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Teaching Montessori Students (Read 3074 times)

Offline sonata58

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Teaching Montessori Students
« on: March 01, 2015, 04:47:57 AM »
I've been teaching piano for eight years now. I've taught public, private, and home school students. About a year and a half ago, I started teaching private piano lessons at a nearby Montessori school. The school has students from infants to eighth grade, but piano lessons are offered to students ages 4 and up. I have taught about 20 kids at the school (they've come and gone).

I am not very familiar with the Montessori education method, but I have noticed several issues with nearly all the students (with a few exceptions).

  • 1. Very short attention spans
    The students are either the fidgety kind or the talkative kind. They can't sit still or are constantly going off on tangents. One will talk for like half the lesson, and then ask me if lesson is over. I'm like, "We haven't even played anything yet!"
  • 2. Very immature
    The students act about half their age. Even the older ones (ages 9-11) act like little kids. One of 10 year old talks like "baby talk". Another 11 year old will throw a tantrum if I have to pull her out of recess a little bit early. I can't believe it!
  • 3. Slow learners
    Maybe because they don't practice. But still, after a year and a half, the older kids are still in Faber Level 1 and some still have struggle with reading notes. I've done flashcards, sight reading exercises, etc. Some improvement, but not much.
  • 4. Don't want help
    So many of the younger students don't want me to tap the beat, count out loud with me, or guide their reading by pointing out the notes. "I want to do it myself!" they always say.
  • 5. Lack of discipline
    The behavior from these students that I have dealt with is unbelievable! One student constantly tests my limits and just refuses to cooperate on certain days. Another student starts crying if she doesn't get what she wants. And another student got so frustrated she started hitting the piano with her pencil -- it actually chipped the keys!

There have been a handful of Montessori students that are a joy to teach. But they are an exception to the norm there. Like I said earlier, I've had experience teaching a wide variety of students of various ages, abilities, and learning backgrounds. I have taught students with learning struggles and behavior issues. I currently teach about 20 other students in my private studio. Most of them are public school students. And I have not had the type of issues that I am seeing from the Montessori students.

I'm wondering whether part of the problem is with the Montessori method. From what I understand, Montessori education is student-guided learning. Students are given a choice of activities. They also have free range in the classroom; they are free to move around, sit at a table, on the floor, etc. There is also an emphasis on students completing grown-up tasks by themselves, such as setting the table, drinking from a regular glass (not a sippy cup), etc. Also, discipline methods are different in Montessori schools. They typically just divert the child's attention or the child loses certain privileges.

So, perhaps this learning method contributes to the type of behavior that I am seeing from the Montessori students. And maybe I need to learn how to adjust my teaching style to them. Or maybe, it's just a badly run Montessori school.

If anyone has any experience with Montessori students and can offer me input/advice, I would really appreciate it.

Offline theholygideons

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Re: Teaching Montessori Students
«Reply #1 on: March 01, 2015, 05:35:04 AM »
You said it yourself. The montessori method is non-conducive towards learning since there needs to be a certain amount of discipline (or concentration more exactly) before any critical learning or mastery of any skill can occur. They are a business and it must be how they market themselves, despite the fact that the traditional approach is most effective and efficient. 
 

Offline quantum

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Re: Teaching Montessori Students
«Reply #2 on: March 01, 2015, 07:06:03 AM »
Have you tried student-guided learning in your lessons?
Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline green

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Re: Teaching Montessori Students
«Reply #3 on: March 01, 2015, 09:25:14 AM »
Check out 'music moves', and do more singing and simple piano games: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-northwestern-singing-on-key-met-20150218-story.html

For bad behavior, just copy everything they do, and cultivate a good belly laugh. When they bang on the keys, just reflect their behavior back to them, show them that you can do it better, you can do everything they can do and more. Smash those keys, create thunder, let them explore the amazing array of sounds the piano can make - its a sound making machine after all. Make a story, let them create it, rain, snow, birds, princess theme, just improvise, meet their low expectations, have fun with it, let them go home happy, and take a load off your shoulders. Forget the idea that lessons must 'look' a particular way, be more adaptive, use color highlighters and put little stickers with a color on the keys then have them highlight the same colors in the music. Works wonders for reading.

Also for those younger learners you might want to try an early childhood program like music moves, music together, musikgraten, or kindermusik. Suggest to the school that you could offer small classes of music together, for instance, then you have laid the foundation for your 5 year olds who may want to continue with piano.

Also, have the school offer piano 'classes', a lower rate for 2-3 piano students. Seeing peers play can often change behavior, tasks become simpler, less is done, but again the object is to make it more 'fun' for them, and easier to deal with for you, and you make more from it too.

