Often when I tell parents that my piano lessons for 3-4 year olds are 30 minutes long they look at me as if I am somewhat unhinged – surely they can’t concentrate for that long?
I totally understand their reaction. And if the lessons were all about sitting on a piano stool for 30 minutes, thumbs over middle C (as many of us may remember from our own early lessons), then they would be absolutely right.
The Dogs and Birds method is different. No activity lasts longer than 10 minutes – many are only 5. So that is 4-5 different activities we cover in one 30 minute lesson.
Today I had a wonderful lesson with my adorable niece, Phoebe, 3. Teaching a family member is often more challenging as they know you so well they are less likely to be “on their best behaviour for the teacher“. And Phoebe is certainly a little girl who knows her own mind!
However, as soon as she came in she was over at the piano looking for the ‘dogs’ (D notes). Before I knew it, we had found all the dogs, placing the little animal tiles on each of the keys. We then worked out where the birds were and then it was straight into singing – listening to the CD first and then wanting to “do it myself”. After about 10 minutes, she was getting a little tired of the concentration – so it was onto the rhythm games. Lots of marching, clapping and playing (well, banging) the piano in an even “1,2,3,4” pulse. This got the adrenalin going (and got me my workout for the day) ready for the ‘notation work’. Which is story-telling using the large card staves. Phoebe knows whereabouts on the staves the Dogs and the Birds live – and that they all have their own space – so was able to use the tiles to place them, thereby ‘composing’ her own piece. (You will see from the photos we were going for a minimalist feel today with lots of repetition of the same note in one phrase). We then played the piece on the piano – singing the notes (‘dog, dog, dog, bird, bird etc’) as we went along.
Before I knew it, 35 minutes had passed and we hadn’t even started the photo session! Luckily Phoebe was still excited enough about the activities to continue with them whilst I took 42 photos – of which I have chosen just a few for this blog.