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Engaging Young Learners

by Heather Vanderley Vanderley.Heather@MacPhail.org

Watching Annette Lee teach piano to my 4 now 5 year old has given me all sorts of ideas that can apply across instrument for keeping young kids engaged.  These are a few that I now have integrated into my own violin teaching (or plan to soon!).

Lezioni di piano

Strengthening fine motor skills:

Make a “crane” circle with each finger and thumb and pick up and squeeze a ball of Silly Putty.

Use that same “crane” to pick up other toys.  I now have a batch of small light blocks I can use for this in my studio.  I sometimes have students also try to stack the blocks. This engages skills needed for careful use of fine motor skills.

Engaging young ones for repetitions:

Annette has a plethora of small figurines she uses for repetitions.  She places a small row of them on the piano and each time the student plays one repetition they get to move the figurine over.  The figurines themselves engage the students (they range from Thomas the Train engines to small cakes to cows).  Moving the figurine is fun and gives them a break and distraction between each repetition.  

 Extra visuals to explain concepts:

Figurines are also used to illustrate the form of a piece.  Our most recent example was Lightly Row.  Cows represented the sections that are the same or similar and a fish represented the section that was different.  They were then put in order.  The student can point to each animal for the teacher to play or for them to play etc.  You can also just play the “front of the cow” or the “back of the cow” for dividing each section into smaller chunks.  At home Lightly Row is now represented by : Green Train, Blue Train, Helicopter, Blue Train.

Visuals are also used to illustrate technical concepts for that are hard put to put in action.  One example is a stuffed Octopus with floppy legs to illustrate how relaxed wrists should feel.


Photo Credit: Lezioni di piano by cosciansky, on Flickr CC-BY 2.0

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