What Kind of Lessons do Piano Students Need?

The term “student-centered” learning is quite popular at the moment.  These lessons tend to be more engaging for the student and have many benefits.  I believe that teachers should keep their students’ needs in mind as they prepare lessons and materials, but this does not mean that every student want is met.  While certain lessons will be quite exciting, others may be more laborious because the student is struggling with understanding a concept such as rhythm or reading notes.  Although the main burden of study falls on students and their parents (I think of myself as a facilitator), teachers have a responsibility to keep pupils’ needs in mind.  Here are a few suggestions:

–Teachers should first of all be self-controlled and patient.  Don’t bring your personal irritations into the lesson.  Also, be patient even if the student is not responding as you would like.  Sometimes eye contact is the best way to get a students’ attention.  Also, rather than becoming irritated, be honest using calm words.
–Laugh with your students.  Stay on topic while enjoying the lesson!
–Be sure that students understands concepts.  Consistent quizzing of single concepts helps show where students have blind spots.  For example, if during a flashcard review of treble clef notes a student is responding correctly quickly (and can play the note on the keyboard), he or she most likely understands how to find these notes and his confusion in a musical piece may be a misunderstanding of something else like the bass clef notes.  If a student does is not answering the note flashcard quiz correctly, then the teacher has assessed a need that must be met in learning treble clef notes better.
–Maximize a student’s strengths.  If a student shows talent as an ear player, consider chordal-based method books.  Ear players tend to make up their own pieces of music and the teacher should ask if they like making up music since sometimes students are too shy to mention it themselves.  If a student is very precise and is good at reading music, focus more on classical music.  Every student is different and as teachers work with students individually, both teacher and pupil will enjoy the lessons more.
–Lead students to act independently during lessons.  How else will a student be able to practice correctly each day at home?   Students should be able to transfer concepts to other pieces of music.  When I ask a question (for example: “Which note is this?”) I often ask students “How do you know for sure that your answer is the right one?”  If they know that the note I’m showing them is definitely a G/Sol because it’s above the F/Fa “anchor note” in the bass clef, I am pleased with their answer.
Finally, include a variety of skills in every lesson.  Functional skills such as sight-reading, transposition and ear training are important for every student.  Group work encourages students to learn from each other.  Technique is important for all pupils.  Teach what is needed and enjoy each lesson!

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