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Teaching a 4yo


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#1 Flowerpot

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Posted 21 January 2019 - 13:32

Hello! I've gone against one of my general rules, and I've taken on a 4yo (almost 5yo) student. I used to do a lot of early years work early on in my teaching career but I mostly work with teenagers and adults these days. They have an older daughter who I'm also teaching so that's why I agreed to teach the little brother too.

He's worked through the dogs and birds book 1 with his previous teacher, and when we had our first lesson he didn't want to engage with any of the books I usually work from so I suggested the parents buy book 2 of the series. When he came for his lesson this week, the book hadn't arrived but the dad said he thought he should have a break from reading as he's done a lot of it, so perhaps I can just do something "fun" in the lesson. It was a bit tricky for me to plan a lesson on the spot, as in my lesson prep in the week I had spent my time familiarising myself with the dogs and birds method, which was totally new to me!

I'm feeling a bit lost, because I was to make the lesson an enjoyable experience all round but I'm not sure where to go from here. I've got two small children and I don't find it hard to relate to preschool aged kids but my instinct tells me that this little boy isn't quite ready for lessons and I'm not sure what the parents are expecting of me. In any case, I wanted to give it one last shot before speaking to them about this and I was wondering if anyone has any material they could recommend, for games or books that focus on the aural side of learning, clapping and singing style formats/general musicianship for the very young? 

 

 


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#2 jenny

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Posted 21 January 2019 - 14:32

I've taught quite a few 4/5 year olds and, as you will already know, each one is different and their interest may vary from one week to the next. My approach has always been to divide the lesson into short segments, using different activities. Lina Ng's theory books for little children are really popular and I've used the Tunes for Ten Fingers books with most pupils of this age. I also do a lot of clapping rhythms and I encourage them to sing, as well as using the whole piano keyboard for improvising little tunes and putting words to them.

At the moment, I have a pupil who is only just 5, but who is already having 40 minute lessons and covering the same work as my older pupils - theory, scales, Dozen a Day work and a tutor book. I know she's a bit exceptional, but it does show how some very young pupils can deal with more 'formal' lessons.

I've never used the Dogs and Birds books, so can't comment on them. Did your pupil bring the book to show you and did he play from it for you?        


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#3 zwhe

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Posted 21 January 2019 - 15:03

My main suggestion is be best friends with your laminator! I have alphabet cards, which they arrange in order, and when they can easily do the alphabet forwards and backwards, they have to start on different letters, eg D to D. These can also be used for 'how many of these notes can you find in 1 minute'. Flashcard notes for similar games (you can also match the notes to letters of the alphabet). Rhythm cards - at first choose two different notes, eg crotchets and minims. Take turns to make a rhythm, then clap them together, then pupil alone, or pupil spot your 'mistakes'. Use a stave and moveable notes and clefs to put them in the correct place - this can be used to place them on the correct line or space for a given pitch, and later for making the bars the correct length for the time signature. I also use music whiteboards for them to learn how to draw the notes themselves - these can be bought cheaply from places like Amazon. I also usually start the lesson by playing some music and getting them to clap the pulse - more active children like to march or stamp along! As well as clapping games, you can try playing very simple things on the piano and getting them to play back - if you give them the first note and a only one or two stepwise changes, most can manage this. 


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#4 Flowerpot

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Posted 21 January 2019 - 15:37

Thanks for your replies!

Jenny - I do love the Theory for little children books, and I showed it to him but he didn’t want to do it. He had a teacher who did Dogs and Birds book, and then that teacher left so he had another teacher who tried to teach him a slightly different way and I think because he’s young, he didn’t respond well to the change in system. When I taught him for his first lesson, his first complaint was “this is boring, it’s the way that the other teacher tried to teach me too but I liked the first teachers way”. Dogs and Birds substitutes the names of the notes on the stave for animal names, so D is Dog, C is Cat, B is Bird, etc. I don’t hate it and I’m happy to go with the books as I think that’ll be the only way forward, but it’s not my preferred method. You’re also right about different 4 year olds being able to do different things though, and I wonder if he was particularly attached to his first teacher as apparently he had no problems with her and the parents say he’s quite academic and can read well and focus.

zwhe - I think you’ve given me the best excuse to buy myself a laminator, I’ve been coveting one for a while! I definitely need more teaching aids, and you’ve given me some great ideas, thank you :)
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#5 HelenVJ

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Posted 21 January 2019 - 16:24

Just for inspiration, I can recommend you explore the video channels and Facebook groups of Irina Mints ( Hello Piano)) and Irina Gorin ( Tales of a Musical Journey). Both teachers have unique ways of working with this age group. I particularly like Book 1 of Hello Piano, which is totally off-stave. These books aren't cheap in the UK, so you might want to familiarise yourself with the online videos first before deciding whether to invest in the books.

