I am good at a lot of things. I am bad at A LOT of things. And I am great at a few things.
One thing I am great at is lesson time management. Over the years I have learned to make every second of a piano lesson count. There is not a single thing that happens in my piano lessons that doesn’t have a musical purpose.
Even the simple chit-chat that happens as a piano student walks through my door has a purpose. And by the end of this post you’ll discover that my simple chit-chat is not as simple as it may seem!
How To Chit-Chat With A Musical Purpose
A little chit-chat at the start of a piano lesson is a great bonding exercise… even if that chit-chat serves no other purpose. But letting it serve no other purpose would be a colossal waste of valuable information.
Which is why each week I always ask my younger piano students the same 3 questions. The questions below are specifically designed to give me a little insight to my piano students’ state of mind for the purpose of teaching piano.
So, here we go:
1. Tell me about the most exciting thing that happened to you this week.
This question is great for breaking the ice with even your most silent of piano students, but its true value, of course, lies in your students’ responses. When I ask this question, what I am actually asking, in a round about way, is…
“Did anything out-of-the ordinary happen this week that may be impacting your mood, attitude or ability to practice the piano?”
I find that piano parents are usually pretty good at informing me about negative situations (family illnesses, divorce etc.) that can impact practice, but rarely have anything to say about exciting news that can also have an impact on piano practice. So, for the “good news” I go to the students and usually gain some pretty valuable insights.
2. Who did you play with at lunch today?
As stated previously, if my piano students are having trouble at home I usually hear about it from the parents. But I rarely know if my piano students are having trouble at school.
So when I ask this question, I am really checking on the emotional well being of my piano students.
From their responses, it becomes quite clear whether their interactions with friends are having a positive or negative impact on their emotional health and thus their ability to focus on piano lessons.
I don’t draw any wild conclusions from their responses, but with this extra bit of information I may be able to connect the dots between “friendship troubles” and an unfocused piano lesson, and try to make adjustments to my teaching style to work with the emotional states of my students.
3. Tell me something I don’t know!
This is my favorite question to ask because my students are always a wealth of quirky knowledge. But aside from gathering information to use on television quiz shows, this question also gives me insight into the interests of my piano students.
Music is a very personal pursuit. And students learn best when teachers can make piano lessons appeal to their personal tastes and interests.
Having this information is like having the answer key to a really tough test… you’ll end up with a Piano Teaching A+ every time 🙂
So, you’ve done your detective work and discovered your students’ interest… now you have the challenge of finding motivating music! But if you’re a PianoBookClub member this isn’t a challenge at all. With new music released each and every month PianoBookClub’ers are building a library of music to match the needs of any piano student. Learn more about PianoBookClub here.
What Does Your Chit-Chat Sound Like?
So those are the 3 questions that I ask my piano students… now it’s your turn! In the comments below, we’d love to know what you and your piano students talk about before getting into the nitty-gritty of a piano lesson…