How to Teach Reluctant Students

How to Teach Reluctant Students

Do you have any reluctant students who only take music lessons because their parents make them?

Do you feel like you spend the whole lesson fighting to get their attention and then keep it?  

We’ve all been there. But what can we do to win over our less-than-enthusiastic pupils?

Here are my five top tips for teaching reluctant students.

Get to Know Them Better

Take the time to get to know your students as well as you can (even the reluctant ones).

It’s easier to establish a connection if you know more about them, such as their favorite color, sports team, or after school activity.

See if you can find three words to describe their personality, and try to discover their learning style.

The more you know about your student, the more you will bond with them. That’s the first step in turning a reluctant student into an enthusiastic one!

Pick a Fun Theme

This is where getting to know your reluctant students comes in really handy. You can use the knowledge you’ve gained to pick a fun theme you think they would enjoy.

Is Jackie a Star Wars lover? Try teaching some rhythms based on the names of her favorite characters (“Luke” for quarter notes, “R2D2” for whole notes, etc.).

Maybe Henry is really into LEGOs. You can incorporate them into your lessons by having him build a LEGO creation to go along with one of the pieces he’s learning.

If Ginny is a budding artist, let her decorate her assignment notebook and teach her some fun pieces about colors, like “Red River Valley” and “Blue Suede Shoes”. Maybe she would enjoy learning about Claude Debussy’s La Mer, which was inspired by a painting of the sea hanging in his home.

Picking a theme to match a student’s interests is a great way to get their attention…and hopefully keep it!

Adopt a Studio Mascot

In my studio, this mascot is a stuffed white Bengal tiger named Buddy

This is him:

Introducing Buddy the Rhythm Tiger,
Scales and Arpeggios Music Studio mascot!

The students LOVE him. I think a few of them would not let me in the door if I ever forgot to bring him with me to their lesson.

Buddy is a very helpful teaching assistant.

He helps my students remember to keep their fingers curved (“Don’t squish Buddy’s paws!”), internalize meter (“Bounce Buddy along to the beat”), and review note names (“Can you show Buddy where all the G notes are in this piece?”)

Not only does this make for some fun review games, but even my more reluctant students tend to come more alive whenever Buddy is involved. I guess we all love stuffed animals, right?

Offer Them Choices

Even your most hesitant students might be more excited if they feel like they have some control over their lessons.

Even if it’s something as simple as picking out a sticker or deciding which piece to play first, it might encourage them to warm up to music lessons a little bit.

Letting students make some of their own choices gives them more of a sense of ownership over their lessons. That just might be the ticket to raising their morale.

Be Patient and Encouraging

Sometimes a reluctant student just needs a teacher who is patient and willing to coax them along.

Be encouraging when they get something right and gentle in your correction when they make mistakes.

Maybe your student won’t go on to Juilliard (or then again, maybe they will!) but they will still remember your care and kindness and how hard you worked to be a good teacher.

What approaches have you used to teach reluctant students? Let us know in the comments!

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