Monday, May 30, 2011

Piano Teaching 101- Thirteen Tips on How to Begin

In response to a recent query from a friend of mine who is interested in becoming a piano teacher, I compiled this quick "to do" list of elements that have proven valuable in my own piano teaching adventures.

1. Purchase some beginning method books and become familiar with them. My favorite "teacher friendly" beginner level piano books are Piano Adventures by Nancy & Randall Faber. The wealth of online support ideas make this a great book to start with for teachers who are just starting out, and their songs are appealing to students as well. I have my students purchase the Lesson and Technique books. I teach them theory with online activities and games during lesson and lab time and supplement with other books from my music library instead of using the Performance book.
Another favorite method of mine is the Hal Leonard Series. The accompaniment CD's are especially motivating and engaging for the beginning levels and provide a fun support system for home practice to spice up the "simple sounding songs" at the start of music lessons. The presentation of concepts in both of these methods follows a similar order so I often interchange them to suit the tastes and needs of my students.

Music Discoveries by Anne Crosby Gaudet is also a great (free!) online alternative for preparing beginners for staff notation. It includes a printable piano primer book with audio instructions for each page and recordings of all of the songs and printable theory book activities included in the book. My students love watching her Barnyard Friends Videos to help them learn the notes on the staff.
(Disclosure: I don't receive any monetary compensation for promoting any of the resources on this post-- they just happen to be some of my personal favorites:)! )

2. Watch the Faber Teaching videos for ideas on how to present concepts to your students. Their website includes step by step written directions and instructional videos for teachers for the entire Primer Level book to help students get off to a great start. I learn so much by just by observing the way Nancy Faber introduces concepts to her students in an experiential way. It's like attending a master class in the comfort of my home. Many of the printable duet activities are applicable even if you choose a different method book. They also have some excellent videos about the "My First Piano Adventures" books for younger (age 5-6) students.

3. Practice teaching piano concepts to someone you know to gain some experience. My first experience teaching was with my friend's daughters who couldn't afford lessons during a tough time of unemployment. I was excited and grateful for this experience to provide a service and practice my skills as a beginning teacher in a less pressured environment. The babysitting services they provided in exchange were an added bonus!

4. Practice regularly yourself and constantly set goals for self-improvement in the areas you are weak.

5. Attend local music teacher trainings/workshops often hosted by music stores or music teacher associations. I have met some great mentors at our local music club meeting and love coming home with fresh ideas after attending workshops.

6. Become familiar with online theory/ear training tools and utilize them with your students or to improve your own skills. A few sites to start with include:
Music Learning Community, Emusic Theory Drills, Pedaplus, Theta and Tonic Tutor
(Links to these (and more) are located on the right side of my blog.)

7. Check out books on piano teaching from the library and purchase your favorites for future reference.
One that I own and refer to often is
"How To Teach Piano Lessons" by James Bastien
Another great resource that I found very useful is Practical Piano Pedagogy. Click on the link for a helpful review from the Teaching Studio describing its contents.
Martha Beth Lewis's online site has some excellent ideas for prospective teachers covering a broad range of subjects including "What to Teach at the First Lesson," "Teaching Rhythm, Technique and Notereading", "Teaching How to Practice", etc..

8. Utilize online printable piano game ideas to make your teaching studio more appealing to kids (and fun for you too!). Following are a few blog sites with fun music games for almost every concept introduced at the beginner level - and a few intermediate level ideas too.
Jen's Piano Blog(Pianimation), 
Susan Paradis
Sing a New Song
Music Matters Blog
Notable Music Studio
Layton Music
I recently compiled a resource list of my favorites organized by concept and level here.

8. Create a Studio Policy. The Teaching Studio is a very helpful piano teaching blog with a great post on this topic including a sample studio policy
This "policy" post on Color in My Piano gives an idea list of what to include.

