A couple days ago, I posted a video on my Instagram page @sadieskeynotes. In the second part of the video, it has my little sister playing the beginning part of a piece that I was practicing. So, I began thinking of my younger students and how it is different than teaching older students. This blog post contains MY experience and advice with teaching 5 and 6-year-old students.
I do not teach my little sister how to play the piano like you would in a professional setting. I'm not teaching her the letters on the keys or how to read sheet music. She just loves learning little songs that I show her such as Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, Mary had a Little Lamb, or Baby Shark. I taught her these songs firstly by placing Legos on the keys. Then I show her how by saying the colors, for example, red, red, blue, blue, green, green, blue. (Those would be on notes C, C, G, G, A, A, G; for Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star) she picks these little songs up quite quickly, soon playing without needing the Legos. If I did teach her, she could get overwhelmed, and it would take the fun out of what she is currently doing. Maybe one day she’ll want to learn how to professionally play the piano.
At this young age, children do not have much experience in a lot of things. They might be just starting school and learning how to read; they hardly know how to write letters or numbers. My personal philosophy is to wait until they are old enough to have the responsibility of practicing daily and having a little accountability for the instrument and their books. That could be age eight or maybe that means waiting till they are thirteen. Whatever the age, they will willingly want to practice and learn how to play the piano. Now, the younger students that I have taught for a little while DID want to learn and they practiced daily and improved until they either were starting kindergarten or just did not seem interested in it anymore. Which could happen at any age. You could learn to love the piano more, or soon grow out of it and want to try another instrument or a different hobby. It is just something to think about.
For young pianists, I found that I really have to take a different approach with teaching students how to play the piano. When learning the pieces, being consistent and repetitive is key! Show how to play a little part at a time, play it for them a couple times. Then have them play it a couple times. Repeat till they understand what is being taught. Though it might seem like there is no progression you have to be patient. Keep teaching patiently and things will click. Sometimes after you show them what is being taught once they understand and it is pretty easy going from there. Maybe some students will pick up the content quicker than others and that is alright. Having them count out loud the beat, I find to be the easiest at keeping a steady tempo for young pianists. They easily understand that for quarter notes say "1" and half notes "1-2" and so on. Putting all the pieces together might take some work but it will be rewarding when they do succeed in playing a piece perfectly. Another tip that I find helpful is having them highlight (with their choice of colorful highlighters) important things like dynamics (how loud or how quiet to play the notes), new content, or I've even used two color highlighters, one for each hand. Not highlighting every note but drawing a little star at the beginning or something to help until they no longer need it. If they don't have the coordination to highlight something neatly or will just start drawing on the side, you can do it yourself and just talk about why you are highlighting it and why it is important.
I think these are the main things I use for teaching younger students. They are helpful for any age. I still have my older students highlight important things or dynamics, so they do not forget to implement them in the pieces they are working on. It is helpful for me as well on bigger pieces.
Thank you for reading this blog post! Keep practicing! May you have a blessed day and sincerely, thank you!