Early Childhood Music, Group Classes, Music Learning Theory

Group Class Ventures with Music Learning Theory (MLT)

Since taking the Piano Certification Course through the Gordon Institute for Music Learning (GIML) last August, I have been slowly but surely working towards integrating Music Learning Theory (MLT) principles into my teaching approach.

Much of this integration is subtle at this point and yet, it is having a definite impact on my students.

I’ve also had the opportunity to experiment more directly with an MLT-based teaching approach in a couple of new group music classes I’ve been offering over the past few months.

The first opportunity arose when one of my piano parents asked if I might consider doing some kind of group music class with her two piano students as well as three of her other children who take lessons in guitar, flute, and violin. She was interested in her kids receiving additional help with rhythm, theory, and more, to support their private lessons. I told her more about the GIML training I received and how I felt it would be ideal for her kids and that I would be thrilled to have the opportunity to experiment more with this approach. So, now I’m teaching a weekly 30-minute group music class (not geared towards piano playing) with 5 siblings between the ages of 7 and 12. Afterwards, I give the two piano students their private lessons.

The second opportunity arose when a local violin teacher reached out to me asking about lessons for her 4-year-old son. Ultimately, we settled on having a weekly 30-minute group class with her son as well as her two other young children. The five of us are exploring music together using the Music Play early childhood music curriculum as the basis.

So far with both classes, I’ve been loosely following the lesson plan outline that Marilyn Lowe suggests in her Keyboard Games (KG) books (see image below). I’m pulling songs and rhythm chants from her KG books, Music Play, and the ECMC Songs and Chants Without Words, Book One.

Continue reading “Group Class Ventures with Music Learning Theory (MLT)”

Group Classes, improving as a teacher

2017 Masterclass Exchange

On Saturday, my students and I held a masterclass event, as is our annual tradition in preparation for our upcoming studio recital.

This year, I invited Loretta Cetkovic, my friend from grad school who now operates a music school in Lansing, Michigan. She was so wonderful in helping my group of students polish and perfect their pieces!

In exchange, I drove to Lansing the following day and gave a masterclass for a group of Loretta’s students. So fun.

Now here is a blast from the past! This photo is from 2014, which was the first year Loretta and I did a masterclass exchange. Here is the related blog post.

Have you ever considered doing a masterclass exchange?

P.S.: Follow me on Instagram

Games, Group Classes

Easter Egg Matching Music Game

Earlier this week, I blogged about my April 2015 studio class “Piano Party.” We concluded our Piano Party with a new game, which I created based on a teacher’s idea posted in the Piano Teacher FunMakers group on facebook.

The game is simple: buy a package of plastic easter eggs and draw music symbols and terms on each half with a paint pen (permanent marker will rub off over time). Students are supposed to mix up and then match together the halves.

I did not have any plastic easter eggs in the house, so I asked my husband to buy some on clearance when he went to the grocery store. He came home with these really interesting ones from Meijer that break into three sections…!

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At first, I wasn’t sure if they were going to work well for my game, but then I realized that having three separate parts for each egg could work out to my advantage. On each part of the egg, I wrote a music symbol, the meaning, and the Italian music term.

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Having three parts to match into an egg makes the game more challenging. My students enjoyed working together for this game at my Piano Party.

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I’m going to leave this game out in my waiting room for awhile. When students arrive, they will enjoy matching a few eggs before their lessons.

Group Classes

March 2015 Piano Party

My studio recital is coming up, so my students and I have been busy with recital prep. This means we spend a lot of time during the lesson practicing the elements of good stage presence (practicing the bow, etc) and practicing run-throughs by memory. At almost lesson I’ve been teaching this week and last, I’ve been taking video with my iPhone so that we can watch, listen, and discuss afterwards. Having the video running helps the student get a little bit nervous and mentally rehearse what it is like to be at the actual performance.

At the March “Piano Party” (my monthly studio classes) I held on Saturday, we ran a recital rehearsal of sorts.

IMG_2555 Continue reading “March 2015 Piano Party”

Games, Group Classes

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.

Continue reading “November 2014 Piano Party & Heartbeat Chart Printable”

Group Classes, Teaching Piano, Worksheets

Worksheet: About the Piano Scavenger Hunt

Last Saturday, I held the last Piano Party (monthly group class) for the school year.  Our theme was to talk about the piano as an instrument: how it makes sound, types of piano, why the piano must be tuned, etc.

