Working With Young Learners

By Tung Pham, Trumpet, Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Image     Working with young learners can be a joy as well as a challenge. In considering the best strategies that work for our youngest students, I have boiled down three keys to success. With that being said, each students needs/wants are unique and instruction should be differentiated to meet those needs. How much differentiation is up to the parent and teacher, but it is important to remember that the end goal is student success.

1. Structure. Teachers of young students understand the value of having regularly set activities in the studio or the classroom. This continuity helps students adapt their expectations and reinforces what they already know. Regular structure in a lesson might look something like this: long tone warm up, tongue-ing scales, reading known music, sight-reading, introducing new material, wrap-up.  Having this structure in the lesson enables the student to practice successfully at home and gives them tools to problem solve on their own.

2. Reinforcement. Most young learners benefit from a good deal of reinforcement. Often times, young students haven’t yet developed the ability to tell they are right or wrong, or if something sounds good or bad. It is our job to make sure that they do, so when the time comes for them to make their own musical decisions, they will methodically understand how to. When I refer to reinforcement, I am not specifically referring to reward or punishment. I am speaking to the idea of repetition and presenting new information so that students can engage in new material visually, aurally and kinesthetically.

3. Sound before sight, not the other way around. It is my opinion that young learners benefit most from learning to create sounds before reading them. This is evident in our everyday students who are drawn to music because of sound. This is basic, I know. But along the way, especially in public education, focus shifts from sound to notation literacy and never looks back. Introducing sound and song is a great way to draw students in, which can very seamlessly lead to successful music reading. Developing both an aural foundation and music reading skills can be something done in tandem and even support one another.

This blog post comes at a time in my life where I am still searching to improve my own teaching methods. In this way, I guess I am a life long student-learner.


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