Words of Wisdom

Wednesday Words of Wisdom

“Whatever method is used, our experience so far makes it clear that when we use a child’s natural desire to explore the new and unknown, and to gain some control over it, without trying to force him faster or further than he feels ready to go, both pupil and teacher have the most fun and make the most progress.”

John Holt, in How Children Learn

Tapping into the child’s natural desire to explore the new and unknown makes all the difference!

Food for thought: What are examples of ways we can do this as teachers?

Words of Wisdom

Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

“Most of us are tactful enough with other adults not to point out their errors, but not many of us are ready to extend this courtesy (or any other courtesy, for that matter) to children.”

–John Holt (in How Children Learn)

When students make errors, how do YOU respond? Do you quickly and thoughtlessly point out errors, or do you skillfully allow time and opportunity for students to notice and correct errors themselves?

I’m sure we all find ourselves occasionally jumping in too quickly with the “right answer” in our teaching. (When I find myself doing it, it tends to be when I am feeling the pressure of the clock at the end of the lesson time!) In our best teaching, though, we play the “long game” and invest in helping our students become independent. We give students the appropriate amount of challenge (not too much, not too little) according to what they are ready for. We concoct skillful teaching questions that prompt students to learn to hear musical differences on their own. We give them skills and strategies that will increasingly allow them to learn for themselves. And we allow students TIME to think! This creates valuable learning opportunities for our students. Over time, students become increasingly independent and able to teach themselves.

As an aside: It’s not that we are to see errors as inherently “bad.” They aren’t. While we might not want mistakes hanging around for a long time, we must acknowledge they are a natural part of the learning process. To the skillful teacher or learner, errors are incredibly helpful information.

One final point: The above quote from John Holt reminds us of the importance of respecting children. Perhaps this seems obvious or comes easily to you — or perhaps not. I think it’s a good reminder for us all. We ALL — not just children — learn best when our basic needs are met and when we feel respected and valued. Respecting our students means using kindness, truly listening to them, giving age-appropriate choices and responsibilities, and more. (If you’re interested, you can read about what the Montessori approach has to say about respecting children here.)

Happy Wednesday, friends! Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Announcements, Resources, Technology

NEW: Handdrawn Music Note & Symbols Sets

Hello, friends! I’m excited to share with you today about a recent project that has just reached completion.

If you’re like me, you probably find yourself creating various digital/print projects such as flyers, worksheets, recital programs, and social media graphics throughout the year for your music studio. Perhaps you, like me, enjoy using music notes or symbols to spice up your projects visually.

But if you’ve ever done an internet search for “music note clipart” or “music symbol graphics”, you may have noticed there isn’t such a good selection of options available. This is especially true if you, like me, care about the music symbols being correct (e.g., no backwards treble clefs or eighth notes!). The choices become even slimmer if you are careful to observe copyright terms (as we all should!) and use only images that explicitly allow for what’s known as “commercial use”.

This is an issue I’ve run into more times than I can count, but I only recently decided to do something about it. So, I got out my iPad and Apple Pencil, and started drawing my own set of music notes and symbols. Here is the result:

The project was so much fun that one set soon turned into four. The “regular” handdrawn set was followed by sets of curly notes, hearted notes, and smiley notes. 🙂

Thanks to my Adobe Illustrator skills, I was able work some magic and transform my handdrawn designs into a folder of high quality images that can be used in Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, Apple Pages, Google Docs, Canva.com, or whatever program I might choose to use for my projects.

I had such a blast creating these, and I’m proud to offer them to you as well. The four sets have just been added to my shop so you can purchase them yourself and start using them in your projects!

Let me tell you more about what makes my clipart sets unique. What’s cool is that when you purchase a set, you’ll receive TWO versions of each design: PNG files and SVG files. If you aren’t familiar with these two file types, let me explain. PNG is a file format that supports having a transparent background — which means you won’t see an ugly white square surrounding the music symbol should you place it over a colored background.

Continue reading “NEW: Handdrawn Music Note & Symbols Sets”
Giveaways

GIVEAWAY: Music Note Face Masks

Hi there!