9. Advertise and prepare a list of items to discuss when interviewing potential students. For me distributing a few flyers and word of mouth was all it took to fill my studio, but establishing a studio website can also be an excellent way to get the word out.

10. Have fun teaching! Continue to evaluate your teaching, expand your repertoire and fine tune your skills. Try video taping yourself teaching lessons and identify areas for improvement.

These next 3 excellent ideas were submitted in the comments by my readers. I didn't want these valuable ideas to be "lost" in the comments section, so I added them to the post. Thank you!

11. Kerri (my fabulous piano teacher in college) said, "Another option is to find a teacher you admire in your area and offer to pay to observe them teaching beginning students and to act as a mentor. Some teachers might accept studio help in group classes or as a substitute in lieu of payment for this kind of help. It's especially helpful to watch a teacher work with one student week after week for a semester. "
And Sarah added, " I agree with Kerri. The most valuable part of my teacher training was working under a student-teacher program with my then-current teacher. I taught each student for 3 weeks, and then they had a lesson with my teacher the 4th week of the month. I observed the lessons and then my teacher gave me feedback and helped mentor me as I learned how to teach. "

Finding a teacher in your area who is willing to be a mentor through letting you observe and maybe even watching you teach and giving you feedback is invaluable!

12. Wendy said, "I find I'm learning SO MUCH from the community of piano teacher bloggers. Might I add participation in piano teacher forums to discuss teaching topics, it's a good way of learning what others are doing and even seeking advice from fellow teachers on challenges we have to deal with. "

Of course, one of the obvious ways to prepare to teach piano lessons is to take lessons for many years from well-trained teachers and ideally earn a pedagogy degree or complete a music teacher certification program, but following these other tips can be a starting point to launch you towards your teaching goals.

13. LaDona said "I would add - join a piano or music teacher's organization in your area if there is one. If you're not qualified yet, this is something to work on. This gives you a lot more credibility, the opportunities for more professional development, a real-body community (as opposed to just online - which is also great, by the way!), more exposure, etc. "

What other tips do you have for beginning piano teachers?

9 comments:

  1. Heidi, another option is to find a teacher you admire in your area and offer to pay to observe them teaching beginning students and to act as a mentor. Some teachers might accept studio help in group classes or as a substitute in lieu of payment for this kind of help. It's especially helpful to watch a teacher work with one student week after week for a semester.

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  2. Kerri,
    Thank you for sharing this great idea. This sounds appealing to me, even though I have some teaching experience. I'm sure I'd glean some fresh ideas and inspirations from observing a master teacher week after week.
    Heidi

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  3. How nice of you to put this together for a beginning teacher...I LOVE this list! . I find I'm learning SO MUCH from the community of piano teacher bloggers. Might I add participation in piano teacher forums to discuss teaching topics, it's a good way of learning what others are doing and even seeking advice from fellow teachers on challenges we have to deal with.

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  4. I agree with Kerri. The most valuable part of my teacher training was working under a student-teacher program with my then-current teacher. I taught each student for 3 weeks, and then they had a lesson with my teacher the 4th week of the month. I observed the lessons and then my teacher gave me feedback and helped mentor me as I learned how to teach.

    Finding a teacher in your area who is willing to be a mentor through letting you observe and maybe even watching you teach and giving you feedback is invaluable!

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  5. Good list. I would add - join a piano or music teacher's organization in your area if there is one. If you're not qualified yet, this is something to work on. This gives you a lot more credibility, the opportunities for more professional development, a real-body community (as opposed to just online - which is also great, by the way!), more exposure, etc.

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  6. Great list! It’s a good way of learning and thanks for sharing this great idea.
    service video

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  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  8. Wow, great list! I'm starting teaching again very soon, although I haven't had any students for several years. This was a great way to brush off some of the dust and find some great new resources for my new students! Thanks!

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  9. Really great list! This post is sharing a good way of learning, Thanks for sharing great idea on Home Piano Lessons...

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