Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

anon teacher loves teaching

“Teachers who love teaching teach students to love learning.”

– anonymous

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Visit to the Cleveland Piano Teachers Organization

On Friday, I drove to the Cleveland area to speak for a meeting of the Cleveland Piano Teachers Organization.  It was just an hour-and-a-half drive and the roads were clear of any snow until I neared Cleveland.  I presented my “Albums for the Young: A History and Overview of the Genre” program, sharing the history of children’s music and some well-known and lesser-known teaching gems.

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CD Lending Library

This is my CD collection.  It is not particularly large or impressive, but I realized that it was a shame that these CD’s are sitting around barely being used.  I have my favorite ones ripped onto my computer’s iTunes library.

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November 2014 Piano Party & Heartbeat Chart Printable

The day after Halloween, I held a Piano Party (monthly group class) with my students.  I took advantage of the holiday to have a Fall/Halloween theme and invited students to wear their Halloween costumes if desired.

We began, as always, by watching a video on YouTube.  This time, I picked Jarrod Radnich’s transcription of the Harry Potter movie music, which fit well with our theme.  We spent a few minutes afterwards discussing transcription/arranging and remarking on how much practicing Mr. Radnich must have done!  ;)

By the way, my husband surprised me with a projector as a birthday gift back in June.  The projector has been a fun teaching tool for camps and group classes.  (And it is essentially serving as our TV because we don’t own a TV.)   Before I had the projector, I showed videos at group classes on my laptop or by holding up my iPad Mini.

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Rhythm Dictation Activity

At every Piano Party, I make it a priority to do at least one rhythm activity.  I found a really cool idea for rhythm dictation activity at the “O For Tuna” blog.  Being the do-it-yourself-er that I am, I designed my own rhythm slides and “heartbeat charts.”

Here is how the activity works: Each student is given a heartbeat chart and some game tokens.  The teacher claps/chants a prepared rhythm and asks the students to repeat it back together a couple of times.  Once they have internalized the rhythm, the teacher asks them to notate the rhythm on their heartbeat charts using game tokens.  (A single token placed in a heart represents a quarter note.  Two tokens within a heart represents beamed eighth notes.  A blank heart represents a quarter rest.)  The teacher walks around the room and provides feedback for students as they work.  After a certain amount of time, the teacher describes or displays the correct answer and allows students to self-correct their work as necessary.

For game tokens, I like to use glass gems available in the floral section at the craft stores.  Anything goes, though — maybe some holiday-themed erasers would be fun!

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I can see this activity becoming a new staple in my group classes.  I love the way this activity helps students make the ear-eye connection between how a rhythm sounds and how it looks.

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Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

anon students care

“Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

– Anonymous

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Clavier Companion Nov/Dec issue: The Future of Piano Teaching

1622601_818136588208658_571019086351640113_nHave you seen the latest issue of Clavier Companion magazine?

The Nov/Dec 2014 issue marks the beginning of a series called “The Future of Piano Teaching.”  In this issue, you’ll find twelve short musings written by various pedagogues about their thoughts on the future of piano teaching.  These short musings will be followed by a series of longer, more in-depth articles in future issues.

I was proud to submit one of those short musings (you’ll find it on page 29) alongside my colleagues, including fellow bloggers Leila Viss, Mario Ajero, Jennifer Foxx, and Wendy Stevens.  My longer, follow-up article will be published in a future issue.

Not subscribed to Clavier Companion?  It is an outstanding, forward-thinking magazine for piano teachers.  Tell your family you would like to receive a subscription as a Christmas gift.  Request access to an issue free here.

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Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

stevenson

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”

– Robert Louis Stevenson

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Piano Lesson Video: Introducing a New Piece

I’m currently working on the projects required for becoming a NCTM (Nationally Certified Teacher of Music) through MTNA.  Of the required projects for piano, I think the video project is the most time consuming — so that is the project I’ve been focusing on first. As recommended by piano teacher profile projects workbook, I started recording some of my student’s lessons for a time just to experiment with camera options and camera angle.  I think I finally found the camera location that works the best, so I thought I’d show you a little clip from a recent piano lesson with my student, Liz.

There is an art to introducing a new piece to a student in a way that sets them up for success.  For example, we cannot assume that a beginner student will notice the time signature until we have taught them to check it with each new piece. We cannot expect the student to learn a piece well unless we have properly prepared the student’s experience for the rhythms, sounds, techniques, and reading that the piece requires.

In Liz’s case, she has been taking lessons for a year and she already has a pretty good handle on time signatures, rhythm, and note reading.  We are still working on developing technique for playing various types of articulations, becoming a fluid sight-reader, and playing expressively.  Liz is a faithful practicer and has been making very steady progress.

