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Learning by Doing

Learning by Doing (Photo credit: BrianCSmith)

Guest post by Eric Rader

It takes a lot of work to reach a child; it takes even more to engage them.  In an area such as music education where students may not see merit or inherent value, there is a strong disconnect between the student and the material.

Students, especially young ones, do not understand the value that music can have in their lives.  As adults, we see the importance of music education and its many benefits.  Students however, do not.  It’s our responsibility as adults to help create an atmosphere that makes learning music a more enjoyable and life-long experience.

How to Engage Students

Whether we are music teachers in public schools or private instructors, it’s important that the students we teach are being engaged.  Not that they just “have fun,” but that they are actively engaged in what they are learning.  This means that we try to create an attitude of “learning for learning’s sake.”  Help them to want to learn the material because they are excited about it.

This is a very hard task to accomplish, especially with children.  Between short attention spans and wandering minds, children require much more attention when teaching a topic.

Here are a few tips that you can use to help motivate students to become actively involved and engaged in the musical learning process:

1.  Use Hands-on and Kinesthetic Activities

Children love to use hands-on actives when learning.  Children love to be active.  Using an activity that promotes hands-on learning will not only help engage the student, but will help stimulate a part of their brain that visual and verbal instruction can’t reach.

Allowing students to use manipulative and hands-on models will extend their attention span and make their learning experience more fun and enjoyable.  Using activities with hand-held objects will keep students excited about learning music.

2.  Promote Success

When learning to play an instrument or any other musical concept, it is important that the student feels as though they are succeeding.  Try to set short easy to achieve goals for the student at first.  This will help the student feel more confident and comfortable in their abilities and in the new concept.

You want to make sure that you are challenging the student.  However, you want to use tasks that will promote their success, then elevate to more complicated assignments.

Start small.  Allow the student to gain confidence, and then begin to add more rigorous activities as they become more successful.

3.  Use Multiple Styles of Learning

Above, I discussed using hands-on activities to help keep kids excited and focused on learning music.  There are many other types of learning that will not only excite children, but will also meet the needs of different types of learners.

Use a variety of visual, verbal, and kinesthetic activities.  Not all children learn the same way.  Some students may work best by hearing a piece of music, while others will do best by reading sheet music.  Make sure that you use each style.

Know the area of strength for each specific student and work with that style to help them succeed, but do not work with only one style.  Make sure to challenge the student to grow in multiple areas, but make sure to note the areas in which the student is most proficient.  Then build on the other areas to form a well-rounded musician.

Reaching students, whether in a classroom or a private studio, can be very difficult.  We are responsible for instilling a love and enjoyment of music into each child that we serve.  It is our job to take the drudgery out of music.  Today’s students are less likely to sit at an instrument for hours upon hours practicing scales and warm-ups.  They need something that is going to excite them, that will make them want to practice and learn.  Strive to make music enjoyable, and continue to pass on the love of music.

Eric’s website:  http://www.piano-lessons-made-simple.com/

Do you incorporate hands-on activities into your teaching? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!


“Goal-oriented Practice: How to Avoid Traps and Become a Confident Performer” gives every musician a fresh perspective!

Save time!  When you improve your focus on what needs to be practiced, you will find yourself knowing the music better in shorter practice sessions.

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Review by pianist Robert W. Oliver

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