole explanation, can you start telling something, and then as soon as you can, ask your students a question and try to help them to (partly) come up with the answers themselves.

(I'm not a piano teacher myself, but I have taught.)
Posted By: Candywoman

Re: Avoiding excessive talking while teaching - 05/16/19 04:29 AM

Sometimes it helps to say top hand instead of right hand, or bottom hand instead of left hand. That's because some leftie students are used to switching left for right when they receive school instructions.

Posted By: malkin

Re: Avoiding excessive talking while teaching - 05/16/19 12:07 PM

Originally Posted by Candywoman
Sometimes it helps to say top hand instead of right hand, or bottom hand instead of left hand. That's because some leftie students are used to switching left for right when they receive school instructions.


I don't understand. Can you explain what you mean?
Posted By: pianist_lady

Re: Avoiding excessive talking while teaching - 05/16/19 04:24 PM

Originally Posted by outo
Don't know if I am being rude but I sometimes (kindly) ask my teacher to shut up smile She does not talk much but there are moments when I really need some space to think to get what she said and I cannot do it if she keeps talking further.

It may not work with children but with adults just make sure they are comfortable enough to tell you if you do.



Some kids will let you know! Like my 8 year old student: " Will you let me play the song already?!". Message received smile

Andamento does raise an important point. As teachers, we want to be thorough, but students may zone out if there is too much explaining.

Rather than explaining a whole concept at once, I try to give short, direct instructions so that the student has a chance to try something at the piano right away. Then we can layer on the rest of the elements one by one so that there's an ongoing back and forth between student and teacher. That's the intention, anyway. I'm sure I don't always succeed. At the very least, I try to be attentive to that eyes glazing over look of boredom...
Posted By: TimR

Re: Avoiding excessive talking while teaching - 05/16/19 04:39 PM

I don't teach piano but I do run a bell choir and have worked with elementary school kids, and I have the same fear.

There are two solutions.

The most valuable but most extremely painful thing I've ever done is let my smart phone run on video. Then, get the nerve to watch it. This is very aversive. I suppose you can get used to it; I haven't. But it is super valuable.

The other is to carefully monitor the other people's reactions and see when they're receiving and when they're zoning.
Posted By: keystring

Re: Avoiding excessive talking while teaching - 05/16/19 05:24 PM

Originally Posted by malkin
Originally Posted by Candywoman
Sometimes it helps to say top hand instead of right hand, or bottom hand instead of left hand. That's because some leftie students are used to switching left for right when they receive school instructions.


I don't understand. Can you explain what you mean?

As a lefty I get it, though as a partial dyslex the "top bottom" might confuse me too since I'd see top as ceiling, bottom as floor. The thing is that for the main culture, the right hand is the dominant hand. We absorb that culture, and associate the word "right" with "dominant" .... except that our left is our dominant hand. We will cross-associate, so that we hear "right", think "dominant", and use the left (which is the dominant). wink

What I've heard often enough in lessons is: "Your right hand. (pause) Your other right hand." laugh works beautifully.
Posted By: keystring

Re: Avoiding excessive talking while teaching - 05/16/19 05:32 PM

Some quick thoughts.
I had considered something like Tim's idea - to record oneself, analyze what you were trying to teach; did it come across; what was the reaction and response; might it have been done differently & more briefly - and gradually tweak the teaching.

I am also thinking that concepts in piano are first of all physical (in fact, concepts per se start in the real world, to be experienced). So are concepts to be explained in world, or to be experienced and discovered,and then explained / explored afterward.

Finally I thought of our classroom teacher training and practices. There was a formal lesson plan procedure. You planned the entire teaching unit that may run for 2 - 3 weeks, starting with "aims and objectives" - the broad concepts and sub-concepts building it. Then how you will bring across these concepts through experiences, activities etc., and finally how you reinforce it (homework, assignments) and check that it's there.

As an example: One of my gr. 2 teaching units was "solid,liquid,gas".. Most objects expand when heated. We made popcorn. The kids talked of telephone wires that sagged in the summer. There was an activity where kids could put a Kleenex in a cup, put the cup underwater where the trapped air kept the Kleenex dry, showing the presence of air.

