As piano students grow older, one of the biggest questions teachers face is… when to move on from method books.
So, today we thought we’d present what I consider to be the “life cycle of a method book” in hopes that maybe it provides some clarity for teachers pondering the method book dilemma.
Below is my philosophy for method book use and how they are used in my studio… but it is certainly not the only philosophy. In the comments, we’d love for you to chime in about the role method books play in your studio.
The Life Cycle Of A Method Book
The life cycle of a method book closely resembles (and correlates with, in a way) the stages all children pass through as they grow from children to teens… so much so that writing this post makes me all emotional about my own children growing up! 🙂
But, I’ll get over it and get to the point. Here are the 3 stages that make up the life cycle of a method book:
Stage 1: Happy and Structured
Very young children need rules and structure. And although they may occasionally fight back against authority, whenever structure gets thrown out the window, young kids can’t handle it. This is why method books work great for young kids.
Method books provide the structure children crave. Young students love method books. They get excited about progressing through the method book lessons, feel comfortable with the predictable routines and enjoy the familiar characters and images.
This is not to say that a “field trip” away from method books into the land of supplementary repertoire is not also needed. New and fresh experiences are what make up some of the most memorable childhood experiences… and some of the most beloved and memorable early music experiences too!
Yes, young children love method books and method books love being new and exciting. But change is inevitable… and so the life cycle continues…
Stage 2: Structured Freedom
As children approach adolescence, they yearn for a taste of freedom and independence. But at the end of the day, this desire is not as strong as their need for the comfort and advice of a parent.
Sure, they don’t want to sit with you at the movies, but when they’re struggling with school or friends, a big hug and some words of advice from mom or dad is what they want most.
Pre-teens treat method books like they do their parents. Method books, when owned by an pre-teen, have a new, yet still important role. They are there to continue to provide the consistent and familiar structure they have had in the past, all the while letting their young pianists spread their wings and explore alternative sources of repertoire and activities. And when that repertoire becomes too hard or unpredictable, the method book is there waiting to pick up where their owners left off.
At this stage, method books still have a ton to offer and will be making regular trips to the piano studio.
Stage 3 – Freedom to Fly
During the teen years, kids are shaping into who they will become as adults. They do not need (nor do they want) to mimc those who have come before them; they are becoming their own person.
At this stage, the music, style, and format of method books simply cannot fulfill every single individual teen student’s wants and needs. But that doesn’t mean their life is over.
Because, just as teens benefit (and need) guidance from parents and teachers, they can also benefit from the guidance of a method book. While the music from a method book may be lost on teens, and the desire to create their own music can be strong, the progression of skills and the sequence in which the skills are presented in a method book can also be very useful to developing teen piano students.
Do all teens need their own method book? Probably not. But having a teacher who uses the scope and sequence of a method book, or who has developed their own scope and sequence (loosely based on method books) will be just what teenagers need as they grow into an adult pianist.
All life cycle metaphors aside, the way you use your method books (or don’t use them at all!) is an important topic to think on and to revisit year after year. The books your choose or do not choose, the way in which you use them, and the length of time that they remain a part of your lessons are all factors that contribute to the overall growth of your piano students.
So, share with us in the comments… how do you use method books in your studio and what does your “method book life-cycle” look like?