Three months post-op and I am now hobbling around 'sans' crutches and Frankenstein boot, learning how to walk on a new foot :) Some semblance of normality, soooo....
I've been thinking about resources for young learners. This is not meant to be a review of the many different tutor book methods available on the market; reviews appear all the time and everyone has their trusted favourites. Some tutor books appeal more than others....But I believe any teaching 'method' should be based on progressive, sound pedagogical principles ('scuse the pun):
EXPERIENCE - LANGUAGE - PICTURES - SYMBOLS
This order of events became well-known to me during primary teacher training. We did activities, we talked about what we were doing, we made visual representation of ideas etc. Then we put it into a 'code'. This is where tutor books for the young can differ greatly - I have found that some go too fast when introducing music as a code, and have to be supplemented with other resources. As a result, making laminated flashcards and amassing other learning prompts have been part and parcel of my piano teaching too, often as an intervention strategy.
The 'Dogs and Birds' method, by Elsa and Chris Lusher, is marketed through their website (www.dogsandbirds.co.uk). It has had mixed reviews, but in relation to the very young, I can see its appeal. It is not a complete method that I have ever used, mainly because I have never taught children as young as 3, but also because after rhythm games, note-finding, little improvisations etc at the keyboard (which you can do without any books), I go into whichever book the pupil/parents have chosen from a selection I have come to like.
Joanna MacGregor's 'Pianoworld' (www.fabermusic.com) has been a favourite as it introduces music principles, signs etc gradually, is colourful, and has fun characters. Although it can be a bit busy to look at, it also has fun/silly sentences that match rhythm patterns, so it follows on nicely from using flashcards with animal names (butterfly, caterpillar etc) to create rhythms that can be transferred to a few notes on the keyboard. (Multi-syllabic names are often the funniest and most useful for exploring pulse and rhythms.) Also published by Faber is the 'Piano Adventures' series, which has the advantage of different volumes for different ages, including teenagers and adults, and enrichment materials at all levels. Bearing in mind the cost implications to parents and guardians, getting the first books 'right' is so important. New ones change with the times.
Mnemonic devices, such as animal names and silly sentences, are often suggested by my pupils, and what better way to learn than making it 'your own'. Yes, there are ants, birds, cats, dogs and fish, but at my piano we often elect to have alligators, dragonflies, elephants and gorillas to find all over the keyboard too. It does make sense to introduce names that will help youngsters when they come to make the link between the language and pictures in the early stages of note-naming 'off-stave' to applying them to positions on paper. Gorillas Buy Donuts From Asda - indeed they do! My pupils with names beginning with music alphabet letters sometimes make up their own sentences for the lines or spaces - Evie Goes Bonkers Drawing Frogs, for example.