How to Engage Young Music Students & Parents
As a former youth and associate pastor I have spent countless hours reading books on adolescent development and creating innovative ways to communicate to young people. In my guitar lessons I use a few useful tools that help lessons "stick" with young people.
1. Make a digital copy of every handout and send it to parents
For students under the age of 12, parent involvement is essential to the student's success, especially in the early stages of slogging through rudiments and learning to read music. One of the easiest things to do, is to give digital copies of your handouts to parents.
I use an app called Jotnot that can scan documents with my phone's camera. It packages the scans into a .pdf file that you can e-mail to the student's parent. It's available for iPhone and Android. Super simple.
2. Foster a safe and comfortable environment
Kids don't learn from people they don't like, and kids don't like learning from people they don't know. One way to foster a healthy student-teacher relationship is to tell the student about yourself based on what you have in your classroom or studio. In my space, I have 2 pictures of my wife, some star wars action figures that were on my wedding cake, and I keep the middle of the room clutter free and allow the student to pick from a number of different chairs to sit in. From the moment they come in they have choices, they know I'm married, and that I like Star Wars. My office also has a window facing the waiting area so that students can look out and see their parents and parents can look in to check on their student. Here's a picture of my setup:
3. Stick with the rule of 3
It's easy to get frustrated with the short attention spans of young students. One way to help them is to communicate the material you are teaching in 3 different ways, 3 different times. The rule of 3 works because each student has a unique affinity towards a different style of learning. Try new things and work with your student to find what teaching styles and methods they best respond to.
For example: I have a 7 year old student and in their learning plan I have written down the 3 things that they respond best to:
In addition to handouts, I will convert a .pdf to a powerpoint file and display it on my studio computer monitor. Here's how to convert a .pdf to a powerpoint file:
I use the Apple remote app to change slides, but there are many wireless remote apps in the android play store if you don't have an iPhone. You can also pick up one of these inexpensive remotes on Amazon if you don't want to mess with apps on your phone.
This student doesn't like to sit still. So we practice proper posture and technique, but we always have an arm, leg, foot, or vocal chords moving (foot tapping, picking the air to keep time on whole or half notes, singing notes, clapping hands, etc).
One thing that makes foot tapping fun is a little percussion pedal connected to my guitar amp. The amplification with a little bit of reverb or delay can help students keep time, but have fun while doing it.
You can pick up one of these pedals on Amazon by clicking here.
Simple concepts can be tough for a young student to understand, so I use objects students can hold to teach things like tempo, pitch, etc. The best tool that almost every kid connects with is...
Legos are perfect for teaching music. Today, we used the color of the brick to represent the value of the note and the size of the brick to represent the beats in the measure. If you don't have any legos laying around, here's a link to the set I use during lessons.
Hope that's helpful, shoot me an e-mail if I can help you out in any way!