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Author Topic: How in the world do you teach a three year old?  (Read 3713 times)
rachmaninoff_forever
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« on: February 02, 2012, 12:45:34 AM »

I've heard of people who are like, "oh yeah I've been playing piano for like 150 years.  I started a couple hours after birth".  How does someone manage to teach like a two or three year old? 

Cause I mean, they're like babies and can't reach the pedal!  I also would think that they wouldn't focus their attention on the piano and like daze off.
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ajspiano
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« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2012, 01:15:58 AM »

I don't actually teach anyone that young..

But my approach would probably center around teaching basic musical concepts more extensively than I would with someone older..

clapping in time
clapping rhythms
alphabet games (ie. what comes 2 letters after B?)
simple piano concepts like loud and soft
high sounds, low sounds..

keyboard layout (find a group of 2 black keys, now find another one..  which might first involve ensuring the child knows how to count to 2 and recognise groups of 2)
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cjp_piano
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« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2012, 05:43:38 PM »

You don't really teach "piano" to a 3 year old, but you can have them experience music in a group class. That's probably the best scenario.
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elza
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« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2012, 09:56:03 PM »

Reading this thread I cannot stop myself from writing of my own experience on this subject.

I have taught the piano for 30 years but in the first 15 or so years I always taught at a high level and had no experience of teaching even 5 or 6 year olds.  But then I found myself in a situation where each year I had at least 10 new students aged between 4 and 6. I have to say that initially I found this extremely frustrating. However it forced me to develop a piano method which was especially designed for the 4 to 6 age group. Recent experience has showed that it is quite suitable for three year olds as well.

The method developed as my experience with these young children grew over the next 15 years. These children gave me the best possible feedback – I worked out the method with and for them. Now some of my most enjoyable experiences result from teaching these children, who learn piano in the same way as they learn to speak their mother tongue. At this age, and even earlier, appropriate connections are being made in the brain and it turns out that this is a particularly good age to start. My youngest was 2 and a half and I teach very many 3 year olds.

The approach is based on using animals to represent the musical notes Cat for C, Dog for D etc. so it is not necessary for the child to be able to read or write. It combines singing, improvisation, finger exercises, rhythm exercises, ear training, note reading etc. You can find more information on these techniques for teaching very young children at www.dogsandbirds.co.uk. This method is now being used by hundreds of teachers and is proving to be very successful.

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jamesstark
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« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2012, 04:52:46 AM »

Even I think the same...But actually they make a 3yr old child get use to the music session which eventually makes him to get involved in it...
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pianoplayjl
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« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2012, 11:04:09 AM »

3 year olds shouldn't be learning nor be coerced into learning by their parents. The children should learn if they want to because during that stage a child's psychology is still developing and it is important that parents not impede thier progress. Not that playing the piano will impede their progress but I think that children that young should deserve some freedom in what they want to do. If they want to play with toys, so be it. But if they are so wanting to play the piano, so be it. I think it be best that you teach the 3 year old simple songs for 1 year and at the start of each lesson do some revision and ask the child what he remembers from the previous lesson.  Grin

JL
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elza
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« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2012, 11:17:59 PM »

In my last post I wrote about my experience of teaching the piano to the very young. I have now taught more than 200 children between the ages of 2 and a half to 6. I did not emphasize the psychological and practical aspects of this earlier, but I will elaborate here on the details of teaching a 3 year old.

1. The child will need parental help – the parent should be in the lesson and practise daily with the child. 5 to 10 minutes a day is perfectly adequate.
2. The parental help most certainly should not be pushy, and the parents should follow the teacher’s instructions. Therefore you should always write down a weekly practice plan which is very varied.
3. The lessons and practice should be based on many different musical exercises and games (at least 6 to 8 ). If these are interesting and fun for the child then the child will want to learn. Possibly the child will lead the practice and the lesson, since you should always respond to his or her needs.

In conclusion, if the child is smiling during lessons and practice then it is definitely not too early to learn the piano. 
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love_that_tune
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« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2012, 07:29:18 PM »

My most wonderful piano teacher was a child prodigy and became a college professor and was on stage with significant orchestras.  Pan forward to his late twenties and he was bitter and didn't want to play any more.  He sold me his Steinway and moved on.  That has influenced me greatly in my approach to teaching.  Is the student engaged?  Are they playing to please others?  Or do they please themselves?  The development of interests and knowledge has to include what is within.  And trust me three year olds will "show" you what is inside them.  I have only taught 4 year olds when there are older siblings in the house playing and they want to be included.  It's great fun to improvise on the piano - scarey sounds, happy sounds, thunder etc.  I have had a few bright little sparks "compose" by that I mean every week they play the same thing and will add to it.  it is so very important to be careful to observe their every reaction.  These are patterns of relationships with teachers for life.
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fleetfingers
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« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2012, 07:54:06 PM »

Cause I mean, they're like babies and can't reach the pedal!

LOL, I don't think that matters! They can certainly make music without using the pedal. Smiley


I also would think that they wouldn't focus their attention on the piano and like daze off.

That's the key for teaching a three-year-old: to realize that their attention spans are short and then work around that fact. It seems that most pianists who began at age three were first taught by their mother or father. It's easier to go to the piano and work with a young child for a few minutes several times a day than it is to have a scheduled 30-minute lesson once a week, like you would for an older child. So, if the teacher is not the parent, then it helps greatly to teach the parent how to play and how they can work with their three-year-old during the week. Some kids can sit at the piano by themselves and "play" for a very long time; that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about their attention span being short when it comes to receiving instruction and following orders.