Here is a simple worksheet I used at the beginning of class to kick things off:

Piano Scavenger Hunt worksheet

I allowed students to work alone or in groups to complete this worksheet.  I told them they could get up and go to the piano to answer the questions if needed.

I think this worksheet would be a fun activity for a private student’s first lesson as well!

Download the free PDF by visiting the Printables > Worksheets page and scrolling down to “Piano Scavenger Hunt.”

Group Classes

March 2014 Piano Party: Master Class

My students are currently preparing pieces for a local Ribbon Festival as well as my studio’s annual recital.  (I always hold my Spring recital in March or April — I think May gets too busy!)

In order to help prepare them for these events, I decided to ask my friend, Loretta, to give a master class for my students during our “Piano Party” group class this month.  Loretta and I became friends during grad school while earning our pedagogy degrees.  She currently runs a multi-teacher studio in Lansing, Michigan.

Loretta loved the idea and asked if I would give a master class for her students in return.  It turned out to be a great exchange and a very positive experience for all of our students!

Here is a group photo of me with some of Loretta’s students after our master class:

DSC_20140223_145719_2 Continue reading “March 2014 Piano Party: Master Class”

Group Classes

Using YouTube During Group Classes

YouTube_logo_standard_whiteAt my monthly group classes (we call them “Piano Parties”), I like to begin the class by showing an inspiring or humorous video on YouTube.  In the past, I’ve shown:

Last Saturday, I showed my students a video by Zach Heyde.  Zach Heyde is a college student with a passion for composing/arranging.  In this video, Zach and his friend, Frank Tedesco, play Zach’s duet, “Sleigh Ride Duet Fantasy.”   Continue reading “Using YouTube During Group Classes”

Games, Group Classes

September 2013 Piano Party

Last week was a busy week and I didn’t manage to get a single blog post posted!  Hope you missed me — I’m back!  ;)

On Saturday, I held a kick-off Pizza Piano Party with my students who are under age 14.  My goal with this get-together was for students to get to know each other (especially the new beginners) and to generate some excitement for the new year.  Before and after eating our pizza, we played a few simple music games.

First, I let students color and cut-out their own paper piano (download the blank printable here from twink.net).  This was a good activity for students to work on as everyone arrived.  It also allowed students to chat openly and get to know each other as they worked.

Next, we played a game I called, “Find the Music Note.”  It is a musical twist of the old “Find The Thimble” game.  I read about this game somewhere online over a year ago — let me know if you have any idea whom I should credit for this game idea.

To play this game, you need something musical to be the thimble.  I found the plastic red eighth note pictured below at a thrift store a couple of years ago, knowing it would be useful for something one day!  I think it was originally a balloon weight.  You can any small little object for this game.  I have some music note and piano buttons I bought from a craft store — something like that would work well.

Each round of the game, there is a “Hider” and a “Finder.”  The Finder must close their eyes as the Hider finds a good place to hide the “thimble.”  All of the other students must pay attention and watch where the Hider puts the thimble.  Once the Hider has returned to his/her seat, the Finder may open his/her eyes.  As the Finder walks around the room, everyone else must help tell the Finder whether they are getting closer to or further from where the thimble is hidden.  Instead of saying “hot” and “cold” as the traditional game goes, I asked students to vocalize high sounds and low sounds.  (So they wouldn’t wear out their voices too much, I asked them not to make loud sounds — just high/low.)

We played a few rounds of this game until everyone had a turn to be either the Hider or the Finder.  My students had such a blast with this simple game!  It is a good party game to use with young students of varying levels.

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Next, we played an indoor, team version of the Spell-A-Keyboard game.  If anyone is interested, here is the printable for making the floor keyboards pictured below.

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The last game we played was what I call the Rhythm Name Game (read about this game here).  I use this game frequently at group events because it works well with a group of students at varying levels.  Students of any level can stand to improve their sense of rhythm, ear training, and musical memory!   This game works well as the last game because gameplay can continue even when students gradually leave with their parents.

I am looking forward to more monthly Piano Parties this year!

