It happens to me at the start of every teaching year. One of my adorable little piano students returns to lessons and is all of a sudden… not so little!
I don’t know how it happens, but over the course of a summer a “kid” can turn into a “tween”. And that tween can bring an entirely different attitude to piano lessons than their former “kid” self.
Fortunately, this isn’t my first rodeo and over the years I have become a bit of an expert at breaking down the barriers that tweens can carry with them into piano lessons.
In today’s post I’m sharing 7 barrier-busting tips to help you teach students who left lessons as a child and returned as a tween 🙂
7 Tips For Teaching Piano To Tweens
I consider tweens to be an “at risk” student demographic. They are often encountering many difficult social and emotional challenges that distract them from piano lessons and put them one step closer to walking away.
Ironically enough, the tween years can be when kids need music the most. I know this first-hand… and so I go many extra miles to keep my kiddos in lessons. Below are my 7 tips, learned from experience, for helping tweens out:
1. Tweens love to be silly… if you let them.
I used to be guilty of treating my tweens in a more mature way than they actually needed to be treated. Underneath those tough tween exteriors and baggy hoodies are kids who, if given the opportunity, are desperate to “get out”. With a good dose of humor, a teacher who is willing to get goofy, and materials that encourage a bit of fun, your tweens will love the opportunity to let loose and just be themselves.
Avoid shying away from a good dose of “play”. Use your manipulatives, your off-the-bench activities, and your practice incentives just as you would with your younger students. Remember, you can still have a goofy and good time without treating them like the little kids they used to be.
2. Tweens need to be given the opportunity to be responsible.
Once my piano students reach the age of twelve, I stop “going over their heads” when it comes to parent communications. Giving your tweens opportunities to be responsible and to take ownership over their own lesson experiences is essential in helping them identify as musicians.
Deal with your tweens directly when it comes to laying out practice expectations, giving lesson reminders, and debriefing weekly or monthly progress. Show them that you trust their abilities to be responsible and conscientious. Obviously parents should be kept in the loop, but your tweens should be made to feel as though they are the ones in charge of their learning experiences. Most will rise to the occasion and find a sense of pride in their ability to do so.
3. Tweens crave connections with peers.
Piano can be a solitary activity (which is one reason why sports can often win out over piano when tweens are given the choice). Be sure to include regular opportunities for your tween students to network with same-age students. Duets, piano parties, group classes, and community events are all great ways to bring a sense of collaboration into your studio that will make your tweens develop that all-important sense of belonging.
4. Tweens still need guidance when it comes to time management.
As much as I try to treat my tweens as young adults, I’m well aware that they still need assistance in learning to manage their practice time. Tween schedules can get really busy; homework demands increase, extracurricular activities become more serious… and friends vie for any scraps of free time. While you’ll want to give your tweens responsibilities, you’ll also want to provide guidance when it comes to effective practice.
Helping your tweens find a predictable practice time ensures piano practice can happen no matter how busy schedules might become. I encourage morning practice with all of my tweens as the “after school hours” are often completely taken up with other demands.
5. Tweens are sensitive and need to feel valued.
Choose your words carefully when teaching tween students… their sensitivity is heightened at this stage in their lives. Teens are hyper-aware of what they believe others may think of them and this can affect their willingness to participate in recitals, to “put themselves out there” in exams and competitions, and to accept challenges in lesson time.
A good dose of understanding, and the patience to wait for them to feel ready, is often needed… but so is the ability to create opportunities for success. Seek out ways for your tweens to be successful at the piano in environments that boost their confidence and their self-perception.
6. Tweens love to play music that sounds more difficult than it actually is.
In fact… who doesn’t?! But tweens in particular crave instant gratification and the approval of others. Seek out repertoire that has the “wow factor” that this age group appreciates. This enables them to feel proud of their accomplishments at the piano.
Encourage your tweens to have a list of memorized pieces that they can play “anytime, anywhere”. A strong connection to the repertoire that they are playing is the best way to keep tweens practicing and progressing and motivated to continue to take lessons.
7. Tweens need small, attainable goals to keep their attention.
While your teenage piano students often have the patience to work towards long-term goals, tweens need short-term goals in order to keep their motivation levels high. Teens may happily work towards an upcoming performance that is four months away… but your tweens need to be setting small and attainable goals regularly.
If you would like to add to our list of Tween Teaching Tips please share in the comments at the very end of this post.
Were You Swimming When These Popular Posts Came Out?
Learning to teach tweens is one of many things you will need to keep in mind as another year of lessons ramp up. During the past few months we have shared some great posts that will help your studio run smoothly this year. If, over the last few month, you were on an exotic vacation, swimming at the lake, or running through sprinklers here are a couple of helpful articles you may have missed: