Welcome to Day 12 of the 12 Days of Inspiration!
Today we're talking about tricky personalities - Stinky Students, Talkative Kids, and Know-It-Alls. It’s just a day in the life of a piano teacher!
Instead of addressing "Vivace Influenza" or "Accidental Amnesia" like Nicola Cantan’s fabulous book, The Piano Practice Physician’s Handbook, I'll be looking more at personalities.
So in the spirit of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and her delightful “cures” for difficult children, here are 12 solutions for teaching tricky personalities:
1. The Chatterbox
You know that student who will NOT STOP talking? Yep - I’ve had her too.
Try This - Set a 2 minute timer at the beginning of your lesson. Your student gets to talk about whatever she wants during that time. BUT....once the timer goes off, it's time to focus on piano. (This trick has worked wonders with one of my Chatterbox!)
2. The Silent Student
Silent kids are often SHY kids. Some tend to be quiet all the time, while others are only shy around adults. Either way, silence can make teaching difficult. (Actually, this is something I'm experiencing with one of my students right now.)
Try This - First, avoid yes/no questions. I've found that silent students often resort to nodding or pointing, so you're better off asking specific questions.
Second, as odd as this sounds, I've had the best success when I ask my Silent Student a question and then look away. (I might start writing in their assignment book.) By looking away, it "forces" my student to answer me. Yes, it feels a little rude - and it's really hard to not look at them - but it often works.
3. The Stinky Student
Have you ever had a student come straight from football practice without showering? Oh my! This was once a HUGE problem with one student, but I found a solution. Best of all? It works EVERY time!
Try This - As you sit down to start the lesson, grab some yummy smelling lotion. As you rub it on your hands, dab it right under your nose. Now you'll be smelling your wonderful lotion instead of your student. (Did I mention this works EVERY time!)
4. The Indecisive Student
Perhaps these students are just trying to be polite or maybe they honestly don’t know what they want. Either way, it makes teaching a challenge.
Try This - Simplify the decision by giving an “either-or” choice. Nick Ambrosino addresses this in his book series. It really got me thinking about the way I interact with my students AND my son. Narrowing down choices for students can really help!
5. The Know-It-All
We’ve all had students who...well...argue with you. It’s no fun for teachers, but it happens.
Try This - Pick your battles. Not everything is worth fighting about, but some things are. You decide what's important - then get some backbone and stick to your guns!
6. The Whiner
You know those students who simply look at a piece of music and immediately launch into - That’s too hard! I can’t play that!
Try This - Have your student play only part of the song. Maybe even just a few measures. At the end of the day, everyone wants to feel victory and focusing on smaller chunks of music will get kids there faster. (This can also work for #12 The Perfectionist.)
7. The Heartbroken
Maybe you have a teenage girl who just broke up with her boyfriend. Or perhaps her grandma died or her dog is sick. At some point, nearly every student arrives at their lesson feeling heartsick.
Try This - Give your student a piece of chocolate and ask her if she wants to talk about it. If she does, listen. If she doesn’t, move on. Perhaps it could be an easy favorites week? Or you could spend the lesson working on composition - let her spill her heart into creativity.
Heartache is tough, but it's part of life. Being compassionate is always the right choice.
8. The Disrespectful Student
Try This - First and foremost, continue to be upbeat and polite. Treat your student with kindness - regardless of the way they treat you. (I know it's not always easy.)
Second, don’t hesitate to make gentle corrections. It’s not polite to argue with an adult.
Finally, it’s completely appropriate to discuss their behavior with parents. After all - we teach much more than just piano!
9. The Silly Student
We've all had students who want to laugh and be goofy at their piano lesson. And of course, younger kids often fall into this category.
Try This - One of the best ways to help the Silly Student is to keep lessons fun by including games and movement. These students will also benefit from sticking to a routine during lessons. For example - It'll be easier for them to learn a new song, if they know a fun app is coming up next.
10. The Distracted Student
Teaching piano is hard enough, but if your student isn't paying attention, it's nearly impossible!
Try This - Play detective! Try to discover what distracts your student and make a serious effort to eliminate that. Sometimes it's obvious. For example, most kids enjoy my cats, but they can be a big distraction for other students. In those cases, I make sure my cats are in another room during lesson time.
Like the Silly Student, sticking to a routine also helps distracted students because they know exactly what to expect next.
11. The Sleepy Student
Kids are busier than ever these days! At some point, probably all of them will fall into this category.
Try This - Surprise your student by doing something out-of-the-ordinary and FUN! Play a game or have “duet day.” Maybe you could work on a composition or read a book. You could even simply watch YouTube videos with the goal of finding new music to learn.