Can you give examples of some concepts that you would try to teach? Maybe for exploration?
Posted By: TimR

Re: Avoiding excessive talking while teaching - 05/16/19 06:28 PM

[quote=keystring]
As a lefty I get it, though as a partial dyslex the "top bottom" might confuse me too since I'd see top as ceiling, bottom as floor. /quote]

I ran into that this week.

I take an Iyengar yoga class, but my daughter does Body Flow, so I visited hers this week.

She explained as we rolled out our maps that there was a front and back to the room. I didn't comprehend why, or I didn't listen well. The teacher kept referring to the front and back foot, which I took to mean whichever foot was forward or back, and I was out of sync with the class for a good half the session. The front foot was actually meant to be that foot nearest the front wall.
Posted By: AZNpiano

Re: Avoiding excessive talking while teaching - 05/16/19 10:15 PM

I'm almost the opposite of you. When I teach something, I use as few words as possible because there's an assumption that students remember stuff from before: prior knowledge. Unfortunately, most of the time I end up having to backtrack and re-teach some concept.

But if it's a brand new concept that's not based on any prior knowledge, then what I do is I try several modes of explanation until the student achieves comprehension. Believe it or not: Most of the time it takes one mode of explanation + repetitions. Kids just don't like to listen, so I have to repeat the same thing several times until they get it. Then if that doesn't work, I try to explain the same thing in different ways. I'm pretty big on connecting with the student's prior knowledge, so I try to build new knowledge on something (even remotely related) that they already know or have experienced.

For the advanced students, though, I do catch myself going off on a tangent because I have so much junk knowledge to share with people.
Posted By: malkin

Re: Avoiding excessive talking while teaching - 05/16/19 10:56 PM

I remember in yoga getting confused that "up" sometimes meant closer to the ceiling and other times meant in the direction of the head, (which could be toward the ceiling, the wall, or the floor. (Is "fixed up" anything like "fixed do?!")

I mix up lateral directions all the time. I don't remember talking about this explicitly, but my teacher must know this, and sometimes touches the hand or finger he's talking about.

In sessions a speech therapist, I have sometimes just gotten tired of hearing myself talk. If I'm sick of it, I can only imagine how aversive it must be for my client.
Posted By: dogperson

Re: Avoiding excessive talking while teaching - 05/16/19 11:28 PM

I love the digressions from my teacher as there are a bunch of little tidbits on practicing or performance in thosešŸ˜Š
I would recommend that watching your studentā€™s facial expressions and whether there is dialogue will tell you what is too much or just right
Posted By: keystring

Re: Avoiding excessive talking while teaching - 05/17/19 12:09 AM

Off topic - sorta. When I was still studying violin, one day I wanted to lift a particular finger, or put it down. Anyway, I wanted to move that finger. I stared at the finger. It was not that far from my face. My brain didn't know which finger to move. I tapped it with the other hand. The brain said, "Oh, that finger!" and finally it moved. I've always been intrigued by that phenomenon.

Other observations. If in the piano music, there is 4 above a note, my hand instantly zips up, and the ring finger latches onto that note on the piano automatically. But if my teacher says "play D with 4, I stare at my hand and I might play D with 2. I don't know whether it's tactile, so that if I played that D while staring into space "4" would come to me, or if it is an association linked straight to the page.

Going back on topic: As a student, when I'm in new territory, I cannot hold on to a sequence of instructions, so it does have to be broken down in bits even at my age. You have to consider that everything we do at the piano has numerous facets rolled into one. You have the notes or patterns: the piano keys with blacks and whites; the fingers; possibly the motion. That is for ONE chord or phrase. In some lessons, I will repeat the instruction in order to fix it into the brain, so that when I start to move, the act of moving doesn't wipe out the rest. So as I'm writing, I think that spacing things out is the way to go.

I'm also thinking that if something has been learned through a sequence of activities, then assigning that same sequence of activities to be done at home, will better fixate the concept. I don't know how practical is, or if any teacher can come up with a concrete application of the idea.
Posted By: Andamento

Re: Avoiding excessive talking while teaching - 05/17/19 03:35 AM

Lots of great comments here! Thank you.

A few thoughts:

Originally Posted by Animisha
Try to ask more questions!


Definitely. I love asking questions to get into the student's mind, so to speak. Sometimes I learn some pretty fascinating things.

Case in point (funny story from one lesson this week):

The student was taking forever to start playing one of his pieces. He's not ordinarily a speedy, launch-into-playing-immediately type of student, but this time he was especially super-slow. I thought he probably didn't practice the piece very much, as he seemed not to know how to begin.

