They say there is no such thing as a stupid question. But in the piano teaching world there are certainly good questions and lazy questions. And, oddly enough, sometimes the same question can be “good” for one student and “lazy” for another.
A student may ask you, “What is the key of this piece?”
When a piano student asks this for the first time, it is a good question. When a student asks this same question next week, then the week after that and the week after that… it becomes a lazy question.
But is the lazy questioning our fault? It might be if we are not answering our students’ questions in an empowering way.
In today’s post I’m discussing how to eliminate lazy questions by responding with empowering answers.
The Most Effective Way To Answer Piano Student Questions
What’s the easiest way to answer “What note is this?” Simple… with the note name: “D”. And then your student happily continues on, your lesson progresses as planned and everyone is happy.
But is it the most effective way to answer a question?
Because I’m betting the next time your piano student encounters that note they’re going to ask you again. And again. And again. And suddenly, your student falls into the habit of lazy questioning.
Why does this happen? Because they haven’t created a “learning landmark” and it’s left them dependent upon you for the answer… which, needless to say, creates a huge problem when it comes to home practice. And we all know that lack of practice leads to lack of progress leads to… quitting. So, let’s avoid this downward spiral and explore answering piano student questions with learning landmarks.
Answering Student Questions With “Learning Landmarks”
“Learning Landmarks” are something you verbally, visually, aurally or kinaesthetically give to your piano student as a way to recall needed information in the future. They provide the answer they are looking for in the moment *plus* at least two ways of remembering this answer (hopefully unassisted) in the future.
For example, providing learning landmarks to the question “What note is that?” could look something like this:
“Well, let’s take a look. You know this note (Middle C) really well. Is the note you’re looking at now higher or lower than Middle C? Yes, it’s higher and so that means that the note must be…”
“Can you draw D on this staff? What do you notice that is different about D? Do you see any other D’s on your page?… If this ruler I’m holding horizontally in the air was the bottom of the staff, can you show me with your hand where D would be found?”
Answering questions like this does take more time, however, when your student hesitates to find a D in the future, instead of asking a lazy question, he’ll hopefully remember at least one of the learning landmarks you’ve given him.
Getting Started With Learning Landmarks
We’ve compiled a list of “Learning Landmark Starters” you can use to begin to answer the questions your piano students ask in a way that provides not only the information they are seeking, but how they can recall this information in the future. The next time your student asks you a question, try the following starters:
- “What can you see on your page that might give you the answer?”
- “Have you seen this before? Let’s go find it.”
- “What clues can you gather from what’s come before or after what you’re unsure of?”
- “If you were to use your hand/arm/body to represent this what would it look like?”
- “If you were to explain this to your friend, how would you explain it?”
Different kinds of questions call for different kinds of Learning Landmarks. Aim to touch on one verbal explanation, one visual explanation and, if possible, one kinaesthetic (movement-based) explanation to hit all learning styles and create a memorable learning moment that is easily recalled.
When Your Goal Is To Eliminate Yourself…
Every piano teachers’ goal is to, one day, eliminate their students’ need for their assistance altogether. This means that we should take every opportunity, no matter how small, to arm our students with the tools they need to problem-solve, effectively gather information and discover how to retain concepts. So, while you are there to answer your piano students’ questions, make sure you’re doing so in a way that will eventually eliminate their need to ask!
A super duper way of creating Learning Landmarks is with a memorable piano game experience! That way, when your student asks “How long do I hold this note?” You can reply with… “Remember when we played in Grasshopper Gumbo… how many bugs did you remove from the Gnome Soup when you saw that same note value?”…
It doesn’t get much more memorable than that! PianoGameClub’s quirky themes are unforgettable! Check them out here.