Fun for the Teacher, Fun for the Kids
The most basic fact about kid’s piano lessons is that if it’s fun for the teacher, it’s fun for the kids. Albert Cullum, a brilliant elementary school teacher in the 1950’s, used fun as the basis of his amazingly successful teaching techniques. One day, early in his teaching years, he was using the same old methods, teaching by rote.
He looked at the kids and suddenly realized, “I’m not having any fun with this. If I’m not having fun, these kids can’t be either.” This moment was the basis for his decision to seek teaching techniques that would enliven and inspire both teacher and student.
Fun vs. Force
Using the credo, “It has to be fun,” he embarked on an exploration of how to make children really interested in the subjects they were forced to learn. His ideas were wildly creative. To teach about weather patterns, he had kids outside the classroom window feeding a huge roll of butcher paper through the window to the kids inside. The kids inside took the paper and held it aloft as they danced around the room. Cullum made these kids feel the excitement of the wind, and as a prelude to learning about weather it was a brilliant and successful stroke of teaching.
My students have fun at their piano lessons. I mean hilarious, rollicking, boisterous fun. Or as fun as one can make a piano lesson. I am resolved to engaging the student in a way that captivated them as much as the piano captivates me.
How Does The Student Feel?
The one principle that works in all situations was to studiously observe the reaction of the child you are teaching. For example, a sighing, tentative student is telling you that you are going way too fast and are no fun. A laughing, animated child is ready to learn anything. The solution is to make the task so simple that it becomes a ridiculous game -- a game that anyone can master.
Try a song on our online piano and you'll see how easy it is to become interested in the piano:
Then you add another game or song to that, then another one to that, and sooner or later you have a child playing a scale, or with the perfect hand position, or mastering the idea of using the five fingers as a group. Thus your job as piano teacher is to discover how many little games a complex piano movement must be broken down into. The fun comes from the ease of each component game.