Explorers: Learning keyboard skills and music basics

Explorers

Explorers

Explorers is a two-year sequential programme for 3.5 to 5.5-year-olds. Those clever little preschoolers are brilliantly catered for!

In 2014 I taught Kinderbach to this age group. Kinderbach is a lovely programme pioneered by Karri Gregor. But as an ex Kindermusik and Kodaly teacher with ideas of my own, I soon found myself changing bits here and bits there, wanting to introduce more fun activities that I’d already used to great effect. So in the end I bit the bullet and spent some months developing my own programme.

The step by step approach of Explorers ensures that by school age children have a good gasp of music basics and are ready to move on to more mature piano tuition. Explorers achieves this in an easy and free manner through many short activities of singing, movement, dancing, beating, rhythm work, ensemble, creating, listening to stories and learning about other instruments, musical genres and composers. Children are taught to read music so that they can sing what they read and write what they hear. Much of this is learned through games. I have also ensured that children do not get out of their depth by careful nurturing and rethinking how to present new material.

This programme is definitely worth taking time to explore. It is not often that you find an activity where children shriek with delight, while learning so many valuable things. And developing their brains through music benefits other learning and character development for the rest of their life.

Music and the Preschooler

Young Boy Closing CD Player With Finger

Exploring

Between the ages of 4 years and 6 years children undergo enormous growth, and they are ready to expand and extend their musical experiences.

This age is certainly a more comfortable age to teach (and parent!) than the volatile 3 year-old.  But they are also more demanding.  The 5 year-old is interested in everything and immensely curious.  They are not only ready for, but actively seek new challenges.  They are also more able to reason and have good control over their bodies.  They can walk on a line, run, stop suddenly, turn, twist, jump, hop and dance.  Their fine motor control is vastly better and they can hold a pencil and write.  This opens up the possibilities of a music programme enormously, and it is a great time to start group music.

At this stage many parents will want their child to start learning an instrument.  Although I have and do teach young children piano, by in large they will endure this discipline but much prefer group music where they can interact with friends and enjoy games.  Keyboard skills can be started very successfully but should be part of a range of activities.

At my home studio I have a 2-year programme which covers the preschool and Grade 1 years. The children acquire a firm music foundation which leads to primary music lessons or piano studies.

During this course, through singing and playing glockenspiel and recorder, children learn to write what they sing/play and sing/play what they write.  The course builds on Kindy Kids and the children learn through games, singing, creative activities, movement and dances.  Building on their knowledge of beat and rhythm they learn about metre.  They play and sing in rhythmic and melodic ensembles, learn to listen to each other and to music of different genres and learn a little about music of different countries and cultures.  We use lots of props, learning through hands-on.   Again I use a mixture of Kodaly, Orff and Kindermusik ideas.

children playing percussion

Exploring music

As well as being a wonderful part of life, music helps to develop higher reasoning skills.  5 year-olds are very active and enjoy plenty of movement, but are also ready for writing down and then reading rhythms and pitch.  This follows naturally on from their Kodaly singing and hand-signing.  I help children write their own music and we look briefly at some famous composers.   We even look at different genres of music such as country music and jazz.  Later I can introduce some of the wonderful computer programmes for children, including programmes for writing down their music.

Parents need to take a keen interest in any course attended and follow-up enthusiastically at home.  Children will be very ready to share what they have learned, especially games!   The variety and stimulating activities of music classes are exciting and will be happily anticipated.  Children need to be encouraged and music needs to be put high up in household importance if music is to become a life-long love.

Teaching Music to Young Children

baby at piano

Starting early

In my music studio, from time to time I stop and look at my own teaching and assess what works, what I could have done better and what makes children smile.  I know all successful teachers are constantly looking at their own performance. It is a necessary part of growing teacher skills. Sometimes I think we focus too much on what we want to teach, and neglect the how, forgetting to adapt to individual learning styles.

Children should be happy to learn.  They learn best through laughter and play.  So if children are not smiling and not enjoying their lesson, they are likely not learning much.

I know this, but I still have to keep reminding myself.

Here are some of my thoughts which I hope will start parents and teachers thinking and reassessing how they deal with children in their care. Parents are their children’s first teachers and teachers can have lasting influences on their pupils.

I am passionately interested in how and why kids learn or don’t learn, so here are some points that worry me:

1. Children have an infinite capacity to learn.  If we unlock the door by capturing their interest at just the right moment, enormous things can be achieved effortlessly.   It feels like riding a huge wave of enthusiasm as large pieces of life’s jigsaw fall into place.   But how to open that door…. Trying to push knowledge though the keyhole of a locked door is very difficult as all parents and teachers know!  Hmmm…

2. How can I unlock this door by my presentation, and generate excitement without dumbing down learning, in the hope that children might swallow smaller bites.   How we bore children – they just stop listening!  What works well in my teaching?   What bores me and therefore everyone else?   These activities can be dropped – there is always another and better way to present.

3. I am lucky to work with quite young children who by their transparency give me instant feed-back of my success.  It is wonderful when teaching through fun and laughter to watch the doors fly open as we all move forward together.  I review the moods and quirks of the children and how much there reactions reflect their own age and home life.  How can I encourage each child to be open and relaxed, so learning can take place?

happy child rolling in sand

happy child

4. I regard the building of confidence to be the key to all learning.   A confident child will take up ideas and run with them.  A confident child will be willing to try new things and take risks.  A confident child will be willing to make mistakes, learn from them and keep trying.  A confident child will be willing to laugh at themselves and encourage others.  A confident child is a future leader.  How can I encourage this growth, knowing it is all too easy to accidentally put a child down and dampen learning?

5.  Do I make children feel happy and secure?  Are they drawn to me by my warmth and understanding?  Are they happy to follow my leads and add their own ideas?  In these days of pedophilia we tend to keep children at a distance. This is understandable, but children need to feel that you care about them as an important person in order to listen to what you have to say. It can be so easy to unintentionally antagonize a child with an unguarded look, a harsh word.  It is so important to respect the dignity of each person.

6. Who will need some special help next year?  How can I make a troubled child feel especially important?

Hope this has given you fodder for your own thoughts and that we will all strive to make this a very special year for each and every one of our children.