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Author Topic: Teaching to a barely 4-year-old  (Read 28272 times)
hsalix
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« on: November 27, 2011, 02:58:22 AM »

Hi there,

I was just wondering if you all have some tips on teaching piano to very, very young children, as in a 4-year-old girl.  Her attention span is of about 10-12 minutes--tops--and I don't quite know what to teach her.  So far (2 lessons), we've looked at the central C and I've shown her the D, too.  Hopefully, she'll remember that by next week. Wink  It's pretty much out of the question for me to teach her anything about say, quarter notes, half notes, etc, as I'm pretty much positive that it would fly 6 feet above her (adorably cute!) head...

I currently am using the Step-by-Step method (Burnam) but I think I'll have to get her another one, as it seems to be progressing too fast.  I'm quite familiar with Boris Berlin's ABC, but that does not offer enough practice of the same notes.  Any suggestions for traditional, yet kid-friendly books?

I'm also considering doing little games, activities, etc, but not sure what to do apart from singing songs.  Does anyone have a favorite activity to do with little kids?

I'd appreciate any and all input---I'm very new at this, as I am an advanced music student (community-college level) and haven't been specifically trained in teaching, and so far, young children have been the hardest for me to teach.

Thanks!
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pianoplayjl
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« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2011, 05:51:17 AM »

I'd say that a 4 year old is very difficult to teach so you have to keep trying. Eventually as you teach more I think you will understand the student's pyschology. Try to take notes during the lesson on anything peculiar. Try to make the lesson short e.g. with a maximum time of 30 minutes. You nned to make more time for her to develop herself because remember she is still only a child, albeit a small one. Maybe spend 5 minutes each lesson revising over the previous lessons. Try not to teach her too much each lesson because I think she has a limited capacity to absorb and that she gets distracted every time. I don't know much about music and games but maybe try googling 'piano games for kids or musical games for kids or something similar. Its bound to have some results. For traditional or kid friendly books, I don't know much but there is John Thompson's easiest piano course that covers preliminary grade and is divided into 4 parts. There are many little songs in there (obviously) and diagrams of pianos and notes etc. The thing however that I like most about John Thompson's books is that there are accompaniment parts for nearly every song, thereby making learning mroe enjoyable. I'm sure your students would find the pictures of monsters placed on every page enjoyable and funny. Maybe even every few lessons or so play her a little song to inspire and motivate her in some way, even though many people in here oppose this. However I'm only a student and you might have already realised most of my pointers above but I hope this helps.

JL
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Funny? How? How am I funny?
elza
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« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2011, 11:03:21 PM »

Hi Hsalix,

You are right, it can be difficult teaching very young children if you don’t have experience in the field or appropriate material.

I have actually been specializing in teaching 3 to 7 year olds for between 10 and 15 years now. Most importantly I suggest you watch the child and make her happy all the time. Together with my husband I worked out a piano method for very young children which, as well as playing musical pieces, incorporates rhythm exercises, finger exercises, improvisation, sight-singing, ear-training and composition. In addition to the tutor books we have written a Supplementary Notes to Book 1, which explains clearly in a step-by-step fashion all these musical elements and has a set of lesson plans. It helps to make the lessons and practice enjoyable and provides a solid musical foundation.

The main idea is that the musical notes are represented by animals: Cat, Dog, Egg, Fish, Goose, Ant and Bird. This makes learning light work for both you and the student. On top of this, since the animal names are all of a single syllable, the child can (and should) sing them constantly as he/she plays.

You can find more information at www.dogsandbirds.co.uk.

Please let me know if you would like more advice.
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peddidle
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« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2011, 12:16:40 AM »

I started lessons when I was 4. I don't remember much about the lessons/methods, just that fun memory aids were used--pictures, rhymes, activities. The songs I learned at that age invovled only a few notes. I remember playing Ba Ba Black Sheep very early on, along with other nursery rhyme songs that would be familiar to a young child. I remember learning things like whole note, half note, full rest, half rest, etc. during the first year of piano lessons. My teacher would claps my hands together and give a gentle bouncing motion with them to show how long a whole note would be versus a half note versus a quarter note (the longer the note was to be held, the more bounces my clasped hands would do). I think a 4-year-old can probably grasp more than we might think as long as the lessons are short, engaging, and fun...and the parent(s) continue to work with the child throughout the week so that not all is lost during the interim!
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cjp_piano
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« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2011, 03:55:35 PM »

Faber has a series called "My First Piano Adventures"

http://pianoadventures.com/myfirst/

It's very good because a 4 year old probably can't read yet, so the method does not require them to like others. There are large pictures and numbers and things to correlate to the piano keys.

Whatever method you use or even if you don't use any books, there needs to be a lot of singing, dancing, and games. You can't expect them to sit on a bench for several minutes while trying to read music. They should memorize songs by singing them with you and doing motions. There should be a lot of exploring and experimenting with sounds on the piano even if they aren't using "correct" fingerings and hand positions. Just let them smash their hands down and tip toe on the keys and all sorts of activities that stimulate creativity and listening.
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megadodd
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« Reply #5 on: November 28, 2011, 04:17:20 PM »

I'm not a teacher, but I remember my first lesson.
I was 7, I'm certain there's a wide gap between a 4 and a 7 year old kid.
But the teacher showed me the middle C and she asked me for my favourite tune, I said something with KISS I believe...the next lesson she played it for me and I got to sing along the best I could (humming 95% of the lyrics).

