As promised, here are some thoughts and strategies for how careful use of language can enhance the self-esteem, and motivation of pupils.
Do you talk too much in lessons?
As all the students on this year's Piano Teachers' Course are finding out, recording yourself teaching a pupil (whether by video or audio) is quite an ear-opening experience! Research has shown that all teachers have a tendency to ask a question, wait a moment and then provide the answer. Did you know that the average time a teacher waits for an answer is 0.9 of a second? Scary!
So here are three challenges - maybe not suitable for regular use but they will make you stop and think:
- Can you have a lesson with a silent 5 minutes section?
- Or a 'twitter' style part of a lesson where you can only say 140 words (get your pupil to keep count)
- A lesson where you can only speak to give an answer to a question asked by the pupil
Why not let us know how you get on?
Strategies for developing pupils' self-esteem
Pupils all need to be encouraged to be adventurous and daring in their piano playing. Having a fear of failure tends to lead to caution and tension so trying to lessen this is critical. Providing children with a challenge that they know they can achieve as long as they concentrate is an easy but highly effective strategy.
- 'I know this is hard but ....'
- 'Most year 4 children find this tricky but you have been working so well today I think you will manage it' .
If an activity goes wrong it could be that your explanation wasn't clear so take the blame:
- 'I'm sorry, I didn't explain that very well'
- 'I'm sorry, I got that all wrong - let me try again'
When giving praise, it is important that it is relevant and real. I know that I tend to overdo my praise sometimes: 'That was brilliant!': 'Excellent'. Using superlatives like these is dangerous however, as they leave the teacher with nowhere to go; what's more children have a good sense of inner truth and know when something was just OK and when it was 'excellent'.
So all praise should be relevant and specific - instead of 'that was very nice' focus on an area that did show improvement 'I really liked the way you slowed down at the end'.
Just a couple of thoughts for today on this as it is a topic that is explored widely in many other places. It is however crucial to our teaching.
- Share the big picture of where their learning is heading with your pupils; knowing where you are going encourages everyone to follow the route: 'next week we are going to.....'
- In a similar way pre-exposure to pieces provides motivation for wanting to learn them. Play pieces that you think they might want to learn a couple of weeks before introducing them as repertoire. Think of questions you can ask that make them curious about the piece and don't at this stage say that they might be learning one of them.
My next blog will be the final one in this series, The Lazy Piano Teacher, and will focus on strategies for dealing with behaviour issues.
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