Over the last few weeks, I have reflected a lot on what I taught my students and how they have progressed. However, I haven’t talked much about what I have learned as a teacher and what I need to do to be the best piano teacher I can be. At the start of my teaching, I was aware that I needed to start with the basics and to put myself into a beginner’s shoes. One thing that children have trouble with the most is positioning their hand on the keyboard so that their fingers are curved. This is the ideal position as it makes playing the notes a lot easier as opposed to playing them with straight fingers. One thing I like telling the child is to pretend that they are holding a bubble in their hand, and to not wrap their fingers too hard around it or it might pop. Another thing that children find difficult doing is lifting their fingers up to play one note at a time. To help with this, I like to play the “spotlight game”. This is something I made up by telling students that only one note can be in the spotlight at a time. For example, if the student has to play the note “C” followed by an “E”, I would tell them that “E” can’t be in the spotlight until “C” lets go, or “let’s give E a time to shine now”. I believe that the main difficulty for children to do is to remember notes, which is still something I am working on with my students. To help with this, I like to give each note a name. For example, the note C is “Cat”, D is for “dog”, E is for “elephant”, etc. This strategy seems to help them remember notes more effectively as they have something to relate to.
Here are some things I have learned to do through my teaching process:
- Simplify concepts and break them down into steps
- Be patient! Don’t expect children to understand concepts right away
- Have your student bring a notebook to class and write notes inside it of what you covered in class to help them remember
- Be specific! Write down exactly how many times they should practice a song, sections of a piece they need to work on, and what they need to do in order to see improvement (i.e. fingering, hand placement, dynamics, rhythm, etc)
- Make markings in their music (circling notes they got wrong, dynamic markings, fingering) as a reminder on what they need to watch out for
- Make it fun! Give the student lots of encouragement and ask what they would like to learn how to play