I think just, getting a kid as a 4 year old would respond best to just, get involved in the music for a start. While teaching them to play something like C D E F G. There is a memory blackhole in between my first and second lesson untill I knew how to read a G cleff and playing some simplified Mozart.
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Repertoire.
2011/2012

Brahms op 118
Chopin Preludes op 28
Grieg Holberg Suite
Mendelssohn Piano trio D minor op 49
Rachmaninoff Etude Tabelaux op 33 no 3 & 4 op 39 no 2
Scriabin Preludes op 1
cjp_piano
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« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2011, 04:21:10 PM »

I'm not a teacher, but I remember my first lesson.
I was 7, I'm certain there's a wide gap between a 4 and a 7 year old kid.

HUGE difference between 4 and 7!!
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hsalix
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« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2011, 04:40:28 PM »

Thank you very much, everyone! Smiley  I'll definitely keep your tips in mind, and today, we are going to do a bunch of singing!! Smiley
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lukebar
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« Reply #8 on: November 28, 2011, 09:18:11 PM »

Just concentrate on keeping the lessons fun and learning will take place. When young children are having fun, their learning switch is in the on position. Have a plan, but be prepared for the student to dictate what is going to be learned (explored) during any particular lesson.

And be prepared for what will feel like extremely SLOW progress to you. If you are used to working with more traditionally aged beginners (6-8), you will have to dial back your expectations a great deal. Don't feel like you aren't doing good work with the student when results don't come as quickly as you would like. Keep it fun and your persistence will pay off.
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It's a note naming drill, it's a horse race, it's an app for your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad!
http://flashnotederbyapp.com
bestpianomommy
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« Reply #9 on: March 03, 2015, 02:32:28 PM »

I have taught three students in the 4 year old range, and the most important thing to remember us that it must be fun and it will be slow going!  Very slow going. Some children cannot focus and sit for a ten minute lesson so developmentally you have the odds stacked against you. All that being said, they can learn! 

This is the sort of age where games (find the note by sound, copy the rhythm, and singing the note names, for example) will help children remember lessons and look forward to the next.

For when children are not in lessons, a basic piano DVD geared for their age can create (or sustain) interest. I know of two that I like:  Trebellina and Suzy's Piano Primer. For children who are permitted to use media, these are slow moving and age appropriate but teach note names, placement on piano, pitch and a few other things.
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taoxia1970
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« Reply #10 on: June 26, 2015, 04:07:50 AM »

Many professional pianists start to learn piano when they were 4 or 5, and yet very little were out there in terms of what went on during the lessons.

With my past teaching experience, I noticed that teaching young age student really is not about "teaching" but rather "preparing", preparing them to be ready to be taught once they are developed, physically and mentally. When I was in college and just out of college, I used to think the method books designed for young students are all just on the market for making money, there is the flash cards, stuffed animals, coloring books, workbook and so on, but after years of teaching, and recently started to teach my own 4 years old daughter, it became clear that the tools are necessary to "prepare" them to be ready to be "taught" and ready to "learn" in the future.

The book I will suggest is Alfred's Music for Little Mozart, it has 4 levels, so if the student starts at 4, it will roughly take them 2 years to complete. It covers basic concepts, some ear training/theory,  solo pieces, with CD due (at home)/or teacher duet in class. It has characters, and you can get stuffed animals to go with the story-telling method book. The pace of the method book is moderate, some concepts can be moved on in 1-2 weeks, some needs 3-4 weeks. You can pick pieces from the Lesson book, or the Repertoire book, but some students may need some extra pieces to further master the concept, usually when that is needed, I just write my own piece for them.

for young students,  activities that involves repetition on concepts, activities that trains ear to listen (intervals, phrasing, dynamics , articulation) are very important, I believe those are key elements to a developing piano student in the future. Once they turn 6, there are many other method books that they can move onto.

I am happily 'preparing' my 4 year old daughter, and very eager for her to be ready down the road.
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amyeliz
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« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2015, 11:50:41 PM »

Have you tried WunderKeys?  I currently have 11 WunderKeys students, ages 3-5, and they all love it!  Lots of activities to keep preschoolers engaged for a full lesson.  Finger plays, songs, games, etc.

Just Google "WunderKeys" for more info.
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ameliatan
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« Reply #12 on: November 25, 2015, 03:22:17 AM »

I am no expert in teaching this age, but I just got my first 4 year old student and she is a challenge! I think everyone has given good advice. When I first started acting like a teacher (serious and all) - it didn't work! She actually refused to do anything and cried  Undecided I've discovered, that kids like to do things with you and correct you! I am now not afraid to act like a total idiot on piano (of course, I am pretending!). For example, in note finding, I would play something (with eyes closed) and say a wrong letter. Sometimes I purposely open my eyes abit and ask her if I peaked! This humor has engaged my student, and she enjoys laughing at my 'stupidity'. Okay the fun part done. Next, I ask her to CORRECT me. She jumps at the chance. She gets 1 point. I act miserable, when I get 0 points, and she laughs. Just make everything a sense of discovery, play LOTS of games, a little rivalry is also good (sometimes) - can't let them win everytime! We do lots of review every lesson also so sometimes I feel I am not making any progress! I also found a lot of colouring activies and ideas on internet which are useful for this age. Its helped me ALOT. Oh yes, I keep a log every lesson on what activities we do and whether reviewed or not next lesson. Just my 2 cents, good luck!









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pianoworthy
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« Reply #13 on: July 20, 2017, 12:56:23 AM »

One way I learned to teach very young 4 to 5 year old children is to SHOW them. Play for them and show them everything you're talking about. If they're not sure where to put their fingers, place you fingers there and play it so they can see. If they make a mistake, or are unsure of what fingers to use, show them. Children learn by imitating what they see around them. If you try to just talk to them and expect them to understand like an adult would, you'll just get frustrated. Play for them a lot. It can actually be really fun when you take this approach.

As for books, I find the Alfred teaching little fingers to play series to be fantastic for very young children.
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