5, 4 and 3-year-old students???
Hello all, at the music school where I teach I have just been assigned a bunch of new students, all but one children 10 and under. These include a 5-year-old, a 4-year-old and 3-year-old. Like WTF.
Obviously it is quite possible that they might be fantastically amazing, but I have less ideas about what I might do with them to than I would, say, someone ten times their age.
Any suggestions?? Please???
A friend of mine in education often says that teaching in the primary grades is all about 'classroom management'. If you can keep the kids focused, you've more or less done your job. Of course, the abilities of children shouldn't be underestimated. Have you seen the (in)famous video of these young North Korean guitarists:
I'd say guitar ensemble is probably the way to go. Sounds like a difficult task you have ahead of you, but I'm sure you'll manage it. Btw, don't forget how much kids enjoy humour!
This is my nightmare
Is it a group class or 1 on 1 lessons?
I'm no Suzuki/music ed guru, but I'd suggest holding off on any real guitar playing for a while in the lessons, especially if it's a group class. I did a few elementary school class sessions where the curriculum was provided, and it mostly focused on pitch relativity (low-high), recall (echoing little fragments) basic rhythms, and songs (A LOT of songs).
I had little cartoon magnets that I would put on the whiteboard, putting some high and some low and having them 'read' 2 note patterns. Things like that.
Maybe after a few sessions they can strum open strings along with their songs or for their rhythm practice, but I've never had any luck trying to throw a 3-5 yr student right into plucking/fretting.
Also if its a group class the #1 thing that helped me survive those classes is planning everything at 3 difficulty levels (which can all be played together). That way the 9-10 year olds aren't bored out of their minds during all that.
But the main thing is making sure the parents don't expect some rock stars after the end of the semester
Hope that helps in some way!
I misunderstood at first, I thought you were dealing with a class. I agree that a different approach is needed for an individual. It is curious that there is no introductory guitar method (as far as I know) that is aimed at children. There are plenty in the case of the piano: I remember using them as a kid myself! (I'm afraid I was the sort of child who felt rather put out by them!) You might have a look at some of these if you can get your hands on any. (You can find pretty much anything at the 'kupdf' website - not sure it's all legal, though!) Btw, I would regard this as an opportunity - there's clearly a need for age-appropriate pedagogical material, so why not produce something yourself? (You've got the requisite skills - you're a guitarist, you're a composer, and now you have your own 'laboratory'! to test ideas.) Anyhow, best of luck with your young student! Keep us posted on how things proceed.
My old guitar teacher (when I was in my teens) once told me that he always played Tarrega's 'Cajita de musica' for young children - apparently the sound of the harmonics fascinated them. That makes me wonder whether natural harmonics might be introduced at the very beginning of guitar study. They are actually easier to play than a fretted note (especially at the 7th and 12th frets) and it is not too difficult to produce a beautiful, resonant sound. Once the technique is understood, the learner has at least 18 notes at their disposal. (The six open strings and 12 'strong' harmonics - more of course are possible, but I'd begin with the easy ones.) You might also introduce little rhythmic patterns that can be easily imitated. (Remember, the guitar can also be a percussion instrument!) Obviously, you can't start with something that requires a knowledge of written music. (Although harmonics can be presented in graphical notation (say as pairs of numbers acting as coordinates - maybe too much for a five year old though). Perhaps you could encourage young students to make something up themselves - children are perfectly capable of being creative, if they are allowed/encouraged to be. (Picasso apparently said something like: 'when I was a child, I learned how to paint like an adult; I have spent my adulthood learning how to paint like a child!') Just to be clear, I'm not speaking from experience here! I have no idea if any of this will work. But your task seems a very interesting one. Best of luck! (And don't forget to be funny!)
Good idea from david to keep you posted, so I'll note some thoughts and plans.
Here's a first post for how things have gone so far:@
Trial lesson report:
- She was able to sit on the chair with the guitar for the whole lesson, which I didn't expected, perhaps because she was a little shy. She was only distracted from what I was saying by the guitar and trying to make more sounds on it, but not much more.
- I fumbled through trying to teach her from the book I had for 6-year-olds and up, with open B and G.
- I used Thomas Viloteau's suggestion in his Tonebase video on the right hand of placing the thumb on the string next to the finger, which she could do, but obviously wanted to do something a bit more interesting.
- It wasn't quite clear where the idea to learn the guitar came from, but she knew about guitars from the film "Coco".
- Mum was very understanding of my inexperience, which I was quite open about. I hope to cooperate with her to finding a good approach.
Some plans that may or may not work to begin with:
- Find out what songs/music she knows and likes (e.g. from "Coco") and expand from there to choose further material.
- Open strings as accompaniment while singing a song, e.g. "Frère Jacques", which could also be learnt later.
- Jam session: student plays an open string rhythm while I play an accompaniment in different styles, e.g. waltz, classical, blues, bossa nova, rock, percussion by tapping on the body of the guitar.
- As above with an open string and one or two fretted notes.