One other idea - If you have a student who's alway tired, ask the parent to give them a quick snack on the way to piano lessons. It's usually a good pick-me-up.
12. The Perfectionist
No one likes to make mistakes, but some students take it more personally.
Try This - Stressed out students often need a simple distraction. One great way to change direction is using more apps. When I interviewed Judy Naillon for Technology Boot Camp, she said something I’ve never forgotten - “When you play a game and get the wrong answer - you just want to try again!” This is exactly the attitude our perfectionist students need to develop and we can help.
Or Try This - Have The Perfectionist play only part of the song. Maybe even just a few measures. At the end of the day, everyone wants to feel victory and focusing on smaller chunks of music will get kids there faster.
More Posts from 12 Days of Inspiration
1 Powerful Way to Stay Focused and Productive at Colourful Keys
2 Things Every Music Teacher Should Do on Their Break at Mallory’s Music Studio
3 Ways to Reduce Stress at Music Educator Resources
4 New Year’s Resolutiopianosaurusrex.nz/reset-your-music-studio/ns at Violin Judy
5 Ways to Reset Your Music Studio After the Holidays at Pianosaurus Rex
6 Things That Should Happen at a First Piano Lesson at A Very Piano Blog.
7 Tax Deductions for Music Teachers at Sara's Music Studio
8 Questions to Bring Your Studio into the New Year at Fun Key Music
9 Ways to Increase You Studio Retention at Woods Piano Studio
10 Impressive Benefits of Learning Piano By Ear at Piano Picnic
11 Finds for the New Year at Piano Pantry
12 - You're reading it right now!
Note: Some of links in this post are affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.
Need a cute Christmas ornament for your students? Today I'm sharing a fabulous one that's easy-to-make, inexpensive, pretty, AND musical.
These are perfect for group lessons, private lessons, and... Christmas Camps! Check out the video to see what supplies you'll need and I'll give you a couple of hints on how to customize your ornament.
I'm taking a break from piano talk today and sharing one of our favorite family Christmas traditions.
If you're a parent of young children and you enjoy celebrating the true meaning of Christmas - you'll absolutely LOVE reading this book for Advent!
The Jotham Journey Trilogy is written by Arnold Ytreeide and I can't say enough good things about these books. They're FULL of excitement, mystery, and plenty of ADVENTURE!
Whether you have boys or girls, your kids will absolutely love reading these books AND they'll get to focus on the true meaning of Christmas.
It's been a wonderful tradition for my family for many years and it won't be stopping anytime soon. My son, Matthew, is now 17 years old, but he voted to dive into the series again next month.
Gotta love a kid who loves tradition!
As you can see in the picture above, this is really a series of books.. There are 4 in the series and you only read one book each year.
Technically, you could read the books in any order, but I recommend reading in the order they were published. (And I'd definitely start with Jotham's Journey!)
A Few Important Notes
ONE - The books are broken down into sections of daily readings that lead right up to Christmas. If you want to read this year, you need to start on December 3, so get your book soon. It's available in both paperback and Kindle.
TWO - This is a book that you'll read WITH your children and I would definitely follow the recommendation of ages 9 and up. Some parts could be frightening for young children.
Nonetheless, I can’t say enough good things about this series. I’m SO grateful that my son still enjoys reading them with me!
If you've never read them with your kids - now is the perfect time to start! You can grab your book here!
Music games that celebrate the true meaning of Christmas....
Music games you can play with your piano students! These celebrate the true meaning of Christmas!
Note: Some of links in this post are affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.
I've been teaching piano for over 15 years, but this week was my very FIRST Christmas Camp.
I know, I know. Don't scold me. I never should have waited so long to try it. Call me chicken, I guess.
Was it successful? Yes! The kids had a great time and I'm confident they would come again.
Was it perfect? No. I immediately saw things that I needed to do differently.
And that's what I want to share with you today. The good AND the bad. Perhaps it will help you whenever you host your next camp.
4 Things That Worked
1. Six students registered and that was perfect. Truthfully, I was hoping 8 would sign up, but that would have been too many.
2. Boomwackers. I thought my students might want something a little more "active" and this worked great. The kids had fun and it was a nice change-of-pace.
3. I had a helper. Honesly, I didn't think I'd need an assistant, but I decided to hire my son, Matthew. I thought it would be good for him and he wanted to earn some money.
Turned out that I really needed him! Things got a little crazy at one point and we ended up dividing into groups. I couldn't have done it without him.