Many of you will recognize the piece in the video: It is the Russian Sailer Dance from the Level 1 Lesson Book from the Faber Piano Adventures.  In the video below, I provide Liz with a brief introduction to the piece and then ask her to sight-read the piece. Then, we talk a little bit more about the technique for getting a nice staccato sound and how she can shape the repeated notes to add interest.

Sorry about the low volume in this video!  Next time, I will boost the volume before I upload.

This NCTM video project has already changed my teaching.  As I watch my videos, I find myself realizing how I could have introduced a concept better, or could have been more concise with my conversation in favor of having the student DO things besides listening to me.  Of course, hindsight is always 20:20.  We do the best that we can in the time and circumstances we are given.  But I am a big believer in striving for self-improvement, so I’m going to keep watching my teaching videos and learning!  Observing my own teaching is already causing me to make subtle changes to my teaching that will make it more effective.

I would encourage each of you to get permission from a student or two to record their lessons so that you can afterwards evaluate your own teaching.  It’s very valuable!

Tech specs for anyone interested:  I encountered many technical difficulties with the camcorder I borrowed from my parents and I found most point-and-shoot cameras have a 20 minute limit for video clip length.  I finally decided to settle with using my iPhone 5C due to the convenience and ease-of-use.  Nowadays, the quality of the iPhone’s camera actually rivals what a typical point-and-shoot camera can do.  

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Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

“If you cannot sing it, you cannot play it.”

– Artur Schnabel, pianist

schnabel

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OhioMTA 2014 State Conference

Last weekend, I attended the state conference of Ohio Music Teachers Association (affiliated with MTNA).  Since moving to Ohio three years ago, I’ve attended the OhioMTA conference every year — and I have to say that this one was the most sensational!

The setting this year was Wilmington College, which has a small and beautiful campus with facilities that were perfect for our conference.  It was wonderful to be able to walk in the cool, Fall weather between sessions.  Around 120 teachers attended the conference this year.

Our conference schedule was chock full of great sessions!  Some highlights: “Music Alive! Sounds that Move, Pictures that Sing” by Clinton Pratt, “Creative Sightreading” by Dr. Cole Burger, “Developing Sound Expectations: Does the Sound Match the Picture” by Scott Donald, “Piano Music for Left Hand Alone” by Jerry Wong, and many others.

I was also extremely honored to have the opportunity to present a session: “Albums for the Young: A History & Overview of the Genre.”  I can’t tell you what it meant to me to be able to share my research for this distinguished organization. My topic explored the influence of Robert Schumann’s Album for the Young, Op. 68 and the wealth of children’s music that followed by other composers.

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New in the Shop: Ice Cream Intervals Extension Pack

I know it’s been quiet around the blog lately!  Last summer was one of those summers where I said “yes” to too many commitments and over-extended myself.  I’m actually quite relieved to be in a “normal” Fall teaching schedule.  Recently, I’ve been wrapping up a few projects which I hope will allow me to blog on a somewhat more regular basis!

This weekend, I found a little bit of time for a little project suggested by a reader.  She requested that I create an “extension pack” for the Ice Cream Intervals game that would provide harmonic (blocked) intervals to add to the original melodic (broken) intervals.  Why didn’t I think of that?!  What a great idea!  (Thanks, Morgan!)

So, here is a peek:

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It’s important for students to become fluent at recognizing relationships between notes whether the intervals are harmonic or melodic, because that is what happens in the music they are learning.  With the addition of the new harmonic cards, my students’ favorite game just became even more beneficial for them.  ;)

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For $4, you can purchase the extension pack which nearly doubles the amount of ice cream scoops by providing 48 harmonic (blocked) intervals to add the original melodic (broken) intervals.  The intervals in the Extension Pack range from “2nd” to “octave.”  (Please note that no cones are provided in the Extension Pack, so you won’t want to purchase it unless you also have the original Ice Cream Intervals game. )  Remember, all the items in my shop are digital products — meaning, you are buying the PDF so that you can print and assemble it yourself.

For more info, visit the Ice Cream Intervals Game page in the Shop.

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Thrifty Find: Piano-side Table

Since moving in June, I’ve been gradually getting my studio organized and arranged to my liking.  It is a process!

I love having a tabletop surface nearby when I am teaching.  I’ve been using a TV tray table for this purpose temporarily, with the hope that I would eventually find something that better suits the rest of the room:

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I finally found that special “something”…!

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It is an old typewriter stand.  I found it at a furniture consignment shop for $60.   Read More »

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