Now I have made my long-awaited move back to my home state of Connecticut and am teaching at the Hartt School of Music Community Division in West Hartford, which is a very large community music school This is just the kind of school I have always wanted to teach in. It has been very exciting to settle in and meet new people.
I currently have six new beginners. I love beginners!! There is so much potential! They are ages 4 through 8.
I thought I would post some of my thoughts as I teach Piano Safari Level 1 to these students. I have a problem of always tweaking any books or materials I use to suit the student and my own teaching style, including my own piano method!!! I thought these thoughts/tips that might help others teaching beginners in Piano Safari.
Thought #1. At the very first lesson, I teach Charlie Chipmunk and Alphabet Boogie (see, I can’t go in order! I have tweaked already! But Alphabet Boogie is so easy to teach, and the kids pick it up easily). Next, we decorate the piano with balls and caterpillars on the piano and add CDE foam letters
So feel free to do as I do, and skip around a bit in the book. You will find that as you teach through the book, a student may need another Reading Piece or Folk Song but is not ready for a new Rote Piece even though that might be the next piece in the book. Skip ahead to another Reading Piece (though I try to keep the student working on one unit at a time). Every student is different, and assigning pieces as the student needs them, rather than adhering strictly to the order of the book, is best.
Thought #2. I have been experimenting with the best way for student to hold his/her hand when playing Charlie Chipmunk, Alphabet Boogie, Hungry Herbie Hippo, and other pieces that use just one finger.
I used to just let them play with their 2nd finger and not mind the inevitable collapsed joint for the first two weeks.
The types of hand I have tried include:
Extended Finger 2:
Bird Beak. Some students can, amazingly, still collapse their end joint even when braced with their thumb! When I try to make them have a strong end joint, they just put the tension in their arms.
When I play these pieces, I find I prefer to hold two fingers together, which gives me better aim for the black keys. I have found most children do not find this one comfortable, at least in the first few weeks of piano. Interestingly, students who have been playing for several months and have gained some coordination often do tend to use this type of hand when we go back to review the beginning pieces.
Some like to have all their fingers out when they play,
3. One last thing in this long post. One teacher asked about the drum I use as the student and I tap the rhythms from the Sight Reading & Rhythm Cards , or as I play the accompaniment in the King of the African Drum. The kids love the drum.
In case you are curious, the one I have is from westmusic.com. Type in “gathering drum” to the search box at the top of their page. The one I have is the Remo Kids 8×22 Gathering Drum.