What I want from them now is to play music, really play. I want them to understand phrasing and feel inspired by what they are doing. But is this reasonable to ask from 4th graders? If I think about my own background, at 4th grade I was about at their level and was crazy about playing. I would play my Alfred Level 2 pieces by the hour, keeping the pedal down throughout the entire piece, at about 300 beats per minute, with no rhythmic understanding. I was having fun!
I never allow my students to play like this. Some come to the lesson and sit down to play their pieces like this, and I get a brief glimpse at what is happening at home without my supervision. When I forbid pedal, insist on "steady beat", and perfect hand shape, they get this tired, whiny look on their face and play so flatly. Yet, I even send them home with a checklist of musical things they must accomplish on each piece.
I need to find a way to make musical, intelligent playing more rewarding than just slamming through a piece any old way. This is the new goal for the semester!