I always like to get my students playing along to music as soon as possible, no matter what age they are. I think it is so beneficial and way more fun for them than practicing to a click or metronome. So, once we've learned the basics of holding the sticks, striking a drum, sitting position as well as a little about how we use our feet on the pedals, I get my students playing basic coordination patterns along to backing tracks or songs that they like. I find this builds confidence quite quickly and, as I mentioned, it's way more enjoyable than playing with a click.
I also found that some new students are hesitant, confused by and, in some cases, reluctant to look at musical notation. I'm not keen on making people do something they don't want to so I came up with an alternative system to help them 'read' the patterns. It's a very simple system using a table to separate the beats and using icons instead of notes. Here's a few examples taken from the Workbook I give all my new students:
As I said, these are really basic coordination patterns to start with and I develop these patterns later in the Workbook. I want the students to have success and feel a sense of achievement as early as possible in our lessons together. This way they are more likely to want to learn more and to practice (I've found people are more likely to practice things they feel they can do).
Pattern 6 above is what most drummers would consider as the basic Pop or Rock groove and is usually the first thing most drummers are taught. I like to get my students doing a few other basic patterns before this one, just to vary the coordination enough to get their brains, and ears, working from the beginning.
For each of the above patterns, I make sure my students can count out loud as they play them at a nice, slow tempo (65bpm or thereabouts). Once they can keep this going for around a minute, I introduce some kind of music, either a backing track (drumless) or a Pop song they particularly like.
If you've just started learning the drums, why not give this method a try? Many of my students have found it both useful and enjoyable. I hope you do too.
I'll be adding more Beginner Drum Lessons whenever I can and my intention is to make these as useful as possible. I'm also happy to answer any drum-related questions you may have - no question is too small, dumb or obvious. Ask away!