Young children have a natural desire to learn and a natural desire to please. A teacher and/or parent can use this to his/her advantage when teaching piano (or anything).
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elza
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« Reply #9 on: February 10, 2012, 09:35:58 PM »


That's the key for teaching a three-year-old: to realize that their attention spans are short and then work around that fact. It seems that most pianists who began at age three were first taught by their mother or father. It's easier to go to the piano and work with a young child for a few minutes several times a day than it is to have a scheduled 30-minute lesson once a week, like you would for an older child. So, if the teacher is not the parent, then it helps greatly to teach the parent how to play and how they can work with their three-year-old during the week. Some kids can sit at the piano by themselves and "play" for a very long time; that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about their attention span being short when it comes to receiving instruction and following orders.

Young children have a natural desire to learn and a natural desire to please. A teacher and/or parent can use this to his/her advantage when teaching piano (or anything).


Fleetfingers, I completely agree with you. What a perfect summary!

Elza
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fleetfingers
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« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2012, 08:30:35 AM »

Thanks, Elza! I enjoyed your comments, too. It's nice to hear when people have success teaching young children, and it sounds like you've been very creative in your approach! I like your ideas. Smiley I'm not sure if it was you, but someone had the same suggestion before - to use animals instead of just the letters. Or people's names. School teachers do a similar thing when teaching beginning phonics. They make a connection between the sound and a word, as in "a-a-apple" or "b-b-ball". Obviously, it shows the students an example of how the sound is used in a word, but the students can also refer back to their memory of the object itself to remind themselves of the sound. The teachers I've observed would use the same flash cards with the same objects for each letter every day. So, each letter and sound is matched up with a concrete object that the children can remember easily. Anyway, not positive it's the same as using animals for music notes, but either way, I like the idea.
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elza
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« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2012, 09:04:14 AM »

Thanks Fleetfingers for your compliment. In a sense the use of animals was the children’s idea! I tried various objects in the early days, but the animals were by far the most successful.

At this age you cannot progress without making the lessons and practice interesting, fun and varied.  I introduced the animals for this reason. However I discovered that with their introduction came many other benefits.

The animals have been chosen to be monosyllabic (CAT, DOG, EGG, FISH, GOOSE, ANT, BIRD), so that the child can sing them simultaneously as he/she plays. This makes the connection so strong at this young age that I have found that many children retain perfect pitch.

It is of great benefit for children to start learning the piano when they are very young. My students’ parents have been amazed at the cognitive development that results from just 5 to 10 minutes of daily practice.

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lukebar
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« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2012, 11:15:09 PM »

I'm a piano teacher and also Dad to a 2 1/2 year old. While I recognize she is too young for formal instruction, I've already begun her piano lessons. We have probably three or four mini lessons per day- and when I say mini, I'm talking 30 - 60 SECONDS. But- she does know where to find the "birdy" and "froggy" sounds on the piano. After I play, "Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle...." she can play the three notes stepping up for "...all the way." We explore forte and piano sounds. I play and she sings. She plays and I sing.

When we have a lesson, I have absolutely NO expectations that she will learn something, or be successful at what I ask her to try, or that she will even try. This is so contrary to what we piano teacher's expect from our older students that many teachers do not even want try working with a student until they are able to maintain attention for at least 15 - 20 minutes and will follow instructions.

It is never too early to begin piano lessons... You just have to adjust your definition of what a piano lesson actually is!  Wink
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j_menz
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« Reply #13 on: February 21, 2012, 02:47:44 AM »

I'd check Leopold Mozart's diaries for tips.  Grin
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slane
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« Reply #14 on: February 21, 2012, 03:25:25 AM »

Toilet training???

Oops sorry ... *how* not *what* Smiley
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tekime
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« Reply #15 on: February 28, 2012, 10:59:09 PM »

My daughter is four. The quickest way to ruin her interest in piano is to try and teach her!

But she absolutely loves listening to me play, dancing and singing along, and making requests (twinkle twinkle little star is a big hit).

Occasionally she gets into playing, and I just let her bang on the keys willy nilly and make up crazy little girl songs. Every now and then, she'll get lost in it for a little while -- and here and there she'll bust out these tremendously beautiful little melodies. She loves dancing to Schubert and I'll often catch her humming some rather complex melodies on car rides and such. Smiley

Is she learning any technical skills? Not really... but she's developing a love for music, and an appreciation and understanding of the instrument.

Just showing my daughter how beautiful music is, and how much joy the piano can bring her is the best, and only, lesson I can imagine giving her right now!
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tekime
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« Reply #16 on: February 28, 2012, 11:09:33 PM »

I'm a piano teacher and also Dad to a 2 1/2 year old. While I recognize she is too young for formal instruction, I've already begun her piano lessons. We have probably three or four mini lessons per day- and when I say mini, I'm talking 30 - 60 SECONDS. But- she does know where to find the "birdy" and "froggy" sounds on the piano. After I play, "Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle...." she can play the three notes stepping up for "...all the way." We explore forte and piano sounds. I play and she sings. She plays and I sing.

Wow, still that's impressive for a girl her age! Way to go! Nothing beats that time together either.  Smiley
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