Group Classes, Music Camps, Music History

New in Shop: Eras of Music History Kit

Remember when I gave a sneak peek at these music history booklets last month?  Well, I’m pleased to announce that the Eras of Music History Kit has just been added to the Shop!  The kit contains a variety of printable pdf’s for studying the Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Modern Eras of Western music history.

The four era booklets are the core component of this resource.  Each era booklet discusses the stylistic characteristics of the music, the evolution of the piano, and the popular forms composers used.  The back of the booklet features a list of major composers and a list of important works from the era.  The information has been carefully researched and written in a concise, clear way intended for students age 7+.

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This kit also contains a pdf for creating a composer timeline.

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There are a few more pdf’s included in the kit:

  • Four worksheets that correspond to the four era booklets.
  • A handout with a brief overview of all four eras.
  • A historical context timeline.

Most importantly, purchase of the Eras of Music History kit includes a license to be able to print from the pdf’s as much as desired throughout your teaching career, as long as you are using the printed materials with your own students.

The resources within this kit are suitable for all kinds of settings:

  • Monthly group classes for your private students.
  • Music appreciation courses for homeschooling students.
  • Music history camps (see this blog post for more information).
  • At-home assignments for private piano students.

And, as you might have guessed, this kit works great alongside a composer lapbook study.  :)

This resource is designed to make it easier to incorporate more music history into our students’ musical education.  Maybe it will be just right for you and your students over the next school year!  View the Eras of Music History Kit in the Shop here.

Games, Group Classes, Printables, Rhythm, Teaching Piano

Rhythm Train Game

I love being able to print out rhythm cards for my students to practice at home.  I can give them just a few cards to start, and add more advanced rhythms and time signatures as needed.  My students store their cards in a zipper bag and bring them to their lessons each week.

At first, I assign students to randomly choose a few cards clap and count at home each day.  When that becomes easy, we are ready to play the Rhythm Train game.  :)

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Rhythm Train game

a music game for 1 or more students

Materials:

  • Rhythm flashcards.
  • Printed train cards of the engine and the caboose (download the FREE printable on the Printables > Games page, under “Rhythm Train game.”)

Gameplay:

Ask the student(s) to randomly choose 2 or 3 rhythm cards with the same time signature.  First, make sure that the student(s) are able to accurately clap each rhythm card separately.  As they master each card, they may add it to the train behind the engine, with the caboose at the end. When all the cards have been added to the train, ask the student(s) to clap the entire rhythm.  Challenge the student to see how many rhythm trains they can make, or assign the student to make a rhythm train every day at home.

Playing the Rhythm Train game makes clapping rhythms just a little bit more fun.  :)  It works well both in the private lesson (it can be played at the piano on the music rack, or off-the-bench on the floor) or in group classes.

You can download the free pdf of the train cards and instructions on the Printables > Games page, under “Rhythm Train game.”  Enjoy!

Note: If you don’t have any rhythm flashcards, you can find a pdf download to purchase at ColorInMyPiano.com/shop/.  Your purchase includes a license to be able to print the rhythm cards as many times as you wish, as long as you are using them with your own students.

Games, Group Classes

May 2013 Piano Party

My “piano party” group lesson this month was a lot of fun.  We began with the Rhythm Name game — always a favorite.  :)  The Rhythm Name game is described in this post.

Next, I played a variety of short classical pieces and asked students to aurally identify the piece as AB form or ABA.  This was also a good way to expose my students to repertoire by various composers.

This led us right into a listening activity of Leroy Anderson’s The Syncopated Clock, using Jennifer Fink’s wonderful worksheets.

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We listened to the piece a few times, filling in the information on the first worksheet about the three clocks in the piece.  Then, I passed out the worksheet showing the living room wall, and we listened again for the form of the piece and glued the clocks on the paper in the right order.  My students loved the music and enjoyed figuring out the order of the clocks!

After our listening activity, we played a couple of games: the Swat-A-Rhythm game and the Ice Cream Intervals game, as described in previous posts earlier this week.

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This was our last Piano Party of the year.  Over the summer, my students will have the opportunity to interact at the summer camps, and we will start up our monthly Piano Parties again in the Fall.

Planning monthly group classes does require extra time and planning, but I think it is so worth it!  It is valuable for students to make “piano friends,” and I love having the opportunity to reinforce old concepts, or focus on new concepts that don’t always receive the attention they deserve during weekly lessons.  I will definitely be continuing group classes again next year!