Sunday, November 11, 2018

Teaching Young Children, pt. I – The Three Things to Expect

When speaking to guitar teachers it is not uncommon to find that many do not like to or are not comfortable teaching young children. There are a number of reasons for this, but the most common theme is that most guitar teachers are not sure how to approach working with them. In this next series of posts I will be tackling some of the “in’s and out’s” of working with younger children.

Before getting started let’s define an age range for the young children I will be discussing – for the purposes of this series of posts I’ll set the age range from 5 to 8 years old; students from kindergarten to third grade. That may not seem like a large age range, but developmentally speaking for children it really is. What does that mean for guitar teachers? It means you’ll have to know your audience and expect these three things when working with young children.

First, realize that time can be an important issue when teaching young students. The typical length for a guitar lesson is 30 minutes and when working with young students that can be a very long time. Not in the actual length of time, but in a child’s ability to maintain focus and sit still. Many young children become “fidgety” after several minutes of prolonged concentration, so plan on having a variety of topics to cover in one lesson. Moreover, incorporating some type of movement activity will always be beneficial. Additionally, the time of day for a lesson can be important – if it is early in the day a young student may be more attentive or if late in the day less so because as they may be coming from activities such as school, a play date or family function.

Second, teachers should be aware that young guitar students will lack in the development of their fine motor skills or “use of their smaller muscles, like muscles in the hands, fingers, and wrists. Children use their fine motor skills when writing, holding small items, buttoning clothing, turning pages, eating, cutting with scissors, and using computer keyboards”. Teachers need to understand how to help students develop their fine motor skills as they relate to guitar playing.

Third, expect there to be a great deal of repetition in the early stages of development. Do not be fearful of spending several lessons covering the same material; young children learn through repetition. Many teachers believe they need to cover new material every lesson and that is not the case with young students - they will benefit from reviewing material.

Next, month I’ll talk about recommendations for child size instruments.