Strategies to help an anxious student
Found in: Special Needs & Learning Differences
Jayne J., Wyoming
One of my students is a six-year-old boy who has confidence problems to the point that when he thinks something looks too hard, he gets anxious and teary and refuses to try. Last week when I demonstrated Dreams Come True, it took a whole five minutes for mom and me to coax him into doing anything. He just buried his head and walled off. Does anyone have suggestions? Should I put off demonstrating and launch into teaching him the patterns first thing?
Susan M., Canada
When I see a student close to tears, it could be time for a break away from the piano. Even for private students, I have the studio chairs set up and start the lesson there with sharing a picture or piece of art or a story, or listen to a neat piece of music, then do a bit of work at the piano. I have found that they are excited to come to lessons when they can share a picture they’ve drawn (relating to a song) or they want to share a story. It all depends on the student, but sometimes, they can also draw diagrams of the music on the whiteboard and they feel proud of that.
I also use a reset “Hey Musicians!” and they respond “Ta da!” with a smile. I also draw a mountain and have the conversation often that you reached the top of the mountain and sometimes the mountain is rough and bumpy–but we made it!
Also, when they feel something is hard, I ask them if they’ve ever done push ups, and I demonstrate how hard push ups are for me. I only do one or two at a time. When a song is hard we take small bits just like me, but we don’t give up because it makes us stronger.
Shyrl K., Washington
I think your instinct to not demonstrate the piece first may help. With some students, when they see the teacher play they think, “I’ll never play like that”. They compare themselves and think they can’t do it. I also think it can help if you limit the amount of a song that you teach at once. Let them build the learning of the song into tiny doses. Many of us teachers tend to dose out too much when first starting to teach Simply Music. I know that was/can still be true occasionally for me. Let them build on one tiny success after another.
Leeanne I., Australia
Make sure you teach the pattern in the hands away from the keyboard first. Touching the fingers, then playing on the practice pad. He may find going straight to the piano intimidating. If anyone ever finds anything too challenging, I always take things back a step to give them a sense of victory.
Patti P., Hawaii
For a really anxious child, I have also broken things down even smaller than they are on the video. For example, on Dreams Come True, rather than showing him the entire sentence 1, just have him “play” the first two notes by having him tap it on his hand, then on the paper piano. Once that is easy and comfortable, you can add the other notes. Some kids are so afraid of making a mistake and are easily overwhelmed. Just make it so small they are guaranteed success.