I waited probably literally a full minute, and when I couldn't stand the silence any more, I asked him what he was thinking about, and why he wasn't starting the music.

He told me he was trying to hear in his mind what tempo he wanted to go, but the ticking clock on the wall 10 feet behind him was distracting him!

Anyway...there definitely get to be some interesting answers at times. laugh

--------------------------

Talk about Top/Bottom, Right/Left, Up/Down, High/Low, Front/Back, etc.:

Fascinating discussion, and one that points to the challenges of reading music that is vertical on a music rack and playing it simultaneously on a keyboard that's perpendicular to the position of the music.

One thing I've tried to emphasize to students is that the left hand is closer to the low side of the piano (Low and Left both start with the letter L), and the rIGHt hand is closer to the hIGH side (both "right" and "high" have IGH in them). I also have them play low sounds and high sounds to correspond with "Left" and "Right," respectively. Most students can hear the difference between low and high, so I try to get them to associate the sound with the name of the hand that usually plays those sounds.

Then the next challenge, of course, is distinguishing between notes on the staff that may be going up even as you drop to the next lower system on the page; the changing of stem direction when the notes get high or low enough; and other interesting things like that. smile


Originally Posted by pianist_lady
At the very least, I try to be attentive to that eyes glazing over look of boredom...


Originally Posted by TimR
The other is to carefully monitor the other people's reactions and see when they're receiving and when they're zoning.


Originally Posted by dogperson
I would recommend that watching your student's facial expressions and whether there is dialogue will tell you what is too much or just right


Good points. The zoning/glazed over look happens more with the older students--the younger ones tend to start playing the piano while I'm talking.

Or an attentive parent can help. One student looked out the window once recently while I was talking, and his mom snapped her fingers once sharply, looked at her son, and pointed at me, in a wordless "Pay attention to your teacher!" directive.

But it was also a good note-to-self for me to quit yapping!

Originally Posted by TimR
The most valuable but most extremely painful thing I've ever done is let my smart phone run on video. Then, get the nerve to watch it.


I'll have to get a recording device that goes longer than the 30 seconds that my "dumb phone" takes video. Or maybe turn it on at random times that I'm explaining things, and try to get done before the 30 seconds is up. Hmmm... But, yes, I think a lot could be learned (not that I'd take any delight in the findings!) through it.

Originally Posted by AZNpiano
For the advanced students, though, I do catch myself going off on a tangent because I have so much junk knowledge to share with people.


I can relate to this. I get chattier with advanced students, sharing stories about composers and performers historical and current, and other such stuff. Sometimes they're interested in it, similarly to what dogperson mentioned about enjoyable digressions, but other times the glazed-over look starts creeping across the student's face... Time to get back to the playing then.

I wish I could simply avoid getting to the point where the boredom sets in!
Posted By: Andamento

Re: Avoiding excessive talking while teaching - 05/17/19 03:38 AM

Originally Posted by keystring
Some quick thoughts.
I had considered something like Tim's idea - to record oneself, analyze what you were trying to teach; did it come across; what was the reaction and response; might it have been done differently & more briefly - and gradually tweak the teaching.

I am also thinking that concepts in piano are first of all physical (in fact, concepts per se start in the real world, to be experienced). So are concepts to be explained in world, or to be experienced and discovered,and then explained / explored afterward.

Finally I thought of our classroom teacher training and practices. There was a formal lesson plan procedure. You planned the entire teaching unit that may run for 2 - 3 weeks, starting with "aims and objectives" - the broad concepts and sub-concepts building it. Then how you will bring across these concepts through experiences, activities etc., and finally how you reinforce it (homework, assignments) and check that it's there.

As an example: One of my gr. 2 teaching units was "solid,liquid,gas".. Most objects expand when heated. We made popcorn. The kids talked of telephone wires that sagged in the summer. There was an activity where kids could put a Kleenex in a cup, put the cup underwater where the trapped air kept the Kleenex dry, showing the presence of air.

Can you give examples of some concepts that you would try to teach? Maybe for exploration?