- I'm inclined to teach melodies on a single string, going into higher positions, rather than over several strings, maybe even using just one finger. I think "Twinkle, Twinkle..." slowly could eventually work well enough like this. I feel this is more intuitive when trying to develop a sense of what pitch on a string is, and perhaps in general. I'm thinking of starting with the 1st string, then doing the same with the 2nd. Then gradually introducing the relationship between the two strings - for example, "Frère Jacques" in E major starting on the open 1st string would work to and an open B to a melody.
- Use open bass notes with thumb for some accompaniments
- Use simplified, one-finger chords, e.g. G and C major or A minor or major on the first three strings only, or E minor or major (first inversion) too with possible the fourth string. D major/minor/7 might be possible at some point, but probably not so soon.
- Teach notation, but not limit knowledge and use of the guitar to the notes and rhythms learnt - use keys that are easy enough on the guitar, even though they might have a lot of sharps in the key signature. A 5 year old is only just learning to read language, so there's no rush for music.
- Do exercises like copying a rhythm or simple melody by clapping, singing or guitar
- Make some of use of improvisation and devising our own music, even very simple stuff with one or two notes
- See if any natural structure to the lesson emerges, which could be:
- Warm-up: some little exercises/games
- Some simple melody (e.g. on open strings as above) and accompaniment
- A little book work with notation
- A game, a jam session, whatever appears to be the most fun.
Concerns and possible solutions:
- Possibility of teaching things that might cause problems in the future:
- keep a close eye on things and correct where possible, aiming for a natural and relaxed position
- accept this is likely to happen anyway because I've never taught such a young student
- there are more important issues with a higher priority, such as maintaining and nurturing the desire to learn and make music and have fun with it.
- Not having stuff to teach:
- keep regular contact with parents to find out what interest the child has
- be prepared for many things to arise on the fly and improvise, both pedagogically and musically
- Not being able to provide things to practise at home:
- keep regular contact with parents to see what works and doesn't, and what the child might want to do with the guitar at home
- see if the parents can do anything with the child
- provide some recordings of accompaniments for the child to play along with
- How to introduce notation?
- See if it arises naturally, for example, when trying to remember a melody we invent, or from me using it for something
- See how I can make use of the book I have for a few moments in each lesson.
All right. That's probably enough for now and more than I planned to write! But this is a great place to think out loud.
Any suggestions would be very welcome!
Sounds like you have a lot of great ideas, Roni! I especially like your point about the importance of nurturing a love for learning music. (We've all heard of - maybe even experienced first hand - teachers who manage just the opposite!) Btw, I hadn't heard of the movie Coco until you mentioned it. (I just watched the trailer.) Nice to see the guitar featured in a Disney film. If that's what underlies your student's interest in music, I'd definitely introduce chords as soon as possible - she'll be wanting to strum and sing!
The lesson went great today, I was quite surprised what she was capable of, and she was very excited about starting to learn. Big success all round, I'd say.
- On a low chair (a sideways cajón), with a footstool - good natural posture
- Thumb worked well, rather than fingers to start with, which could also be used to strum
- Stickers are great for marking LH finger positions.
What we did:
- Copying rhythm game with open G and thumb
- Sang "Frère Jacques" with one note accompaniment (open G)
- I stuck a piece of green tape (for lack of a small pretty sticker) where I wanted here to place are LH finger, which worked really well, and she played exactly behind the fret, rather than on or too far behind it, which seems to be really difficult to explain. I plan to use these stickers more, and for showing chord shapes.
- Taught "chord" and a simplified 3-string G chord with open G, B and fretted high G.
- Sang "Frère Jacques" with simplified G chord accompaniment
Thank you so much for bringing up this topic Roni! I typically turn away students who are younger than 7 and refer them to Suzuki (violin) or Yamaha (piano), but for kids who are very motivated to play the guitar specifically, these are some great ideas to forge some new pathways and challenge myself as a teacher (once I am teaching in person again).
Three-four-five years is a good age to start guitar - just like many other instruments. It depends on the student's readiness for the lesson and on parent support. Of course, I am talking about one-on-one lessons, not online. (To teach any beginners online is extremely difficult). A very good book for this age is "New Dimensions in Classical Guitar for Children" (don't believe that it is for 8-12 years old) It is based on Suzuki and Koday methods of music education for young children and it has many excellent games and tips for the teachers. Suzuki method is completely comfortable with kids starting at this age. A couple of my first Suzuki students (brother and sister) who started with me 9 years ago when they were 5 and 4 correspondingly are now featured in GFA tv on YouTube Foundation series (20, 22 and 23) and won the Latino Strings GUITAR FESTIVAL. This was our beginning:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Pf1nNsirwk and https://youtu.be/2BV9su6Mb7w Quite a few of the Suzuki students have been winning GFA. Actually, it is a great satisfaction to watch how they grow and mature as musicians.
Roni Glaser hi Roni, well the first class was a success, I kept the kid focused and only started yawning after 45 min. I started with posture and im apoyando exercises in the 1st string, even the 4 first notes of twinkle twinkle. The second class was a disaster in terms of yawning... lack of focus, I ended up singing along with her songs, all in all a bit of a disaster. Lets see how it goes the next class. One question, do you think I have to focus a lot on posture? do your little kids play on the left leg? Any more advise?