The answers to the questions are somewhat important, but the way the child answers is more important. This is the first step in finding out how the child thinks.
The next step is hands on. When I start any child on the piano I ask if they can see the pattern in the piano keys. I have seen everything from 3 year-olds seeing a keyboard for the first time plunking their fingers on to the black keys and saying two then three, two then three to older kids looking blankly at me and saying ummm…some are black and some are white? What this says about the child is not as simple as saying whether or not they see the pattern. It can speak to their self-confidence and a number of other factors. At this point, children with a lot of self confidence will tell me all about and demonstrate other things they have noticed about the piano, while some other children will wait quietly with hands in their lap for me to say what’s next.
I continue with a number of activities during which I find out the following things about the child:
Within a few minutes, I will know if it is better to use a book, or just keep doing activities. Some children really want to have a book to orient them to the task and the sequence of learning. Others really want to connect to the teacher, the music, or activities rather than a book. Every child I teach WILL be working from a book within few weeks, and a portion of every lesson will be sight reading, but it varies from child to child.
Of the ones that work better with a book, some seem to quickly “get it” and become the ideal piano students of days of old who learn to read the notes in a predictable way , and learn new concepts happily in the order presented by the book. Some go through an entire 2 months of pre-reading , and some ( even 5 year-olds) are on staff at the first lesson. Some take a month to stop looking at their fingers and some seem to just know (maybe from big sister or mom) that eyes should be on the music while fingertips stay on assigned keys.
I use a variety of different books depending on the child and what motivates them. I will talk about this in a separate post.]]>