4. Everyone made a simple craft that looked really pretty. This music Christmas tree was a huge success. It was quick to make and all the parents really seemed to appreciate taking home a nice ornament. (Click here to see the video tutorial)
2 Things That Didn't Work
1. Giving out candy prizes was a BIG mistake. Several kids won prizes before snack time and they started eating the candy. Then others wanted to eat, but it wasn't time to eat. Yep, it got kind of crazy for a few minutes.
What I'll do differently - Next time, I'll bypass the grocery aisle with all the Christmas candy on sale and get other fun prizes that have nothing to do with food!
2. Singing Christmas carols while I played the piano was a flop. The kids didn't respond to this at all and I think the reason was because they didn't know the words. Maybe? Whatever the reason, after 2 songs, I gave up and we moved on.
What I'll do differently - Next time, I'll turn this into a game. I play a song and the kids guess the title. I'll even give prizes. Non-candy prizes, of course!
Will I Ever Host Another Camp?
Honestly, I'm not sure why I never did it before. I guess Christmas is such a busy time of the year - and in the past, group lessons have never been my favorite.
(My introverted nature tends to prefer one-on-one lessons instead of large groups.)
But - groups can be fun, it's great for students, and of course, it's a wonderful way to earn some extra money.
If you've never tried it - I think you should give it a shot and I hope these tips help!
If you've thought about hosting a Christmas Camp, but haven't planned anything - I’ve got you covered. There’s still time to put one together!
But you do need to start planning. Like....TODAY!
Here are 4 easy steps to get you started:
1. Pick a date and time.
Quick Tip - Host a 2 hour camp and but add a 4 hour option for moms who want that extra free time. You could use the last 2 hours as a holiday movie! I know a teacher who offered this to her her families and several students signed up.
2. Decide your activities.
Yes, you could buy a plan, but honestly at this point, you can do it yourself.
Here's the link to one of my Christmas Games, The Shepherd's Adventure. It includes boards for 3 different games and card for all levels. Best of all? It's only $3!
Here's another great game that celebrates the reason for the season - Wise Men Matching Game. Only $2 right now!
For my Christmas Camp, I'm keeping it simple but fun: games, crafts, snacks, and performance time. (These are my go-to cookies for camp!)
Quick Tip - I have a huge round-up of resources in this post that will give you everything you need. Most are free or less than $5.
For the craft, we'll be doing this musical Christmas tree. Easy to make and yet so cute!
3. Set a price - with early bird registration.
Since you're waiting until the last minute, I would go for a low "no-brainer" price that parents will immediately want to sign up for.
Quick Tip - mention that spots are limited and set your early bird registration for just 3 or 4 days away.
After you list the price, make sure you note that supplies are included. (So build this into your price!)
4. Announce your camp!
Since time is of the essence, I would skip the flyers and send out a mass email ASAP!
Quick Tip - No time to be creative? Here's what I put in my email and several parents signed up right away. Feel free to use this -
I've planned a TON of musical Christmas-themed activities. Games, crafts, snacks, and a performance time. My goal is to review important concepts in a super-fun way. It'll be the perfect way to close out the semester!
I'm even giving out unique certificates to everyone who attends. (Note Reading Ninja, Rhythm Rockstar, Most Improved Musician)
So there you go - Christmas Camp Planning Emergency Style! Yes - you only have a few weeks left, but you can still pull this off.
Now stop reading and go get to work! Start getting ideas here.
Christmas is my favorite holiday! I love snowmen, reindeer, candy canes, and even Santa.
But I also like celebrating the true meaning of Christmas. I couldn't find any music games that did that, so I created my own!
The Shepherd's Adventure is a fun game where students answer musical questions to help the shepherds get to baby Jesus.
It's the perfect combination for the Christian families in your piano studio!
And my students love it! Even my cat, Penny, had fun getting in on the action! (She's such a cute, little troublemaker!)
This digital download includes a series of printable PDFs. I like to print mine on metallic card stock. For player game pieces, I'll use candy kisses or even my Iwako animal erasers.
You'll get boards and cards for 3 different games. There's even a bonus practice chart that fits the theme!
Students can work on:
There are cards for every level, including pre-reading. And I've tossed in some fun word cards as well. Here are a few examples -
All games are designed for 2 or more players. It's perfect for you to play with one student in a private lesson or with multiple kids in a group class.
Click here to buy it for just $3.00!
(And coming soon - Bethlehem Bingo and Wise Men Flashcards!)
(Note: Some of links in this post are affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.)
Hi there! I'm Tracy Selle. A Christian wife, mom, and author of 101 Piano Practice Tips. I'm also a piano teacher and founder of Upbeat Piano Teachers.