The frenetic scales loop race is heating up in my piano studio! Several weeks ago we began a quest to learn as many scales as we can before the end of the school year. As students have begun to complete the major scales we’ve started learning how to change them into minor scales. To help the kids hear the difference between the two I describe the minor scales as the sad sounding ones or scary ones and the major ones as the happy ones. Well, yesterday after showing a student how to figure out the minor scales on his own
I heard myself say,
“Let’s play some more scary scales”.
I immediately realized that this analogy went against everything I’ve done to try to help kids NOT see scales as scary, evil things!
Oh well, my bad!
Easter Egg Surprises
Today I’m reposting an Easter activity from last year in case you missed it and need an idea for lessons this week!
Helping kids learn and remember what notes go with each pentascale is easy with stickers and a printed piano keyboard! This is one that one of my boys made.
He is a big Spider Man fan!
What You Will Need:
2 or more piano students (upper elementary and older)
A song that these students like to listen to a lot
1 Die (small is fine, but GIANT is more exciting)
What You Do:
Teach each student individually how to play the song by rote. (Most likely you will just teach the chorus or a popular riff in the song). You can even have the 1st student help you show the 2nd student how the song goes
Have each student go to a piano
Have each student pick a number from 1-6 and whisper it in your ear
Roll the die until one of the numbers comes up. That is the student who will play first.
The first student plays. As soon as he makes a mistake he must immediately stop playing. Now it is the other student’s turn.
They continue to take turns until someone plays it through with no mistakes. That person receives a point. If they both play it correctly, they both get a point.
The first person to get 3 points is the winner
Why This Works for the Students:
This formula works because of 2 key ingredients: A song the students like and the friendly competition. Being the first to correctly play a song that you and your friends love significantly raises a student’s level of cool!
Why This Works for the Teacher:
Students will be practicing without even realizing it!
My version of How To Teach Piano In 84 seconds by Andrea Dow of the Teach Piano Today blog. Here’s how you can make it and use it in your lesson with students who have short attention spans:
1.Write out 6 activities on jumbo popsicle sticks and put a strip of flat magnetic tape on the back of each stick. (The magnetic tape sold in rolls does not work as well as the flat kind)
2.After each activity the student and I will sing the McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it theme” before moving to the next activity.
3.Be sure to read each activity with the student before having them do it.
4. Get creative with the activities! You will notice that my 3rd “activity” is “Quick! Hit the panic button”. If you don’t have a panic button, do something like bounce a ball.
5. Notice that some activities are timed. You can draw a clock on these so students will know the activity is timed.
6. Finally, decide what order you want to do the activities in – or let your student choose – and put the magnets on a magnetic board!
That’s it – lesson accomplished!
Quick and fun theory review!
At our practice achievement celebrations this week, I drew music theory concepts on balloons and had students randomly pick 2-3 balloons. I told them that if they could correctly identify what was on the balloon, they could pop the balloon. If they correctly identified all 3 of them then they also got the joy of taking a purple balloon home with them.
I got the idea for this activity while reading Ron Clark’s book, The End of Molasses Classes. It is an AWESOME read!
I used different variations of the activity also.
Finally, my favorite variation – In Family Feud Style I gave 2 students each a blank balloon. I sat them in chairs back to back and told them they had 20 seconds to draw as many music symbols as they could think of on the balloon. Whoever had the most would get to pop the balloons.
They had a blast with it!
If you watched the Grammy Awards a few days ago you know that this year they made a huge announcement. For the very first time they are creating a GRAMMY for music teachers! Hooray! The GRAMMY Foundation and The Recording Academy are recognizing the efforts of the people who teach artists the skills they use to make Grammy worthy music. That is something every music educator can celebrate.
Then came the slap in the face – only classroom teachers in a private or public school are eligible for the award.
Regular readers of this blog know how I support the work that classroom music teachers do. So, please know that I agree that they deserve the opportunity to win a GRAMMY. The last time I checked, though, to get really good at playing music most people need a private teacher in addition to their school music teacher. That’s why school music teachers often give parents a list of private instructors when kids join orchestra and band.
So, I believe that it’s up to us as music teachers to say this to the GRAMMY Foundation and ask them to consider making the award open to private music teachers. If you’re willing to join me in this, leave a comment below. Tell us about the private teachers that have influenced you and how their contribution has impacted your musical skills. Share this post with your students, parents, and social networks. Let your voice be heard!