I don't expect my Piano Parents to shell out for these - we use the materials in the lesson, and learn much of IM Book 1 by rote. But as they do like to take a book home, we also use My First Piano Adventure Lesson Book A ( also pre-reading).

I don't get on with Dogs and Birds at all, but at least I was given a swift refund when I returned it.


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#6 tulip21

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Posted 21 January 2019 - 17:05

Perhaps a bit unusual, but how about learning some songs by ear? If done properly, little kids can learn quite nicely by ear with repetition.
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#7 anonymousalto

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Posted 21 January 2019 - 20:06

Have you got the giant stave to put the Dogs & Birds onto, so that the child can compose their own tunes, then you can write them down? https://www.dogsandb...-staves-bundle/ I teach two 5 year olds, one who is great on music reading and uses mostly the blank notes edition of Dogs & Birds, and another who uses the animal notes edition - both love placing the animals onto the giant stave to compose tunes. I've only ever used dogs & birds for those two, they seem to like it but I know there are many different opinions about it.


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#8 agricola

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Posted 21 January 2019 - 23:08

It does sound like he's not really ready for lessons yet.  I use a mixture of games, and drawing with a bit of learning simple tunes by rote for this sort of pupil but sometimes if progress stalls I find it's better to take a break and wait until the child asks to restart.  


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#9 Cyrilla

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Posted 22 January 2019 - 00:07

With this age, I'd go for musicianship all the way for now!

 

If you look at Jolly Music Beginners there are masses of activities and repertoire for teaching pulse, pitch and rhythm in a child developmentally-appropriate way.   The lessons are designed to be used with a class but are, in the main, easily adapted to a 1-2-1 situation.

 

PM me if you'd like to know any more.

 

At Junior Guildhall the Reception and Year 1 children are taught Kodály and Dalcroze - in other words, to experience and respond to music through their own instrument of voice and body.   They do not start to learn an instrument until Year 2.   By then they have so much musical experience and understanding that then their main focus is learning the technique of the instrument - they already 'know' the music. 

 

:)


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#10 ten left thumbs

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Posted 22 January 2019 - 08:44

Dogs and Birds is a Kodaly-inspired method, so I'm guessing the first teacher was doing a lot of musicianship already (which may not be apparent from the book) and this is what they child enjoyed so much. Elza Lusher does a workshop every year, next one here:

 

https://www.dogsandb...o.uk/workshops/

 

I haven't been myself, and I don't use that book. 

 

All I can say is, now that I do use Kodaly-inspired ideas in my teaching, I can see that from a non-Kodaly perspective, the Kodaly stuff really doesn't make a lot of sense. When you just look at a student's book, I mean. If you've experienced it, then it makes sense. For that, a course is needed. 


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#11 Hedgehog

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Posted 22 January 2019 - 09:39

You could use some of the rote-learning pieces from the Piano Safari method - there is a separate book and these work well with my Y2 pupils in school and privately. I use them alongside a traditional method of teaching and intersperse them when I see fit.  There are videos online of the authors of the method teaching the rote pieces and this can be useful for ideas.


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#12 Dorcas

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Posted 22 January 2019 - 11:32

From my own experience, if the child in question has not had at least one term of formal school, not nursery or play group, he or she will struggle with instrumental lessons.  Even older youngsters can find the focus of individual lessons too much hard work.  I tend to agree with Cyrilla, musicianship for now, and consider discussing with the parents if this particular student is too young for instrumental lessons.


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#13 tulip21

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Posted 22 January 2019 - 15:20

I completely agree with the idea of learning by ear. If done well, a 4-year-old can take instrumental lessons if his/her temperment permits, but it is often better to take a children's music class type thing before starting instrumental lessons.
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#14 Sautillé

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Posted 22 January 2019 - 21:32

I have only taken on one child of this age other than my own children. He was 4 and also a sibling and, with hindsight I ‘regret’ it.... quite why I took him, am not sure. I am an established teacher with good success rate etc and waiting list..,, Anyway, it’s not because he hasn’t come good.... all the hours I put into it have produced one of my best ever G1-2 students. But, it was flaming hard work and, as a ‘standard’ 30 mins in - 30 mins out private music teacher I went waaay beyond to make it work. Everything that everyone else says above is valid..... but I now would say .... come back when you’re 6, I don’t teach before then...... save the kicks to your piano! If you live in an area with musicianship classes, point in that direction.
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#15 goldfish

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Posted 22 January 2019 - 22:28

Hi Flowerpot,

 

I have sent you a PM, with suggestions that might be of some help.


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