Group Classes, Rhythm, Teaching Piano

Introducing…The Color In My Piano Shop!

Greetings!

I have a big announcement today: I have just added a “Shop” page to ColorInMyPiano.com, where I have listed a few items for sale!  Don’t worry…I’ll always share lots of freebies too, but I have some bigger projects that I’d like to make available in the shop.  :)  Right now, I’ve got two items listed:

Rhythm Cards – Level 1.  These cards have simple two- or three- measure rhythm examples on them, perfect for using with beginner students.

Continue reading “Introducing…The Color In My Piano Shop!”

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.  :)

Games, Group Classes, Music Camps, Printables, Teaching Piano

Spell-A-Keyboard Game

This morning with my homeschool music class, I played this game with my students:

As I was lesson planning last night, I was trying to think of a new way to practice the names of the piano keys.  My homeschool music class is mostly a music history class, but we’ve been learning basic music/piano concepts too.  My students already know how to figure them the piano key names by counting from Middle C, but they need more practice to get them memorized.  So I came up with this game, which I called the “Spell-A-Keyboard Game.”

My students loved this game!  I gave them each a set of cards with words containing only A-G (I gave them only the three-letter words for today) and a silent keyboard or paper keyboard, and three glass gems (pennies or buttons work too).  Then I instructed them to “spell” the words from each flashcard by covering the right keys with glass gems.  If you are playing this game with students at the piano, you can require that students spell the letters in order from left to right, but on a silent keyboard there might not be room to do so (as in the example shown in the photo).

This game is a great way to practice the piano key names without it actually feeling like a drill!  My students really enjoyed seeing how quickly they could spell the words and were pretty proud of their work each time.

You can download the “Musical Alphabet Word Flashcards” on the Printables > Games page.  When I created the cards, I tried to pick mostly words that kids would know.  Enjoy!

Update: I just realized that Susan Paradis plays a game very similar to this, except the words are spelled on the staff!  Read more here.

Update: Read about the outdoor version of this game here, where I describe my Musical Olympics Camp.

Update: I also found a way to adapt this game to be used with two floor keyboards indoors, with two teams.  Click here for more info.

improving as a teacher, Studio Business, Teaching Piano

Piano Student End-Of-The-Year Evaluations

I’m back!  I ended up taking two weeks off instead of one, I know.  :)  But it felt great.  It feels great to be back too.

At the MTNA National Conference in NYC this year, one of the sessions I attended encouraged teachers to do yearly or quarterly assessments/evaluations of their students.  Some teachers accompany these assessments with a parent-teacher-student conference.  A few of the session’s attendees raised their hands to comment on their method of assessment and the benefits they’ve seen.  I was quite intrigued with the idea, and decided I wanted to give it a try this year.

The only time when I’ve done something similar to this is when I was worked at a summer music camp in my hometown.   I was the Theory & Composition Instructor, and the camp director asked each of us instructors to create some kind of assessment that we could send home with the students for the teachers and parents to be able to see what the student learned at camp.  These assessments were very short and sweet, since we had only had contact with the student for four classes over four days.

I started looking around the internet for ideas, and eventually formed a template I’m pretty happy with.  This assessment is not designed to do that same thing that standardized music testing is supposed to do.  It’s much more general.  It’s about communicating to the student and parent about the progress the student is making in various areas and the goals that I have in mind for them in upcoming months.  It is a bit like a report card, but with no actual grades.   Continue reading “Piano Student End-Of-The-Year Evaluations”

Group Classes, Music Theory, Teaching Piano, Worksheets

Music Worksheet: Identifying Space & Line Notes on the Staff

Here’s a new free music worksheet that I just added to the Printables page:

This worksheet introduces the idea of identifying the space notes on the staff using the mnemonics FACE and All Cows Eat Grass.  These are the only two mnemonics I use.  I don’t teach separate mnemonics for the line notes anymore (like Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge or Great Big Dogs Fight Animals) because it’s simply too much to try to keep 4 different mnemonics straight!  I have found that it’s easier for students to remember just two mnemonics and then learn to jump up a step from the nearest space note to identify a line note.

