I have found that students have different strengths and focusing on those creates a good lesson. When you build on a child’s strengths, they come to believe that they can do it – piano is not so difficult. Then, when introducing those things that they struggle with, they already have a feeling of accomplishment and success.
Here’s a practical way to do this. Start and end the lesson with something they like or something not too difficult. If you know that they like scales and like to play them, end with playing some scales. They’ll leave feeling like they learned and can play something.
To teach children piano, there is another thing I have found essential. This is not about the actual teaching or the piano student, but about me – the teacher. It’s important to have a sense of fun.
If you enjoy teaching, that comes across to the student. If you’re having fun, they’re much more likely to have fun. We need to get away from that image of the piano teacher with the ruler in her hands rapping the knuckles! Piano is fun!
There are times for fun but unfortunately, there are some times when you need to be strict. Try to do this with a smile and the attitude of helping (rather than punishing). Some parents will tell you to be stern or strict with their child. They know their child and it is good to follow their advice.
Behaviour problems do happen in piano lessons although I have found not frequently. Children are usually respectful and nice. I usually find that if a student is not behaving well, they are bored. If this happens, I try to mix things up. For example, if we are sitting at the piano, I try to come up with an activity that is more active. Then after that is finished, we try to go back to what we were doing.
If you have an issue you cannot handle in the lesson, talk to the parent. Find a way for the two of you to resolve it. If things are really a problem to the extent where you can’t get anything done in the lesson, I have one extreme solution. Ask the parent to come to the lesson. If the parent really wants the child to learn to play the piano, they will need to be there to help control the child. I’ve never had to do this. It’s just one option in extreme cases.
Helpful Tools of the Trade
To teach children piano, what I have found most helpful is a whiteboard. With a whiteboard, you can create lots of different activities. You can practise naming notes, rhythm, and other things.
Along with a white board, I also used rhythm sticks and other rhythm instruments to practise rhythm. It’s good for kids to move around and I’ve found it especially helpful for the students playing.
To teach children piano, it’s good to have an idea of what piano books are good. My favourites have been the Alfred series and more recently the Piano Adventures Series. I always try to use a lesson book and a theory book. The theory books make a huge difference!
Children will show up to their lessons with all sorts of books. You can choose if you want to use these or have them start in the books you prefer. I usually continue in the books they have and then switch them over to something different when they finish those books.