As a teacher, how do you introduce the metronome in lessons? When do you feel a student is ready for the metronome? Other than the metronome, what do you use with your students to help instill a good sense of pulse?
I try in instill the idea of a steady musical pulse, or 'heartbeat' from the very first lesson. I require my students to say the rhythms out loud and then to count out loud once we learn about time signatures. In the rote pieces I teach, I encourage the kids to sing the words or at least hum the song in their mind while they're playing.
I believe that pulse is something that has to be internalized through much repetition and drilling. I have found that making students actually verbalize- whether through counting out loud or by turning on the metronome- is MUCH more effective then leaving them to their own devices, even if the student claims to be counting 'in their head'.
I've used the metronome even for some of my younger students. I don't usually assign it for home practice, but we'll turn it on in the lesson- especially for songs that may be about clocks- and pretend that the metronome is the ticking clock.
A thorough understanding of pulse and the ability to maintain a steady pulse is an extremely important skill to develop and it can't be stressed often enough. The key is finding creative ways to help develop the skill.