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How to keep children interested in piano

Learning the piano is meant to be an enjoyable process. Maintaining the engagement and sustaining the interest of the child are the usual uphill tasks that most teachers grapple with. With the right approach, it does not require a Herculean effort to keep his focus in track. In my teaching, I have discovered certain pointers to be most helpful.

Maintaining rapport with the child

Adapt a communicative and stress-free style from the onset. Let the child know that you seek to understand rather than to reprimand. Tell him, " If you cannot remember a point, or if you have never practiced during the week; tell me, I will not get angry. I will teach you and learn it together with you again." Practicing this approach will increase the child's comfort level with you over time. Children are sensitive beings and can detect vibes effortlessly. The child's week is already packed with art, swimming, ballet and other classes. Looking forward to the piano lesson will be the last thing on his mind if the lesson is peppered with negative comments.

Breaks during lessons

Inclusion of breaks during lessons may be necessary for the younger kid. It is common for the attention of a 5 to 8 year old kid to wander after 20 minutes into the lesson. This distraction is more prominent, especially if they do not understand the material being taught. When this happens, engage them in small talk by asking them about their other interests or week's activities. This "break in routine" brings in a sense of positive deviation that indicates to the child that you are interested in him as a person other than just as a student.

Similarly, if a child is tired, offer him a min-break too. Once the break is over, he has to get on to learning that particular part again. If you do this, the child will continue to practice and eventually master the technique.

Employ a reward scheme

Reward the child once he has achieved learning of a particular aspect. It could be having played just a few bars correctly or successfully drawn a treble clef. Regardless of the magnitude of the achievement, the aim is to create a motivating learning atmosphere. The reward could be stickers, candies or a hybrid of both! It is really up to the individual teacher to structure their reward scheme.

Increase the quantity of the reward with the magnitude of the task to sustain their perseverance. " I will give you more stickers when you have completed learning the whole piece." This approach can be applied to the next platform. For instance, " When you have collected 20 stickers, you can exchange them for a musical gift." A musical gift could be a musical stationery as such. The quota needed to achieve a musical gift can be set to coincide with the learning of the syllabus required, ie the learning completion of 3 examination pieces.

Teach by demonstration

When coaching on a certain technique, do not just instruct. Attempt to demonstrate it as well. Just as the saying goes, " A picture tells a thousand words." Nothing beats the visual clarity of a live demonstration. The demonstration should be repeated as repetition reinforces memory. Remember not only children learn by imitation, older learners do so too.

Likewise for teaching younger children, other than demonstrating technique on counting and playing; for the usual pieces with lyrics, attempt to sing together with them. This stimulates the child's aural sense and creates a musically fulfilling lesson.

Liberal with praises

Proactively praise the child when he has done something correctly instead of assuming a passive stand as per the usual Asian mentality. Praise is a wonderful incentive and surprisingly, regular but non-excessive praise will spur the learning desire. A lesson peppered with praise definitely holds more attraction.

Even when the child does not get it completely right, praise him on the areas he has done well. Remember praise is paramount to the child wanting to return and learn further.

Afternote

Above are some of the humble pointers which I sincerely share with you on keeping the child's interest in learning piano. They are by no means exhaustive.You are most welcome to share your own insights. Any feedback can be provided via email to

Courtesy of Evelyn Lim