Originally Posted by keystring
As a student, when I'm in new territory, I cannot hold on to a sequence of instructions, so it does have to be broken down in bits even at my age. You have to consider that everything we do at the piano has numerous facets rolled into one. You have the notes or patterns: the piano keys with blacks and whites; the fingers; possibly the motion. That is for ONE chord or phrase. In some lessons, I will repeat the instruction in order to fix it into the brain, so that when I start to move, the act of moving doesn't wipe out the rest. So as I'm writing, I think that spacing things out is the way to go.

I'm also thinking that if something has been learned through a sequence of activities, then assigning that same sequence of activities to be done at home, will better fixate the concept. I don't know how practical is, or if any teacher can come up with a concrete application of the idea.


Very good questions here. I will sleep on them and get back to you tomorrow. smile
Posted By: Andamento

Re: Avoiding excessive talking while teaching - 05/17/19 09:21 PM

Originally Posted by keystring


I am also thinking that concepts in piano are first of all physical (in fact, concepts per se start in the real world, to be experienced). So are concepts to be explained in world, or to be experienced and discovered,and then explained / explored afterward...

Can you give examples of some concepts that you would try to teach? Maybe for exploration?


Yes, I agree, experiencing the piano physically first, before introducing note-reading and names of symbols on a page (quarter notes, finger numbers, etc.), is important. It's one of the reasons I encourage families to have an instrument for a time before beginning lessons. Familiarity with the physical aspects of playing one's piano, and how the instrument responds, is already in place before note-reading and other new concepts get introduced in the lessons.

In my graduate-level Kodaly studies, we talked about the "conscious concept" principle. This is the idea of teaching for knowledge and understanding, not just experience, like in preschool, but doing it after one has already experienced the thing physically.

An example from a music classroom:

The students have already sung many songs with the solfege syllables mi, so, and la. When the teacher introduces the song Ring Around the Rosy, which ends on do, she lets the children sing the song (and others that contain do), then at a later time tells them the name of that last syllable.

So instead of starting with, "Today we're going to learn a new syllable: do," you let them sing songs that use the syllable, but use the lyrics of the song, rather than "so so mi la so mi ... so mi so mi mi so so do." By the time the label "do" is given, the children have already sung the so-do or mi-do sequence and have experience on which to hang the hat (label) of do.

Something similar in piano lessons might be to give students the experience of learning that [this] staff position corresponds with [this] key on the piano. It's a 2-step process (staff to key), rather than a 3-step sequence (staff, letter name, corresponding key).

Reading intervals can be the same way: line to next line means one space on the staff and one white key on the piano get skipped. Later they can learn that one letter of the alphabet gets skipped, too, and identify which letter it is. But they don't need that conscious concept yet of what the name of that skipped note on the staff is to physically play an interval of a third on the instrument when they see a third on the staff.

It's a gradual layering in of new information (physical first, knowledge-based later) that helps put a name to a familiar experience.

Am I answering your questions? smile
Posted By: malkin

Re: Avoiding excessive talking while teaching - 05/18/19 01:00 AM

Ahhh INTERESTING!
Since what I am teaching IS using words, talking too much might be more of a risk in my biz than in piano.

Although, since my clients generally have deficits in receptive language as well as expressive language, any verbal instructions I give them are likely to be minimally useful.

As with everything, there's a sweet spot of just enough verbal input and just enough contextual support. Some of you might remember my old signature quote from Oliver Wilde, "All things in moderation, including moderation."

Of course the sweet spot will vary across individuals, because life is not boring and hardly anything is straightforward.
Posted By: Lostinidlewonder

Re: Avoiding excessive talking while teaching - 05/18/19 09:38 AM

I feel that the amount you talk in lesson depends on the student you are dealing with. I have some students who love talking a lot and talking about the music/art experiences they have encountered as well as piano playing experiences (their own or others), we do have to watch out not to talk too much because we might not get any work done! Though they enjoy a great amount discussing music in general and asking about where to get different experiences from, who/what is interesting to listen to, what music might be good to look into etc, all these are valuable discussions with many words and sharing of opinions which motivate them to work hard at their own music as well as search through the music that is out there.

