Motivation, Technique

Music Keys Incentive Idea for Scales, Arpeggios, Cadences

DSC_20130701_165441Piano teacher Patti Bennett from Georgia came up with an awesome way to use the music keys printable I created back in 2013 (see this post).  She kindly agreed to let me post her photos and details about her incentive idea today!

Patti has her students participate in Piano Guild Auditions in May, so she always has a big scale push beginning in January. This year, she was inspired to use the keys printable to create an entire incentive program to get her students enthused about learning their scales, cadences and arpeggios following the Guild requirements.

Major key challenge sign

bulletin board

Patti started by preparing packets of the keys for each student, cutting them out and placing them in Ziploc snack bags with their names.  There are five little bins for the major keys: one for one octave (white paper), one for two octave (beige paper), one for three octave (blue), one for four octave (red).  She also printed out sets for the minor keys.

keys on colored paper

She also created her own additional key cards for 10 hours of practice and for 5 pieces memorized.

key cards

As students master their scales and more by memory, they go to the bins, grab out their packet, locate the key and put it on their key ring on this bulletin board.  Patti says that the parents have been coming over as well, excited to watch this part.

bulletin board angle

Patti says that everyone is all smiles and eager to work on scales, as opposed to saying “do I have to work on scales”, or “I forgot to practice my scales” (sure you did) or whatever other excuse.

What a great way to inspire everyone to work hard on those scales and more!  ;)  Great job and thanks for sharing, Patti!

Motivation

Christmas Paper Chain Fun

I saw this wonderful idea in one of the wonderful facebook groups for piano teachers (this one).   I am not sure who to credit with the original idea — I suppose it has been done many times by teachers in the past.

The idea is that when a student learns a Christmas piece, they get to add a paper strip to the chain.

DSC_20131213_133949_1

I just started the chain this week with my students.  I love how this is a collaborative (instead of competitive) project that allows the entire studio to participate.  Our chain already reaches across the entryway of my studio!

DSC_20131213_133811_1

It will be fun to see how long the chain gets by the time Christmas is over!

Forum Q&A's, Motivation

Forum Q&A: Incentive Prize Box Ideas

Our last Forum Q&A topic was about keeping teenager students engaged in their piano study!  Check out all the great responses to this topic by clicking here.

Our next discussion topic comes from a reader (thanks, Donna!):

What kinds of items do you have in your “music store” or incentive prize box?  It seems some items are a hit with students, and other items just sit there.  What are some items that have been a success with your students, particularly for the older students who are always harder to shop for?  (Please also share about the requirements for your students to be able to win or buy items.)  

Two years ago, I published a blog post with a few pictures of items in my prize box at that time.  (Read the full details about my current incentive program here.)  It’s about time I took another peek in my box to see what is in there now!  I’ll try to take some photos soon — in the meantime, please take a moment to share about your students’ favorite prize items in the comment section below!

Update: Here are some photos of the items currently in my piano prize box!

Motivation, Practice, Teaching Piano

Forum Q&A | Keeping Teenagers Engaged

Our last Q&A Forum topic was about organization.  I loved reading your ideas — thank you all for your responses!

I had a great topic idea from a reader (thanks, Amy!) who asked:

How do you keep teenagers engaged?  As we know, sometimes they are taking lessons only because their parents want them to.  Or, sometimes they are over-scheduled.

Please take a moment to share your thoughts in the comments below — we would love to hear your ideas!

Photo Credit: easylocum

Giveaways, Motivation, Practice

July 2012 Giveaway: Shhh…Your Piano Teacher Thinks This Is Practice

Andrea & Trevor Dow of Teach Piano Today have recently created a resource called, “Shhh…Your Piano Teacher Thinks This Is Practice.”  She kindly sent me a copy to review, so I’m going to tell you about it — and give you a chance to win your own copy!

First, here is Andrea’s description of the pdf book:

The book contains 88 activities that are absolutely, positively, most definitely NOT BORING! and are designed to get students excited about spending time on the piano at home. They act as a companion to a piano students’ regular practice, and have been created to to be used with any level and any age for 88 days! Also, when teachers receive Shhhh… Your Piano Teacher Thinks This Is Practice they also receive a license to reproduce unlimited copies, as long as it is for use within their personal studio.

