Teaching 4 year old students

One of our members had a 4 year old student for a trial and the parent emailed saying she felt the teacher lacked experience with young children. The teacher admitted the lesson did not go well so I offered the following advice but if anyone has anything else to offer it would be much appreciated.

Email…

I appreciate your feedback. Working with young children is a never ending learning experience and when you meet a very young student for the first time you are under pressure. In this case because I was not there I can’t say whether I would have done any better but I do employ a few strategies that seem to work well so hopefully they will give you some ideas.

Parent involvement. – Try involving their parents as much as possible to see how they interact. Involve them as much as possible. E.g. Ask the parent to clap along with their child or ask the child to show their parents the parts of the guitar. “Can you show Mum which string is No.1?”

Parent expectations – Your real client is the parent (not the child). Find out what they expect. A young child will often be very shy and you are a stranger so what you want to do is explain to the parent that this is normal and that it will take time for the child to become comfortable at the lesson. Next show the parent what you would like them to do at home.

Keep it fun – Don’t worry too much about what they learn in lesson one. Play games and keep it fun. Ask them if they can sing any songs. E.g. Twinkle, twinkle and have a sing a long. By starting with something that is familiar to them they will relax. If everything is new and strange they will feel uncomfortable and out of place.

Look confident – No matter what always look confident in front of the parent. Treat everything as normal reaffirming that it will take time for their child to become comfortable. I will often to say “The first few weeks are usually a bit strange for them so don’t be surprised if next week he/she doesn’t want to come to the lesson. The trick is to come anyway and in a month or two they will look forward to coming. Its all about routine and familiarity.”

Hope that helps and please feel free to email me at anytime. Young children are well worth the effort as they make the best long term. Often staying until they leave school.

Member response

Here is a response from Kire and his recent experience with a young student. Very helpful advice.
 
“You hit the nail on the head about parental involvement. I stopped teaching a 4 year old a couple of weeks ago because he just seemed to lose interest. I had him for a couple of months and he was doing ok but we had to keep repeating things every week because his parents weren`t spending time with him during the week going over his “home-work”. I tried to involve the mother every lesson and urged her to spend time with him but in the end she admitted she wasn`t. It`s not all lost, we`ll try to get back together when he gets a bit older.
 
What I found helpful was having sing-a-longs to break the lesson up. Every 4 year old knows the Wiggles so I just played him some songs and we had a bit of a laugh with that. Another thing I used was colours for notes eg the Young Beginners Course uses red for the “E” string, blue for the “B” string etc so I used the colours at first then gradually used them less and less and he started recognising the notes by himself.
 
I was lucky that the mother owns a pre-school and she`s very experienced with young children. I tried to pick her brain as much as I could. Her best advice for me was not to expect a half hour of out of her son.  She said 15-20 minutes is the most concentration I should expect so I just split the lesson between songs and learning.”
 
Kind regards,
Kire Stefanovski
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