When actual playing in lessons though I feel that very precise words needs to be used that get to the point and so that they can test it out fast and/or correct themselves quickly, if you talk too much you restrict the flow of the lesson and it can get confusing, it also takes time again to "get the ball rolling" as they say. You may notice this "ball rolling" effect when you study something yourself, it takes a good few minutes while you start to really get the brain working and to get into your work, there are several levels of this thinking/playing momentum in acutal piano practice and we don't want to have to continually restart these phases too often by too much distraction. Afterwards when assessing what has been done and there is no more playing to be done talk as much as the invidivual requires, there is nothing wrong with it so long your time allows. I have some Chinese students who barely talk at all in the lesson, listens only to advice and get on with the job, even if I ask them to reveal what they feel about something there is very very few words, that is their style and it works for them though I do try to get them to open up and use more words to describe their feeling, it helps with their creativity and helps them share their struggles and not internalize it all which is quite a healthy practice.
Posted By: Andamento

Re: Avoiding excessive talking while teaching - 05/18/19 01:10 PM

Originally Posted by malkin
As with everything, there's a sweet spot of just enough verbal input and just enough contextual support.


Totally agree.

Originally Posted by malkin
Of course the sweet spot will vary across individuals, because life is not boring and hardly anything is straightforward.


That, and the sweet spot will vary from day to day or week to week in any one individual, too.

Originally Posted by malkin
Some of you might remember my old signature quote from Oliver Wilde, "All things in moderation, including moderation."


I like that. smile
Posted By: Andamento

Re: Avoiding excessive talking while teaching - 05/18/19 01:12 PM

Originally Posted by Lostinidlewonder
I have some students who love talking a lot and talking about the music/art experiences they have encountered as well as piano playing experiences (their own or others), we do have to watch out not to talk too much because we might not get any work done!


I've had students like this, too, and yes, deciding how much time to give them to talk about their experiences is a balancing act. For purposes of this post, though, I'm thinking about how I as a teacher can avoid excessive talking to my students. I could have worded the thread title more specifically, I realize now. smile


Originally Posted by Lostinidlewonder
if you talk too much you restrict the flow of the lesson and it can get confusing, it also takes time again to "get the ball rolling" as they say.


These are very good points, LiW.
Posted By: hello my name is

Re: Avoiding excessive talking while teaching - 05/30/19 05:55 PM

Perhaps think about it this way~

Talking implies that the kind of learning your student is doing is listening.
How about mix it up a bit, use the other senses? Visual and physical/sensory ..
Taste and Smell prob are out.. keke.
Find ways to make it interactive so you are not just relying on your student's ability to listen well.
Posted By: Andamento

Re: Avoiding excessive talking while teaching - 06/04/19 02:32 AM

Originally Posted by hello my name is
Perhaps think about it this way~

Talking implies that the kind of learning your student is doing is listening.
How about mix it up a bit, use the other senses? Visual and physical/sensory ..
Taste and Smell prob are out.. keke.
Find ways to make it interactive so you are not just relying on your student's ability to listen well.


These are great tips. Thanks, hello my name is.
Posted By: Candywoman

Re: Avoiding excessive talking while teaching - 06/04/19 02:29 PM

I'm not quite sure how you'd use these visual cues. You could give a piece of paper to the student that says, "play the phrase again", but piano is all about listening. I suppose you could have a music stand at the entrance with the tip, "practice five times per week".

I've been known to move a student's finger but it's not generally effective. So what physical sensory things can you really expect. Only that the teacher plays a phrase first, perhaps.
Posted By: Andamento

Re: Avoiding excessive talking while teaching - 06/04/19 06:59 PM

Originally Posted by Candywoman
I'm not quite sure how you'd use these visual cues. You could give a piece of paper to the student that says, "play the phrase again", but piano is all about listening. I suppose you could have a music stand at the entrance with the tip, "practice five times per week".

I've been known to move a student's finger but it's not generally effective. So what physical sensory things can you really expect. Only that the teacher plays a phrase first, perhaps.


Yes, the teacher playing a phrase and the student echoing it is one example. When used sparingly, it can be effective. (OT, I'm not advocating learning much or all of one's music in this way, though. I'm still cleaning up the mess created by the former teacher of a transfer student of mine, a student who learned almost or entirely fully by rote for six years.) frown

One way I like for building visual skills is to have students do copywork. Some theory books (I know Piano Safari is one of them) have copywork exercises.

Copying could also be done as a wordless, interactive activity during lessons. I draw a note on my staff paper, student draws the same note on his/her staff paper. (Or student alternatively responds by placing a magnet on a magnetic staff if doing written work is a challenge.) It can help me as the teacher understand if a student is experiencing visual challenges in interpreting where notes are positioned on the staff.
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