Each page of the book has a practice activity designed to encourage repetition during practice (without the student realizing it) and help them think about their piece in a different way (like asking them to find all the C’s in their piece, or practice the rhythm of the LH).  Some of the activities also encourage students to share their music, by asking students to play a piece for a family member.   Continue reading “July 2012 Giveaway: Shhh…Your Piano Teacher Thinks This Is Practice”

Motivation, Teaching Piano

Teaching Phrase: “I Think You Are Ready For…”

Here is a phrase I find myself use more and more lately with my students:

“I think you are ready for…”  

Imagine me saying it with plenty of enthusiasm.  This phrase comes in handy in a number of circumstances, such as:

  • “Wow, you’ve got all your 5-finger patterns learned, so I think you are ready to start scales!”
  • “You are playing each hand’s part so well…now you are ready to put hands together!”
  • “Great, I think you are ready to bump up the tempo!”
  • “I think Johnny is ready for 45-minute lessons!”

Watch your student (and his/her parent) swell with pride at that last one.  Saying that line sure beats a conversation that sounds like you are trying to justify or talk the parent into switching from 30- to 45-minute lessons.

It’s all in how you present it.  Learning scales or bumping up the tempo might at first seem like a chore, but presenting the next new challenge as an acknowledgement of their accomplishments and hard work can help motivate students for the next thing.  They’ve worked their way to this point, after all, and they should be proud of it!

So, try it!  And let me know what other circumstances you think of for using this phrase.  :)

Conferences, improving as a teacher, Motivation

NCKP 2011 | (13) Student-Centered Teaching, by Randall Faber

I don’t normally post on Saturdays, but I’m so close to having all my conference notes posted that I decided to finish up today with the last one rather than wait until Monday!  Whew, thanks for bearing with me through the long haul!  Lucky for us, the last one is a good one.  :)

I’ve always wanted to hear Dr. Faber speak since I am a huge fan of the Faber Piano Adventures method, and I’ve heard such good things about their sessions.  At the NCKP, I had the privilege of attending their publisher showcase and this session on student-centered teaching, which provided a lot of insight into the Fabers’ research on human learning and their teaching philosophy in general.  It was fascinating!

Student Centered Teaching: The Process, by Randall Faber.  F @ 11:15am.

Dr. Faber began by talking about the teacher perspective.  He shared a wonderful photo of a child sitting on the piano bench, eager and excited to learn, looking up into the camera (or into the teacher’s eyes).  The next photo was of a stern looking teacher, looking over his reading glasses from his chair alongside the piano.  Everybody laughed when they saw this photo!  This is the student perspective!

Joking aside, though, sometimes we aren’t always doing the job we think.  Sometimes we simply tend to teach the way we were taught because that’s what we know.  Dr. Faber made an argument that in order to be the most effective as teachers, we need to be as student-centered as possible.  Continue reading “NCKP 2011 | (13) Student-Centered Teaching, by Randall Faber”

Giveaways, Motivation, repertoire / methods, Teaching Piano

May 2011 Giveaway: “Fearless Fortissimo” Piano Music for Boys

Greetings!  Today I have two important announcements:

  1. I have finished all the requirements for my Master’s degree!  HOORAY!  =D
  2. Today we have a new GIVEAWAY!  Here are the details:

Andrea & Trevor Dow from yesterday’s interview have kindly agreed to sponsor a giveaway of Episode 1 of The Adventures of Fearless Fortissimo!  This pdf is a $19.95 value and contains Early Elementary, Elementary, and Intermediate Level versions of the pieces, accompanied by a three page comic.  Once you’ve purchased the pdf, you are free to print off as many copies as needed for use with your students!  Read more about The Adventures of Fearless Fortissimo piano music for boys by clicking here.

To enter to win, leave a comment on this post!

  • Ask Andrea & Trevor a question you still have after reading yesterday’s interview.
  • Tell us about how you would use The Adventures of Fearless Fortissimo in your studio!
  • Or, share any tips you have about keeping boy students motivated in their piano studies.