Offline nj61

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Re: Teaching Montessori Students
«Reply #4 on: March 02, 2015, 11:35:10 AM »
sounds like it might be a badly run Montessori school to me. There is a montessori nursery near me which I was interested in sending my daughter to, but when I visited it, it turned out only one member of staff was montessori trained, she was only part time, and the rest were young and inexperienced in general.  

Although Montessori learning is meant to be very child led/encourages independence, it is also supposed to be quite structured eg. different activities are set up from which they can choose, but they are not at liberty to run around doing what they like.  The younger ones are probably bored, and might need things made more engaging.  In return, they should behave well.  I would ask what discipline method the school itself uses, and try and replicate that as far as possible yourself.  You could also try replicating the structured but self-directed format by eg telling them the lesson will include x, y and z, but they can choose the order in which they do them.  You could offer 3 appropriate pieces to learn, and let them choose which one they would like.  re: the lack of practising, that's frustrating but some families have a more relaxed approach/different expectations from music lessons.

When I have children in the house who are not used to a piano, they often want to play it which is lovely.  They get one warning if they bash it, and then they are off.  Sometimes they look surprised that I will switch from letting them do what they like, to completely banning them for mistreatment, as though boundaries are not a thing they are used to.  Enforcing respect for the instrument feels hard with young children but it will ultimately teach them to respect music and their own efforts much more.  I guess this is hard when teaching is your job though - I know a piano teacher who feels she has to tolerate behaviour which I would find unacceptable.  There are legitimate things you could do instead in a lesson though, such as clapping rhythms, singing, listening to you play, and studying music theory. I would be tempted to say that, if a child does not respond to one warning, they must come away from the piano for 5 mins/the rest of the lesson and do that sort of task instead.  That way the child is still having the lesson which was paid for, but may remember not to push their luck next time if they want to actually play.

by the way I am not a piano teacher!  But I do help in school with choir and find myself moaning about 'kids today.'

Offline sonata58

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Re: Teaching Montessori Students
«Reply #5 on: March 02, 2015, 05:19:37 PM »
Thank you all for your replies and inputs.

I've thought about offering some type of general music class (such as Kindermusic, Musikgarten, etc.) But the Montessori already has a full-time music teacher who teaches an Orff-based class to the students twice a week.

Yes, I have been modifying my teaching style. I've been doing more fun songs, such as pop songs or songs from movies, etc. I've also begun doing activities away from the piano, especially for the younger kids, tapping rhythms or even walking them, just so that they can get up and move.

I will say that there has been progress overall. Some of the students who were so fidgety and unfocused before are actually better able to sit through a 30-minute lesson. The head of the school has noticed that. In fact, she's noticed that the students taking piano are much more focused now that she wants to send me all the "problem" kids!

I think the more structured environment of a piano lesson is so foreign to these kids. I didn't know whether this is typical of all Montessori students or just this one. I will say that I do notice some problems at this particular school. The head of the school is not very organized. The class sizes are large, compared to the number of teachers. And the teacher attrition rate is pretty high. In just the 1.5 years I've been there, a good number of teachers have come and gone. And the lower elementary teachers seem to be stressed out most of the times. So, I guess it's not just me.

Offline maestroanth

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Re: Teaching Montessori Students
«Reply #6 on: March 06, 2015, 05:55:14 AM »
What is Montessori?  I looked this up real quick and it's 'child guided learning' pretty much?

I don't know, anything I've learned of significance as a child wasn't 'self-guided', it was by smarter people telling me what to do... especially music!!!

The only thing I can recommend is set a dumb barney video (or modern equivalent thereof) in front of the kids and let them all dance to it, and then try to pick out the one's who would want instruction and focus your energy on them and let the others be. ;P  - I know this is a little sarcastic, but wouldn't this approach still be in alignment with the Montessori method?

Offline green

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Re: Teaching Montessori Students
«Reply #7 on: March 06, 2015, 02:30:41 PM »
Hey! What's dumb about Barney?

Offline bernadette60614

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Re: Teaching Montessori Students
«Reply #8 on: May 11, 2015, 06:37:42 PM »
Our son was in Montessori from 18 months through age 10.  He can sit still and read for an hour, he can work on a difficult math assignment over days, his piano teacher is very pleased with his progress.

This may not be Montessori, per se, this may be this Montessori program.  Most Montessori programs I've observed are quiet, focused classrooms with teachers acting as facilitators.  It isn't  free for all. In our son's classrooms, there was always a daily routine posted, kids ate on china plates with utensils and flowers on the table, there was a high degree of emphasis placed on appropriate behavior within the community.

We are not my way or the highway parents, but we do expect an appropriate level of behavior and attentiveness at home.  Not all parents expect the same.