The clock is ticking and your elementary piano student just isn’t “getting” her piece. You offer suggestions, write clues on the page, use reminder stickers, but nothing works. Your student is struggling.
“But…” nags your inner piano teacher voice, “she NEEDS a piano piece to practice at home!”
And so with each wrong note, stumble, hesitation and rhythmic error your blood pressure increases as the clock ticks on until the end of her lesson.
When the lesson is over you offer a few more hurried suggestions, maybe even write in a few more hints and place the book into the music bag knowing that home practice will be filled with frustration.
What else can you do? Your elementary student must have a piece to practice at home!
You’ve just been caught in the “Piano Piece A Week” Trap.
In today’s post we’re going to help you escape the trap, or better yet, avoid it altogether.
How To Escape The Piano Piece A Week Trap
We’ve all been caught in the piano teacher’s trap: the belief that early elementary and elementary piano students must be assigned a new piece each and every week. Too often, however, time constraints mean that teachers assign piano pieces without providing students with the necessary tools to tackle the piece at home.
This inevitably results in students who are frustrated with home practice; note reading suffers, rhythm falters, and fluency disappears. Eventually, you have a piano student who is unmotivated and piano parents who are making noises about practice wars at home.
The Solution: Focus On Concepts Not Piano Pieces
A shift in thinking is required to solve this problem. Rather than feeling the need to assign new piano pieces every week, teachers should focus on weekly pedagogical concepts.
Students should not feel the pressure to perfect a piano piece at home when they do not yet have all of the necessary skills to play the piano piece. Instead, they should focus on mastering the needed skills first.
Of course, if a student is to reinforce a concept, and not a piece, at home, they need activities to fill their practice sessions. And this is where “breaking free from piece to piece teaching” takes center stage.
When you decide to make the switch and teach to the concept and not to the piece, it is important that you have the necessary lesson activities to reinforce the concept in a scaffolded way. Such activities include short technical exercises, sight-reading practice, game-based learning, and rhythm work. Then, when it is time to send your student home to practice, they can practice any of the aforementioned activities if they just aren’t ready to independently practice a piano piece.
The result of this shift in thinking is a piano student who has fully internalized a new concept, can identify it both visually and aurally and has practiced it in short, manageable sections.
This is a piano student who is ready to tackle a full piece NEXT week.
We all know this makes perfect sense. In a school setting, students don’t simply read books – closing one and immediately opening the next – in order to learn to read. Instead, teachers employ a wide variety of strategies away from the context of a book to give their students the skills to read and write. Teachers don’t assign a new novel every day to their budding readers. Instead, they assign manageable, focused activities and reading material that supports them.
Learning to play the piano should be no different.
Music Activities And Exercises To Escape The Trap
To get comfortable with this new approach to home piano practice you’ll need concept-based technical exercises, activities, and games that can be practiced at home as your student gets ready for a full piano piece.
When Trevor and I created our WunderKeys Elementary Piano Level 1 series we set out to create a refreshingly new approach to method books with this need at the forefront.
Will WunderKeys kids still be playing piano repertoire as they do in traditional method books? Of course! And a lot of it! But the interactions students have using our musical activities, exercises and games before they reinforce skills with repertoire is where the magic happens.
In Level 1, we’ve created unique ways for kids to engage with notated music based on research that shows that learning improves when skills are accessed and explored in different ways. With our books, if your students aren’t ready to practice full piano pieces at home, they have the technical exercises, sight-reading activities, ear-training games, and rhythm work that reinforces specific concepts so they will be ready to master piano pieces in the week to come.
The pressure you feel to assign new pieces every week will disappear, your student will leave your studio confident in her ability to practice the piano at home, and the progress that you, your student, and her parents expect will be both steady and stress-free.
Are you ready to free yourself from the “Piano Piece A Week” Trap? Check out our WunderKeys Level 1A and Level 1B books on Amazon. These books are for students who have completed a Primer-Level method book (of any series).