You may earn one additional entry in the giveaway by sharing the link to this giveaway on your blog or on your facebook page.  Be sure to leave an additional comment on this post to let me know you’ve done this, so that you get your extra entry.

The winner will be chosen via random number generator.  Enter before Thursday, May 19, 2011 @ midnight for your chance to win!

improving as a teacher, Motivation, Studio Business, Teaching Piano

Rethinking The Student’s First Lesson

Okay, so I’ve been thinking about this topic for a few weeks now, and today I’m spilling all!   Sorry about the length. =)

Don’t Make My Mistake!

When I first began teaching, I created a mental list of all the things I felt were essential for a new student should know.  I thought very carefully about what to say in order to cover all these topics with my student during the very first lesson.  “The List” included things like:

  • How to sit properly at the piano.
  • How to hold one’s wrists.
  • How to curve one’s fingers.
  • The finger numbers.
  • How to find the black key groups of 2’s and 3’s.
  • How to find Middle C.
  • How to find A-G on the piano.
  • What a steady beat is and is not like.
  • What a quarter note is.
  • etc.

These are all important things, of course.  But I hadn’t really stopped to consider what the student might be feeling at that very moment on my piano bench.  I jabbered away cheerily through my long, long list, anxious that my student would learn all the right things the right way from the very first day.

Do you remember what it was like at your very first piano lesson as a kid?  Usually, new students are anxious, curious, unsure, maybe nervous — and usually they are very excited to play the piano.  They might tell you they can play Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star for you which their mother taught them by rote.  Or they might show off that they figured out Mary Had a Little Lamb by ear.  Or they might not know how to play anything at all, but they are definitely sitting on your piano bench practically drooling, anxious to get their fingers on those beautiful, shiny keys!

So what do you do?  What do you do about all this crazy excitement, energy, and motivation that is radiating from this student?   Continue reading “Rethinking The Student’s First Lesson”

improving as a teacher, Motivation

Teaching With the Student’s Goals in Mind

This week I gave a few first lessons to some new students.  One of the things I always ask during the first lesson/interview is:

What are some of your goals in taking piano lessons?

Here are some examples of answers I’ve received from students:

  • I want to be able to play classical pieces that everyone knows (i.e., Fur Elise, Moonlight Sonata, Bach’s Minuet in G, etc.)
  • I want to be able to play hymns and hymn arrangements for church services.
  • I want to be able to play from chord charts to play with my church’s worship band.
  • I want to record a Christmas CD for my family.  (This was a fun project! We worked on Christmas pieces over the whole summer.)
  • I like to play by ear but but I want to learn how to read music too.
  • I just want to get better at piano just because I enjoy playing for my own enjoyment.

I’m always surprised at the variety of answers I receive when I ask this question.  Not all students have specific goals in taking lessons, but it’s always worth asking because you may be surprised at what you learn.  Knowing the student’s goals can help the teacher make the piano lessons more relavent to them.   Continue reading “Teaching With the Student’s Goals in Mind”

improving as a teacher, Motivation, Teaching Piano

Teaching Tip: Engaging the Emotions

I read something this week that mentioned in passing the benefit of engaging the emotions for learning.  This idea really stuck with me, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.  It makes perfect sense, but I just never thought about it much before.  I think this idea is worth some consideration.

Neurologically, humans learn best when their emotions are engaged.  Various research has been done that suggests the benefit of learning when the emotions are engaged (see “For Further Reading” below).  An effective speaker will appeal to the listeners’ emotions in order to affect and influence them to agree with the points made, support the viewpoint, and maybe even motivate them to do something about it.  Similarly, an effective teacher will connect with the students’ emotions to make the student interested in the topic and motivated to learn.  When the emotions are engaged, the learning moment becomes both meaningful and memorable.

The art of music is very close to the heart and the emotions.  We music teachers are very fortunate!  And yet, how often do we encounter students who seldom practice?  How about unmotivated students who quit after just a few years?  And how often do we hear completely unemotional performances?  These things do happen, unfortunately.  We can help prevent this from happening.  Perhaps through engaging the emotions we can help students connect with the music and be interested/motivated. Continue reading “Teaching Tip: Engaging the Emotions”