How are you all? I’ve been quiet here on the blog, but keeping myself busy as usual! Baby Aria keeps me busy, and I also have a couple of projects coming down the pipeline that you’ll hear about sooner or later. 🙂

I’m still teaching my piano lessons online during these Covid times and practicing physical distancing as appropriate. Here in Michigan, our quarantine measures have loosened somewhat compared to be before, but there are guidelines still in place to keep us safe. I know the specific guidelines vary greatly state-by-state and country-by-country according to the current risk in each area. I hope we can agree it’s important to be smart and cautious during these times.

I’d really love to hear from you all about how you are faring and what life during Covid-19 is like currently in your neck of the woods. You’ll have a chance to do so — more on that in just a moment!

But first, let me back up and introduce you to my sister, Heather. We are teaming up to offer you a giveaway.

Continue reading “GIVEAWAY: Music Note Face Masks”
Resources

Check Out SusanHong.com

Hello, readers!

Just a quick post for today, encouraging you to check out my friend Susan Hong’s brand new website, SusanHong.com. I’ve had the honor of helping Susan out with her website and other technology-related topics for a few years now. She is not only a wonderful artist and piano teacher, but an all-around wonderful person and friend!

Here’s a picture of Susan and I, taken during the 2016 MTNA conference in her hometown, San Antonio, Texas!

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Susan has posted a few items of interest on her new website so far, but I would especially encourage you to check out her Musical Mandala Coloring Book PDF. When you purchase the download, you’re getting a studio license allowing you to print as needed for your own students. I’ve already downloaded and printed a few copies to place in my studio for my students to enjoy coloring in my waiting room area.

There’s a limited time sale going on now. Don’t miss checking out Susan’s mandalas by clicking HERE!

Professional Development, repertoire / methods, Retreat

Video: Let’s Talk about John Thompson’s “Teaching Little Fingers To Play”

Hi there!

Earlier today, I went live on Facebook to talk about one of my favorite old piano method books: the classic John Thompson’s Modern Course for the Piano. I have to admit certain bias for the “Teaching Little Fingers to Play” book. It was my first piano book when I was all of age 5. 🙂

Here is the Facebook Live video.

https://www.facebook.com/ColorInMyPianoblog/videos/1557903900896256/

Here is what’s covered in the video:

  • 0:50  Get a peek inside an OLD copy of the “Teaching Little Fingers To Play” book by John Thompson.
  • 2:10  Why I like using the “Teaching Little Fingers” book sometimes today as a supplement.
  • 3:05  Get a peek inside a NEW copy of the “Teaching Little Fingers” book. The illustrations have been updated, but the version is otherwise pretty true to the original.
  • 3:35  How to address one of the potential pitfalls of using the “Teaching Little Fingers” book: the overabundance of finger numbers.
  • 4:47  How John Thompson was ahead of his time as a pedagogue. Or, perhaps there is really just “nothing new under the sun.” 🙂 Hint: See the note on the cover of the “Teaching Little Fingers” book.
  • 7:04  Learn more about other music and resources John Thompson authored.

Questions for you: Have you ever used the John Thompson series? What do you appreciate about it?

Thanks for watching!

P.S.: Why am I looking through old piano method books? It’s because I’m in the midst of preparations for Retreat at Piano Manor which I will be hosting later this summer, August 17-19, 2017! During the retreat, we will be looking through piano method books from across the decades, uncovering pedagogical wisdom relevant for us today. Registration is now open and a few teachers have already registered. Be sure to watch the facebook page and here on the blog for future videos about piano methods.

Announcements, Studio Business

2016 Studio T-Shirt

Look at what arrived in the mail recently! I love how our T-shirts turned out this year.

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Since 2012, I’ve ordered studio T-shirts each summer as a gift for my students. It’s a fun way to show appreciation for being a part of my studio and build camaraderie among my students. And it’s good marketing, too.

