Teaching Preschooler Beginners Online
The good news is that they seem to have a vaccine for COVID. This means things may return to “normal” in the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, online teaching is probably is bound to be around for a while and is probably here to stay. A lot of parents are excited about online lessons for their children as it saves time and travel. Some teachers, (myself included) enjoy the flexibility that online teaching provides.
For many teachers having a thriving piano studio includes teaching preschool students. However, this may be the most challenging group to teach online. I am here to tell you it can be done! You can successfully teach preschool students online. Here’s how I do it.
A fast internet connection.
For 1:1 video calling
In this case, there are two people on the Zoom call; you and the person you are calling. 1:1 Zoom calls are common but not as common as Zoom meetings with multiple participants.
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I use the zoom platform as this one enables both screen sharing and the use of a webcam. I use an overhead webcam set up with a boom stand. I have an iPad for video and screen sharing. I use the Forscore app so that I can screen share music examples.
Student’s homes also need to have a decent internet speed. Before the lesson, they can check their internet speed here. https://www.speedtest.net/
From the beginning I let parents know that their preschool child has to have a responsible older “helper” attending lessons and supervising music time between lessons. This person can be a parent, older sibling, grandparent, or caregiver. Most parents are more than happy about this. A piano lesson is a great opportunity for families to spend time together. Some parents even sign up for their own lesson.
The Piano Box
I love hands-on activities! I absolutely want my preschoolers to have fun and learn using them. So, I make my favorite activities and snail-mail them to my student. Imagine, how psyched and excited your students and parents will be when they receive their “piano box”
Here is what I include:
- Colorful popsicle sticks cut to the size of the groups of the two and three black keys on the piano and labeled 2 and 3.
- Popsicle sticks labeled with letters A through G. These are used to find piano keys.
- 8 Sticks labeled with the letter C. These are used to practice finding the piano keys.
- Small plastic animals starting with letters A through G. These can be placed on the appropriate keys.
- A soft hand-sized beanbag or squishy porcupine ball. I use this to demonstrate a rounded natural hand position.
- Small white gloves with finger numbers written with a permanent marker. Students use these to practice learning their finger numbers. Touch fingers one together, etc.
- Three wooden dice. One labeled 1 through 5 with an asterisk on the sixth side. Two others with a combination of letters of the music alphabet on each side. The dice are rolled the student place the finger on the correct key.
The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. You can find many more activities in my book. “The Ultimate Preschool Piano Activities Book” available at amazon.
The following things are available at www.palomapiano.com
- “The Monkey Matching Game”
- “Ice Breaker Flash Cards”
- “Music Alphabet Cards”
- “My Favorite Piano Book”
I might also throw in some cute sticker or anything else I may find at the dollar store that I think my student might like. Along with a welcoming card or note.
The Online Lesson
I make sure that I also have the same things that I mailed to my student. With their helper standing by we begin doing the activities and learning the names of notes, keys, and fingering.
After about four weeks I introduce “My Favorite Book” Everything is in C position so that students can follow the fingering and play a bit of music. There are 16 pieces after which I introduce Paloma Piano Book 1.
Note: I do not use the “Petite Peoples Primer” series with Online students as this series works much better with in-person lessons.
Here are some other things I do during online preschool lessons.
Singing age-friendly songs.
Show an interesting two- or three-minute video of a great performance. This can be done by screen sharing or just holding an iPad or other device up to the camera.
Play a “Name That Tune Game”
Have the student and/or helper clap back rhythms.
Encourage improvisation (Use the improvisation Prompt Cards available at www.palomapiano.com) You can draw the cards for your student.
Again, the possibilities are endless!!
Consider the 15-minute lesson.
With careful planning and armed with lots of activities 30-minute preschool lessons work well. However, I really like starting my youngest students online with 15-minute lesson for about the first 4-6 months.
Sometimes, I tack the lesson on to a 30 or 45-minute lesson of a sibling. Sometimes the parent and preschooler split the lesson. I love lesson sharing with my youngest students because it gives me the flexibility to stop when the child has had enough or teach a little longer if he/she seems receptive.
In the case of private lessons, I make sure that I will have room in my schedule to expand to the 30-minute lesson when it is appropriate. I am also willing to pro-rate the lesson while it is shorter with the understanding that the full 30-minute lesson price will be charged when the time is increased. This strategy works if you have spots to fill and are expanding your studio.
I moved to a new city and started a brand-new studio almost 4 years ago. At that time almost all of my students were preschool-aged children. Now, 4 years later I have a solid studio the majority of whom are second and third-grade, intermediate students.
Teaching preschoolers takes hard work and a special skill set. Teaching them Online tales careful planning and creativity. But in the end, it can be done, and I think it’s well worth doing!
For more great ideas, get the book