Your beginners don't need you! Redefining your offering for early-stage learners

Updated: Mar 19, 2019

Your beginners do not need you. Controversial? Or a relief?

I have heard many teachers describe the tedium of teaching beginners in a one-to-one set up. Why? Because they have so much to offer to such a high standard, that those early stages can be a bit of a drag. However without children starting we don't get the more advanced players right? Plus there's the issue of retention and the fact that not everyone stays on to get to those advanced stages so in a way those beginners are our bread and butter.

If you LOVE teaching beginners in a one-to-one situation, no need to read on.

But if you don't love it (and that's ok by the way!), what if we were to tell you that there is another way? As teachers we have so much to give, why not divide all that you have by teaching a group of students at one time? Thereby lowering the time that you spend teaching beginners and, with the right approach, motivating and inspiring pupils (and yourself) even more!

What would you consider to be the foundations of piano learning?

Keyboard geography would be one of the first aspects, right? In a group you can play lots of off-bench games to consolidate the pattern of the keys, the notes that we use in music, and how to find them.

How about ensuring everyone knows their left from their right? Pretty essential stuff! We wave scarves in time to piano music, giving directions as to which hand to use!

So next you may consider finger numbers and hand posture? Lots of lovely songs you can sing to learn and consolidate these! We sing Tommy Thumb, Incy (Itsy), Wincy (Bitsy) Spider with different fingers to name a couple. Plus we use bubbles for dexterity (popping with different fingers) and discussion about hand position. Finger puppets are also a great resource!

So now to the keyboards/pianos. You will probably want some headphones for when children are practicing the piece for the lesson, and you will need to get used to circulating and making sure everyone is being both supported and challenged. Does that sound like the daunting part? With some robust planning and time, you will absolutely be able for this. Whenever you start a new job, there's a learning curve right? You're a teacher and your ability to nurture a young learner will be just as successfully applied in a group context as it is in a one-to-one context.

Then there are aspects to group lessons (that indeed make them so successful) that you wouldn't necessarily be able to achieve in a one-to-one setting.

Really young learners (ages 4 and 5) don't always have the attention span in a one-to-one setting, so you may in fact disregard this age group and only teach from age 6 or 7? In a group the learning environment is so far removed from a one-to-one setting that you can indeed take them younger. We go from age 4. And there are many parents who know the importance of their children being exposed to learning opportunities at a younger age when their brain is like a sponge!

Learning to listen to and describe music, learning to compose for a given brief (or simply to represent their lovely drawing), and being able to respond appropriately to music (eg. walk on tip-toes for high and soft music, stomping march for loud and low music) are worked into every topic in our group lessons.

Another aspect that is served so well in group lessons is performing. Our students perform every lesson, both solos and ensembles. They become very adept at performing and it becomes second nature.

Ok, so now you're probably thinking, yes that all makes sense... However there are too many barriers to entry that occur to you straight away. We've heard them all: where would I teach my lessons? Wouldn't the equipment needed be too expensive? How do I manage behaviour of a group when I am used to only teaching one? What if some learners move much faster than others? Or one is way behind everyone else?

These are all very good questions. And we have lots of very good answers. EVERYONE can start group lessons, whether you are currently teaching from your living room, or you are a travel teacher, or you have never taught more than one child at a time.

Here's where we share our answers:

Join our Facebook group: Group Piano Pioneers where you will find videos of lessons and discussion about group piano.

We hope you will feel inspired to move forward with your group piano offering. Of course beginners do need you, but whether they need ALL of you to themselves is the real question!

As well as giving our students WOW moments, we can enjoy some of those for ourselves:

All the best,

Melanie x

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