Supplemental material for very young beginners : LUSENET : Everything About Teaching and Learning the Piano : One Thread

I have some kindergarten-age students who start to get fidgety about 20 minutes into the lesson. A shorter lesson is not an option because parents want the full 30 minutes. Any ideas on "time fillers" that can keep the lesson exciting? I usually introduce a new song or two, work on a theory page with them, and play a game of some sort. I have tried changing the order around in the lesson to keep it interesting, but find that I am out of things to do in about 20 minutes. I do not have this problem with older students, but find that me creativity lacks when working with the little ones. Any suggestions?

-- Karyn (, December 29, 2003


Hi Karyn,

I cut and pasted this from a post I did a while ago at Piano Teaching.Com. Check out TEACHING GAMES and EARLY CHILDHOOD sections for MANY more ideas!

Hello! I've had wonderful results with Sing & Play. This is one of the few books which gives detailed descriptions of what the PARENTS need to do each day, and moves at a realistic pace for most 4 year olds. Rhoda Rabin's book "At the Beginning" has also been extremely helpful, along with the teacher's manual for Sing & Play. Small groups of preschoolers is ALWAYS the ideal, but I've done well with private lessons also. Here's what has worked for me:

I've harmonized and composed accompaniments for all of the pieces, and have them on a sequencer. (I know this is a BIG endeavor, but well worth it if at all possible!) I can introduce each piece by singing it to the child first, then repeat it while we roll a big ball back and forth to the beat, then "play" it on a giant floor keyboard with plastic maracas, swing and sing, do "lap/claps" (like a bass drum/snare beat) and sing, demonstrate on piano, have child's hand ride "piggy-back" on mine as I play it again, (repeat any or all steps until the child REALLY knows the melody & rhythm), then we PLAY IT! The sequencer allows me to adjust tempo and sing and play as we go, since I don't need to actually play the piece for quite a few steps. Also, it helps to ask the child, "Would you like to do it again faster, or slower?". Usually it's "FASTER!", but when they respond "slower" I know I need to slow down the pace in general. (also a great way to get feedback as to how well the child is "processing" all of this!)

MANY alphabet games can be created; some ideas:

Lay out the letters ABCDEFGABCDEFG

1. Point & say letters 2. "Close eyes", switch 2 letters, one from each A-G group. "Can you find the mistake?" 3. Increase difficulty 4. Remove 1 letter from each A-G pattern (but leave a space!) point and say. 5. Allow child to remove one (empower) 6. When EZ, remove 1-2 and push letters together. 7. Increase number and difficulty 8. Play and say on piano (start with LOW A) No need for child to be able to identify separate keys; just learn alphabet! 9. Mix cards, have child arrange in order starting on A; repeat starting on B, etc. (have a "reference" somewhere within view of the child) 10. Say alphabet without letters visible

(this is not an "order", and many variations are possible....often the child will help you make more interesting, fun games!)

Repeat with alphabet BACKWARDS!

For rhythm, it's helpful to have a simple piece sequenced, like in Sing & Play:

"Hear the drummer keep a steady beat; keep it with your hands, keep it with your feet".

March, clap, play rhythm instruments, etc. Sequencer allows you to "do it again" faster or slower! Be prepare for an aerobic workout (sigh, I'm outta shape!)

We sing, "Ladybug oh lady bug where are you crawling next on me?" to scale degrees: 123454321234543- and move our hands up and down to match the melody. Then we sing and touch our "Feet, legs, stomach, arms (crossed), head" to scale degrees 1---2---3---4---5---.

For ear-training I stop on a scale degree and they have to guess which one. The ladybug also crawls down! There are countless ear- training games to be created and played; all are perfect "change of pace" for their short attention-spans. Music Mind Games and No H in Snake are wonderful!

Clark's Time to Begin can be "dove-tailed" around the end of book 1. Improvising should be a daily activity, with either the parent supplying a basic vamp or sending them home with a cassette. Learning and drawing basic note values and rhythms is also important. I also require a parent to attend all lessons, even participate in games, and lessons work best if 2x/week for 30 minutes. I've rarely had a child get fidgety in 30 minutes, because we move quickly from one fun activity to another.

This barely scratches the surface of the many aspects to juggle while teaching this age group; I hope this helps. I find this age group to be the most rewarding to teach, but also the most challenging and exhausting!

Also, my students and I have no problem with Sing & Play's bare, black and white layout and simple design. Students can color the pictures and really personalize them, and with supplementary materials like Bastiens First Piano Party EAR-TRAINING book (only!) and Schaum's Keyboard Alphabet Workbook, or any activity/workbook from Alfred prep course, etc., there's plenty to do! I honestly find it best to create my own materials and games; the excitement of the teacher, the tone of the lesson, and your "inate" sense of what is FUN to do will lead to many ideas. (I find that I REALLY need to balance carefully-planned and sequenced learning experiences with silly, child-like fun and excitement in order to have success with each child. Finally, you simply must LOVE the child and let them know that you truly believe they can do anything you ask of them!

-- John Bisceglia (, December 29, 2003.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