When a preschool piano student gets bored he sticks a pencil up his nose, hangs upside down from the piano bench or asks you questions about Paw Patrol.
When a teen piano student gets bored she stays seated at the piano and plays dutifully.
Teachers of preschool piano students know that if they want to accomplish anything, they must stave off boredom with a diverse lesson plan that keeps the preschool brain motivated.
Teachers of teen piano students, however, worry less about boredom because the outward behavior of teen students does not demand a change in lesson structure.
But the truth is, teen students get bored too… they just don’t show it. In today’s post, we’re going to help you keep teens motivated in piano lessons with tips for teaching the teenage brain.
4 Tips For Teaching The Teenage Brain
The biggest problem with teen piano students is that they don’t throw temper tantrums, they don’t randomly wander around your piano studio and they rarely stick things up their noses.
Because they don’t display problematic behavior, teachers are tricked into believing that they are enjoying piano lessons or that they are focused on the task at hand.
But the truth is, if you haven’t structured a piano lesson for the teenage brain, then they are likely as bored as your little piano students. Figuratively speaking, they are also hanging upside down on your piano bench.
So, to help you teach those teen brains, here are our 4 most important tips:
1. Begin Every Piano Lesson With Success
The key to a great teen piano lesson is, believe it or not, dopamine. Recent research has shown that when a brain releases dopamine a person has an increase in motivation to continue with the task at hand.
For this reason, every teen piano lesson should begin with a successful musical experience. Whether this is reviewing a piece they have mastered or engaging in an exercise you know they enjoy, if your teens can experience success in the first five minutes, you are off to the races.
2. Change Activities Every 10 Minutes Or Less
Most of the teens you’re teaching have an attention span of 10 to 12 minutes. Unlike preschoolers, however, teens won’t likely give you a hard time when they have reached their 10-minute limit. Instead, they will simply turn off their brains without you noticing.
To ensure a successful experience with teens you should be changing activities three to four times in a 30 minute piano lesson. You do not need to be up and off the bench like you would with a preschooler, but you must engage their brains in different musical ways.
3. Create A Visual Piano Lesson To-Do List
We have blogged frequently about the importance of a visual planner for young piano students and it is equally important for teenagers, but for different reasons.
Young piano students get anxious in unpredictable situations and a visual planner will help stave off this anxiety. Teens generally enjoy novelty and don’t need a visual planner for this purpose.
However, where a visual planner is handy for teens, and even adults, is when it is used as a visual “to-do” tracker. Feelings of success lead to increased motivation, and nothing leads to feelings of success better than ticking off completed tasks from a piano lesson to-do list.
4. Engage Their Social Brains
It’s no secret that teens are social creatures. They crave interactive activities as opposed to solo endeavors. And while you might assume you aren’t “cool enough” for your teens, they will actually love the opportunity to play a musical duet with you.
Don’t be intimidated by your teens’ stand-offish behavior. This does not mean they think you are uncool. It is instead guided more by their self-consciousness then their feelings toward you. Take time to build trust, and before you know it, the quiet teen on your bench will be full of smiles and giggles as the two of you perform rockin’ duets.
A Teen Method Book That Incorporates All 4 Strategies
A few months ago we released our newest book series, WunderKeys Intermediate Pop Studies For Piano.
If you are looking for an all-in-one lesson approach for teen students, this will be your go-to teen resource. WunderKeys Intermediate Pop Studies For Piano is a pop-infused lesson companion to reinforce scales, chords, triads, and left-hand patterns. It transforms exercise-based repertoire into motivating pop piano studies that your teens will go crazy for.
One teacher recently wrote to us to say:
“I’ve never found a book I love so much for an introduction to key signatures and scales, much less a book that combines BOTH. My students love these books and how much they are learning in each segment. Lead sheets, rhythms, chord progressions, sight reading, improv! What a valuable resource for piano teachers of teens! I can’t wait for the rest of these series!I’ve never found a book I love so much for an introduction to key signatures and scales, much less a book that combines BOTH. My students love these books and how much they are learning in each segment. Lead sheets, rhythms, chord progressions, sight reading, improv! What a valuable resource for piano teachers of teens! I can’t wait for the rest of these series!”