Sunday, October 11, 2015

How to Teach Music - Insight from a Piano Teacher

Big primaries. Small primaries. Loud singers. Soft singers. No singers. Class clowns, Molly Mormons, Peter Priesthoods, and the kids that come because their partially-active parents make them. How do we unite these children under one Gospel, one heart, one mind...and one Primary Chorister?

I've been playing the piano for almost 20 years, and I sing alto. I LOVE to sing! I am not, by any means, an expert in teaching children or even teaching music, but I was blessed with several strong examples: a teacher for a mother; my piano teacher of four years; an elementary school music teacher who later became my 7th grade choir director and then, after I graduated from and worked for my high school, a friend; my boss, the high school choir director and district music coordinator; two junior high choir directors with very different students and teaching styles; and several classroom teachers from elementary school through college graduation. Below is what I've garnered over the many years and from piano students I've taught.

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One of the best tools to teaching Primary is grabbing their attention right off the bat, just like an attention-getter at the start of an essay or talk. If you keep them intrigued, you keep them involved. Just don't always think a chatty primary is a bad primary. :)

Another tool I use to teach the Primary is watching my hands. I want them to understand music so they can learn to follow the ward chorister during Sacrament meeting or the choir director if they choose to sing in the ward or stake choir.

Big arm movement = loud volume
Small arm movement = soft volume
Holding up an open hand = hold that same note and wait for the cutoff

Sometimes, we also work on enunciation and not carrying out any "S" sounds. We're Primary kids, not snakes. :)

"If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” 

Of course, lots of choristers use flipbooks, printables, rolling dice, charts, posterboards, easels, magnets, game boards, spinners, and more, but remember that the point of Singing Time is to sing.

Don't be afraid to ask for help: teachers, presidencies, parents, even well-behaved older siblings of the younger, unruly junior primary children.

Command the attention of the children with your voice, your words, your heart, and your Spirit. <3

What would you add to this list of suggestions? Your input is always welcome!

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