Just for fun, here’s a peek at the designs from past years.  Continue reading “2016 Studio T-Shirt”

improving as a teacher, Reading Notation, Teaching Piano

The Role of Intervalic Reading when Reading Music

A few weeks ago, I added a new game to my Shop called the Ice Cream Interval game.  In that post, I briefly mentioned the importance of being able to read intervalically when reading music and I’d like to discuss this further today.

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While it is important for students to be able to identify the names of notes quickly, it is equally important for them to read intervals as early as possible in their studies.  While I am a big believer in drilling note-naming flashcards, I am an even bigger believer in drilling intervals.  Continue reading “The Role of Intervalic Reading when Reading Music”

Early Childhood Music, Printables

Jumbo Note-Naming Flashcards

There are quite a few places you can download and print free music note-naming flashcards.  Anne Crosby’s website and Susan Paradis’ website come to mind, for example.  However, I recently realized that I wanted a set of jumbo-sized cards, to use with my Piano Readiness classes.

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I can hold up these jumbo-sized cards during class and my young students can still see the note on the staff.  Young beginners or students with disabilities may also benefit from having jumbo-sized flashcards.

I color-coded my flashcards according to the range of notes.  I printed the Middle C position notes on green paper, the next few notes up to Treble C and down to Bass C on yellow paper, and the next notes up to High C and Low C (ledger lines) on blue paper.

You can download this FREE pdf on the Printables > Other Resources page, under “Jumbo Note-Naming Flashcards.”

  Jumbo Note-Naming Flashcards (459.7 KiB, 41,462 hits)

Yesterday, I asked for your favorite game ideas involving note-naming flashcards.  I can’t wait to try out some of your ideas — keep ’em coming!

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.

Ear Training, Games, Group Classes, Rhythm

Swat-A-Rhythm Game (With Variations)

At last Saturday’s Piano Party with my students, we played a fun game that I call the Swat-A-Rhythm game.  I have seen many variations of this game on various forums and websites, so I am not sure who to credit with the original idea.  In any case, I will describe the way I played this game with my students.  🙂  I also have some ideas for varying the game for concepts besides rhythm — such as notes, intervals, melodies, and terms.

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Swat-A-Rhythm Game (& Variations­)

Materials:

  • A fly swatter for each student.  My local Dollar Tree store is currently selling some colorful fly swatters for 2/$1.00.
  • 5-8 different cards with rhythm examples.  (If you don’t already have some, I have a pdf of rhythm cards available for purchase here in my shop.
  • Bug cards (optional), for keeping track of points.

Gameplay:

Spread the rhythm cards out on the floor, within reach of each player.  After the teacher finishes clapping the rhythm on one of the cards, the first student to swat the correct card earns a bug card.  The player with the most bugs at the end of the game is the winner.  (Note: You may wish to stress that anyone who swats before the teacher finishes clapping the rhythm cannot win the point.)

I’ve created a free pdf with the bug cards and game instructions.  You can download it on the Printables > Games page, by scrolling down to the S’s for Swat-A-Rhythm Game.

It is sometimes challenging to come up with good aural-based games, but I think this one is a winner!  My students had fun with the colorful fly swatters, and the game provided an incentive to listen closely to the rhythm.

Variations:

  • Swat-A-Note – The teacher calls out a letter of the musical alphabet, and students must swat the flashcard with the correct note on the staff.  Or, do it backwards: Hold up a staff note-naming flashcard, and students swat cards that say A, B, C, D, E, F, or G.  (If you need some alphabet cards, click here.)
  • Swat-A-Piano-Key – After the teacher calls out a letter, students swat the corresponding piano key flashcard.  Or, the teacher holds up a piano key flashcard and students swat cards that say A, B, C, D, E, F, or G.  (If you need some piano key cards, click here.)
  • Swat-An-Interval – After the teacher plays an interval on the piano, the students swat the interval card they heard.
  • Swat-A-Melody – Cut a short piece of sheet music into two-measure pieces.  The teacher plays random sections on the piano, and students must swat which two-measure section they heard.
  • Swat-A-Term — After the teacher reads a definition of a musical term, students must swat the card with the correct term.

I hope your students enjoy this fun, versatile game!