To download, visit the Printables > Worksheets page and scroll down to the I’s for “Identifying Space & Line Notes on the Staff.”  Enjoy!

Early Childhood Music, Games, Group Classes, Printables, Teaching Piano

The Amazing Keyboard Race

I had a wonderful extended weekend in Michigan, giving my presentations and spending time with my family!  Now I’m busy back at work, playing catch-up.  :)  However, I do have a little game I’d like to share with you today.

I am not the original inventor of this game, I’m sure — but in case you haven’t seen it before, here’s how to play this keyboard game with your beginner students!

Continue reading “The Amazing Keyboard Race”

improving as a teacher, Professional Development, Teaching Piano

My Assignment Notebook Method

Last Thursday, we started a Forum Q&A discussion about assignment notebooks/pages for students.  Today, I thought I’d share my own method of tracking assignments — and, of course, also announce the winner of the giveaway!

The winner of the sheet music decorative balls is commenter #5… LaDona!  Congrats!!  (By the way, if you haven’t seen LaDona’s wonderful blog before, you can check it out here.)

My method of tracking assignments is very similar to what many of you do: I write in a journal-sized notebook.

I always start with the date and then I outline any warmup/technique exercises (5-finger patterns, arpeggios, scales, etc).  The photos in this post show a made-up but typical assignment page:  Continue reading “My Assignment Notebook Method”

Composition, Music Theory, Printables, Teaching Piano

Just Added: Music Staff Paper for Stickers of all Sizes

Guess what!  Tomorrow is Color In My Piano’s THREE YEAR anniversary!  Woohoo!  I’ve got a few fun posts and giveaways planned for later this week in honor of our anniversary.  But today, I thought I’d share this new printable:

Continue reading “Just Added: Music Staff Paper for Stickers of all Sizes”

improving as a teacher, Performances, Practice, Reading Notation, Teaching Piano

Teaching Tip: Achieving Fluency

Have you ever have a student play a piece with frequent hesitations throughout, even though you know they can play much better than that?  This phenomenon can occur with all ages/levels of students.  Why does this happen?  What is going on when this happens?  This article will examine possible causes of and solutions for a lack of fluency.

A lack of fluency could be caused by a number of things:

  1. A lack of the proper technique required for the executing the piece;
  2. A lack of familiarity of the notes of the piece;
  3. A tempo that is too fast for the student’s ability at that moment; or,
  4. A lack of mentally “chunking” the information on the page properly.  The analogy I use to refer to Number 4 is that the students feels like they are wearing horse blinders, or are mentally experiencing tunnel vision.

Continue reading “Teaching Tip: Achieving Fluency”

Rhythm, seasonal / holiday, Teaching Piano

Christmas Rhythm Learning Moments

As I’m sure is currently the case with many of you, my students are working on Christmas pieces along with their usual assignments.  As usual, a few of them have encountered rhythmic “simplifications” in their arrangements (Away in a Manger and Go Tell it on the Mountain come to mind).  After pointing it out the difference between what they played and what is on the page, together we made the executive decision to play the rhythm as it is normally heard.  We also took a moment to discover what is the actual rhythmic notation of the tune and then marked it in the score above the staff.  For a more complete discussion of this issue, check out this Forum Q&A post regarding rhythmic simplification in arrangements.

A few of my students in particular are really thriving on these Christmas pieces!  Once again, I am reminded of the value of learning familiar tunes.  I find that it gives students an extra boost in learning their pieces, since they can depend more on their ear for pitches/rhythms rather than their eyes.  This means they will learn the pieces quickly and more accurately.  I also find that playing familiar tunes is a huge motivator for students.  They love to be able to play tunes they know!

Hurrah for Christmas music!  :)

For a listing of free Christmas music arrangements on the internet, check out this post

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks | CC 2.0