It exists: the preconception that teaching beginners is ‘easier’ compared to teaching higher level pupils. Consider just how many fledgling piano teachers start their teaching careers – by teaching beginners. (I know I did).
It can be easy to assume that teaching the basics is an obvious place to start. Yet how does one design a series of effective lessons for a beginner pupil? Turning the pages of a tutor book, week on week, just won’t cut it. (I know that from experience). Without effective planning – which requires a plethora of skills, experience, understanding and reflective teaching – beginner lessons won’t deliver what beginner pupils need. Besides it’s not just what you teach, it’s how you teach it. And MORE!
Teaching beginners isn’t easy, that’s for sure. And here’s why.
THE CURSE OF KNOWLEDGE
We need to get rid of something that Lee LeFever, in his book The Art of Explanation, calls the curse of knowledge. He suggests that, when we’re so close to our area of expertise, we can easily talk about it in a way that goes over people’s heads – even when we think we’re simplifying it. (Think of the last time you were in a situation where a professional – financial advisor, web designer – has gone over your head by assuming that you understood their ‘simplified’ jargon.)
And when we go over a pupil’s head, that’s when their brain checks out. They’ll act bored. They’ll wait long enough for you to draw breath and then completely change the subject: “We’re going out to my cousin’s house for dinner tonight. My cousin…”
COMMUNICATING AT LEVEL 1 – IT’S HARD WORK
Imagine a scale of 1-10: level 1 represents our beginner pupil’s musical understanding whilst level 10 represents our musical understanding.
What happens is that we try – we try so hard – to simplify what we’re helping pupils learn, right the way down to level 1. Yet often we miss and only simplify it to a level 7. That gap between levels 1-7 is what we can refer to as the curse of knowledge – because although we need to communicate at the most introductory level so that pupils understand, doing that is incredibly difficult to do.
For example: if you’ve ever told a pupil that “a crotchet is worth 1 beat” and expected that to sound meaningful to them, you’re hitting at a 7! Communicating with beginner pupils so that they gain a deep understanding of musical concepts, and can apply them independently within a musical context, is a very challenging task.
So here’s the exciting news!
Today is the official online-launch of Let’s Play! – our brand new 6-part Online Video Course, designed to give piano teachers strategies and confidence for teaching beginners at the piano. CLICK TO ENROL TODAY!
At The Curious Piano Teachers, we recognise that teaching beginners isn’t easy. We wanted to create something that would demonstrate to piano teachers how to communicate – right down there at ‘level 1’ – based on our own learning, research and practical experiences. And so the idea of this Online Video Course was born!
THE STORY BEHIND ”LET’S PLAY!”
Let’s Play! has been many months in the making and offers something very unique to piano* teachers worldwide: the opportunity to learn new teaching skills and strategies by observing ‘real’ lessons. (When you purchase the course you get lifetime access, which means that you can take it at your pace – and can return to it as many times as you want to).
* Let’s Play! exclusively features piano lessons, yet the ideas can be applied to all instrumental lessons.
Following many weeks of planning and structuring the course, it all began ‘for real’ last Autumn, during the mid-term break, when Sally and I spent 2 full days with a terrific bunch of 6-8 year old piano pupils and our (ever patient!) camera guy Richard Watson.
During those 2 days we created many hours of footage – featuring one-to-one piano lessons and small group lessons for beginners. Then we spent the Christmas Holidays watching the footage to determine which lesson scenes would make the final cut.
Images from ‘behind the scenes’
Next, Sally and I watched our videoed lessons multiple times – many multiple times! – to create lesson reflections. Many pages of notes and discussions later, we spent another couple of days with Richard recording the audio for the lesson reflections.
The actual lessons chosen for the video course are 100% non-edited so, unsurprisingly, upon reflection, we saw things that we would have done differently! Sometimes the feedback we gave pupils was too vague – so we share what we might have said instead. Sometimes we missed vital responses from pupils in the live setting that we later picked up on the video.
In any case, the underpinning point is that we can all learn a lot from video recording our lessons, watching them back, reflecting and then tweaking our approach. It certainly beats the alternative: to continue down the same track, with the same approach, perhaps without even realising that it’s not working for the pupil.
Prior to today’s official online launch of Let’s Play! piano teachers who are members of The Community (our online membership site) had the opportunity to purchase this Online Video Course. Rebecca, a piano teacher from the UK, had this to say:
I love this online course! It's really helpful to get an insight into someone else's teaching and there's so many brilliant ideas to take away and use in your own lessons - RebeccaTweet quote
More images from ‘behind the scenes’
ADDITIONAL FEATURES OF THE COURSE
Then we spent many more weeks, working with our amazing graphic designer Oonagh, to create video graphics: pop-up banners to illustrate points of interest in the videoed lessons and other features that provide the viewer with clear signposts about what’s happening throughout the videos. Additionally, we worked with Oonagh to create a colourful and enagaging 40-page Resource Pack – featuring the flashcards, songs and games that Sally and I use in the video lessons.
Finally, we created a set of Teacher Workbooks to help teachers make the most of the new ideas. There’s one workbook to accompany each video.
Piano teachers who enrol in the course will get lifetime access to the:
– 6-part Online Video Course with over 3 hours of lessons, lesson reflections and teaching points
– 6 Teacher Workbooks designed to help you apply the ideas to your own lessons
– 40-page Resource Pack that you can download and use with your beginner pupils
Here’s what you’ll learn from the first video:
Click here to see what you will learn from each of the 6 videos.
“So many ideas that will slot straight into my teaching, so many examples of good practice and really honest analysis of Sally and Sharon’s own teaching in the recorded lessons” – Katrina
“A fantastic resource for teachers looking to do things differently but not sure where to start” – Caroline
WATCH A 12-MINUTE PREVIEW
Watch a short preview, including a group lesson where Sally teaches a chant with actions called ‘Double, Double’.
How much does the course cost? You can pay in GBP (£147) or US dollars ($197).
How long do I have access to the course? How does lifetime access sound? After enrolling you have unlimited access to this course, across any and all devices you own.
What if I am unhappy with the course? We would never want you to be unhappy! If, having reached the end of the course and completed the action steps, you are unsatisfied with your purchase, please contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) within the first 30 days attaching your completed Teacher Workbooks and stating the reasons why you are unsatisfied and we will give you a full refund.
Click here to go to the Let’s Play! Online Video Course enrolment page where you will find further information. If you have any further questions, just ask in the comments below!
NEXT BLOG POST
We’re off on holiday for the next 2 weeks, so our next blog post will be published on 26 August