EARLY MUSIC EDUCATION infoDr. Maria Montessori talked about the "Language Window" that was wide open between 2 and 4, then started closing down until about age 9. That is one reason she said very young children could learn well. It was just the duty of the teacher to find a way to present whatever the child wanted to learn in a way the child could understand.
Several studies have shown that early music education dramatically increases brain functions that not only transfer to other skills but remain throughout a person's lifetime. Many consider "early" to mean 7 and younger. After reading all of Montessori's books, I say 5 and younger! In the pre-school setting I always began with age 3.
Most pre-school directors/owners are aware of the benefits of early music education. Not all of them realize this means being able to play an instrument. General music is really good, but doesn't begin to compare with the benefits derived from learning to play a music instrument - "applied" music.
People my age have generally not been given this gift of early applied music. Fortunately I was - gave my public debut at age 3 - had a precocious singing voice. My dad bought me my first beautiful piano at age 4. I started formal piano lessons at age 5, but had already figured out how to read music by watching my mother struggle through playing the melody of songs I was learning. She had to point to the notes as she played the keys. I am so grateful for this gift I was given! I have experienced all the benefits!
If you haven't already done this, the first preparation step for beginning a pre-school piano program is studying these benefits. There are lots of websites, videos, etc. that speak to this issue. Here is a link to one video that is quite good - especially the first part. Just click here.
UNDERSTANDING the LEARNING PROCESSMusic training can be begun before birth. Babies do hear in utero so parents who consistantly play certain music are really starting to train their baby's hearing/recognition process. A father of one of my students said his son was crying and really upset shortly after birth, so he sang a song he had been singing to his son for several months and his son instantly calmed down....amazing!
In the pre-school setting things can be done with the infants and young toddlers, but that is something that pre-schools tend to want "down the road".
Music is a language and for ease in learning should be taught with the same steps as learning to speak and read. Hearing is step number one. Three year old children are already exposed to that step. Hearing and responding is step number two. Again, they have been exposed, but not as precisely as needed for learning to play the piano.
THE HEARING/RESPONDING STEPMany piano curricula for young children tend to only work with this hearing/responding step. A lot can be done with this, but we need to view it as just a step in the progress.
First, decide on some simple tune to use with the children. My Tick Tock is about as simple as possible. Sing and move with the words. Be big clocks...be little clocks. With Tick Tock you can begin rhythm. As you speak, speak in rhythm. Years ago I used to make cassette tapes and as I recorded I had a silent metronome in my sight, so at times I spoke in beats. My students tended to have really good rhythm as we progressed....wonder why!?
Think of ways to be creative with that first simple song. I'll give you a partial narrative of what I would do...I smile and move as I speak in beats so the children know I am doing it on purpose. I stop the "beat" talking when getting them ready - all holding hands...then continue with my "beat" talking.
"Let's..... be..... lit-..... tle..... clocks..... now...... -..... We will hold hands and walk with each tick and tock, - Are..... you..... rea-..... dy?..... -..... I..... am..... so..... let's..... be..... gin...... -..... Tick..... tock..... tick..... tock..... I..... am..... a..... clock!.....
Wow! We were amazing clocks! Let's do that again. Let's line up this time. Everyone put your hand on the shoulder of the person in front of you."
What you do with a group depends on how they react. They might really like walking as clocks, or they might rather be sitting at the table and walking with their fingers or sitting "criss cross apple sauce" on the floor and tapping (or slapping) their knees or simply swaying. This is your call. Sometimes the children like to take turns being the teacher. What you are trying to do at this point is not only getting them familiar with the song, but getting them to move to an even beat. Sometimes this takes awhile, so think of ways for them to repeat the song, but watch out so they do not become bored..there is always the next lesson.
Many classroom teachers tend to react to your teaching, so many of them will continue to work on the same song on days when you are not there....nice!
At this stage, do introduce the next couple songs....always stay ahead of the songs the children are learning to play with this hearing/responding step.
The Lesson One video that I have uploaded on youtube shows Tick Tock. I am just using these 2 little boys to show some concepts and add theory and technique that cannot be shown with the app. I was working with a pre-school and then the pandemic happened, so finally just decided to work with a couple children. It has worked fairly well. They are both mesmerized by the app and love to go through the SHOW ME part of the app, choosing to hear and watch whatever they wish....They also sway and sing (when they know the words).
I cannot say it enough. Be creative in your own way, just keeping in mind the outcome needed. You are the teacher - not me! When you are alone, pretend you are teaching a class - talking, moving.... Get really comfortable with what you plan to do before being faced with a classroom full of young children.
FIRST MARKETING STEPALWAYS make your first contact in person!!! You need to speak with the director or the one in charge of curriculum. If they are not available (which will be most of the time!) make an appointment to come back to speak with that person. Most pre-schools begin new programs in January or the beginning of the school year.
At this time (mid October) it may be possible to start a January program if you contact the directer very soon! It may be a bit difficult for you to market this soon, but you could visit pre-schools in the area and tell them that "just so they know", you are going to be starting pre-school piano programs in the Fall and you will get back to them later about all the details. Some directors may ask you to begin sooner - like January! Most pre-school people realize the dramatic benefits for children who learn to play the piano at a very young age. Assure them it can be done in an enjoyable way for the children.
If the director asks for more details at this point you can just say that you will do general music activities that involve all the children - 3 year olds, 4 year olds, pre-K - whatever group or groups they wish at this point. You will also deal with the children a couple at a time with the computer and app if they wish. You will also supply everything needed. If parents want extra time spent with their child, that can also be arranged.
The school may only want you to deal with children whose parents are willing to pay extra. In that case, you need to have a minimum enrollment to begin. Keep figuring out how much you need to charge.....
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