Over the years, private music teachers have had many new potential young students come to them, from enthusiastic parents, to enroll them in lessons - some come with a disposition that is calm, with an innate focus ability...others are still maturing in that direction but cannot sit still. Of course, not all children are the same and of course, some have challenges staying focused on any input stimuli for more than a few minutes. Today’s media for children is increasingly faster-paced - training children to crave faster-paced stimuli and moving them farther away from the ability to focus.
The successful study of playing a musical instrument is really the art of concentration...so we want to provide parents, teachers, and students themselves some basic guidance.
What the Teacher Can Do - Importance of a First Assessment
As is our goal, we want to give every child a chance to study music and to create a better future with music...so this would include embracing all ranges of concentration ability in students. Concentration is always a part of learning music - where three of the five senses are functioning constantly. So, it becomes an important element to know the student's level of concentration ability, both outside the lesson and in the lesson.
Although music teachers are not usually professional child behaviorists, they can combine their experience, intuition, and a few basic techniques to assess a young student at the first lesson.
The First Lesson - The First Assessment of Concentration Level
A professional assessment of each learner should be the focus of the first lesson. A skilled teacher will help the learner feel comfortable while simultaneously assessing them for their ability to focus...especially the younger ones. Essentially the teacher asks questions for verbal responses but also leads the student into responding to physical task commands. The level of attentiveness to the questions and commands themselves is assessed as well as the type of response that the student gives.
The skilled teacher will ask questions about what music the student enjoys, what hobbies they have, what music they listen to at home, what subjects they enjoy at school, and other ground questions, but it is as or more important as to “how” the student listens to the questions and formulates responses. This is also true when the teacher moves to have the student follow basic physical commands as to the instrument - how the student listens and understands the command gives insight into the concentration level as well as their level of body control.
With this assessment, the caregivers and teacher can craft a team approach to helping the student to higher levels of focus.
What Parents Can Do at Home
Private music lessons are most successful as a “team triangle” when teaching younger students...which is the parent/caregiver, the student, and the teacher. The teacher can assist the parent with suggested concentration exercises at home. The parent can assist their child by setting aside time for concentration exercises and keep them focused.
Here are some basic helps we recommend:
Understand the Need to Move
The younger the child, the more movement is needed in conjunction with and alongside learning. This must be taken into consideration when placing a child into a music study. Allowing a younger child the chance to stretch and “get their wiggles out” before sitting down to practice can be helpful.
Focus - On One Thing
Multi-tasking has been debunked. Help your child to focus on one thing at a time and move their mind to that one thing, this many in psychology called mindfulness. Many children who appear to not focus actually have many things running through their minds...learning to slow down the mind and focus on one thing is the key.
Learner to Breathe - To Focus and Relax the Mind
Slow and deep breathing techniques are used by everyone from mountain climbers to soldiers in combat to public speakers. Breathing centers us and is the most basic activities of life. Focused breathing builds concentration.
One Step at a Time
Young learners need to learn to grasp one concept and enjoy some success with that concept or basic skill to build confidence for more. When the child finds success with one task that was concentrated on...using that same concentration for further joy with more skills will be fostered.
Here are links to three articles discussing these techniques further.
How to Teach Your Child Concentration Skills
Tips for Helping Your Child Focus and Concentrate
13 Mind-Blowing Tips to Increase Concentration Power in Kids
With a team approach, children can learn to gain higher levels of focus. The concentration exercises above are not only for at home but can be used in the lessons themselves, especially at the beginning to help the child to focus. Sometimes varying the activity can help as well but the overall goal is to get the child to have longer periods of focus on one skill or musical expression.
Concentration and focus are important for many aspects of life and the learning of a young student...and the study of music provides an enriching vehicle to practice concentration.
Let us here at SFLCM help your child have a great future in music by learning to focus today - and have joy in making music.