Teaching Music Lessons
As educators, we aspire to re-create the experience that made us want to learn more about music. At their most fundamental level, we want our lessons to be havens for self-expression, where students feel safe to explore and learn. Here are three simple strategies to help you keep you teaching music lessons with that spark of learning, with an eye toward children’s developmental levels, the intrinsic need for play, and developing that connection that makes lessons fun!
Good Eye Contact
Sounds simple and so fundamental, but if it is something we teach our own children to do in this world they are growing up in, let’s remember to practice it ourselves. When teaching an instrument, such as violin, we sometimes are focused on everything but the student’s face. We are looking at the music, at their posture, at the hand position, at the key signature, at all the things around-take moments in your lessons to put everything aside and make good eye contact and communicate something to your students. A positive comment is always good, or even when giving instruction, try to catch their eye and let them know they are important. That is the basic reason for stressing eye contact, is it not? We give value and respect by this simple act. Sometimes in music lessons we have other things to focus on so we, as teachers, need to be reminded to connect to our students-with our eyes.
Allow for Movement
According to the Orff approach, children learn best when teachers create an atmosphere that is similar to a child’s world of play. An Orff-inspired classroom is based on “things children like to do: sing, chant rhymes, clap, dance, and keep a beat on anything near at hand.” Since music is already something so tangible, keep the hands on approach going and let the student explore what they love. Sing along with your piano lesson, or even that violin lesson we talked about in the previous paragraph. Not something you see too often-a singing violinist-but it is done. Have students tap out rhythms like a drummer, even if you are in a trumpet lesson. When playing a piano piece, tap with your left foot to the beat you are playing with your right hand. Keep things moving on multiple levels. It does mirror how children play on a playground or in their own free time.
Keep Instructions Concise
As teachers of music, we generally come with a wealth of information. We have played, taught, taken lessons, watched students become successful musicians. We have a LOT to say. Trouble is, when teaching young students, and even many adults, for that matter, we lose them if you over talk something. The very essence of music is SHOWING. It is a performance art, it is something expressed in doing. If we are giving instruction and explaining the virtues of this key signature and what the legato phrasing on a musical piece does, and many other things to the exclusion of letting music happen, and speak for itself; we are doing a disservice to our students. Short instruction, then demonstrate. Short instruction, then have them play. A few words, and then create. We have a lot to say, say it to your peers and keep the “saying” in lessons minimal.