How To Rescue Your Piano Lesson When Students and Parents Arrive Upset

Oh No!

Has this ever happened to you? It’s 3pm and you’re ready to wow your student with the fantastic piano lesson you have carefully planned. You can just imagine the joy on her face when you announce the special song that she will be learning today. You hear a knock on the door, open it and your student walks in with a frown on her face. She won’t speak to you, and when you look at her mom walk in she has a frown on her face too! The mom informs you that the child got in trouble at school and it is clear that the child is guilty as charged.

 At times like this it may seem that there is no hope for redirecting this family so that you can have a great lesson, but the piano teaching genius in you knows better! Now is the time to abandon whatever plans you had prior to the student’s arrival and pay attention to this emergency situation. (Yes, it is an emergency! ) It is up to YOU to turn this situation around for everybody involved.

The guiding principle you will use in this situation is one that was shared recently on the South Florida Orff Blog about how to be a 21st century teacher:

Make it (your lesson) REAL LIFE relevant!

With that said, here are 6 steps you can take to rescue your lesson:

1. Make them laugh!  Your number one goal is to first make everybody in the room laugh as quickly as possible. This will break down any barriers and help them refocus. You could say in a horrified voice something like, “What you just told me makes me hear this music…” (That’s when you go to the piano and play the famous notes of Beethoven’s 5th)

2. Offer a Solution – Your new goal is to get the student to stop worrying about the problem and focus on what she can do to have a successful lesson. You can suggest that the two of you write a song about the situation.

3. Invite The Student To The Piano – You will need to help everybody remember why they came – it’s a piano lesson!

4. Ask questions – Should the song have a happy sound or a sad sound? What kind of scale can we use to make that sound? What words do we need to say in the song?

5. Write It Down – Help your student write out the new song complete with a title. You can take the time to explain some theory concepts like treble clef, bass clef, how to notate melodic and harmonic sounds. Keep it simple and easy though. Even allow the student to just write out the note names.

I Am Sorry Song

6. Take A Picture  – Empower your student to have a better day at school the following day by taking a picture of her holding the “sheet music” for the new song. Tell her that she can print the picture and give it to her teacher the next day. Employ humor once again by allowing her to use fun facial expressions to show how sorry she is about what happened.  Let her choose which picture really shows how she feels.

Can you remember a time when your student and parent showed up to the lesson upset about school? Tell us about it in a comment below!

Scary Scales – An Unfortunate Musical Analogy

Scary Scales

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!

Picture Pentascales!

picture pentascales

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!

Balloons In The Piano Room

Music Balloons

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.

Sight Reading Balloon

Sight Reading

Note Identification

Note Identification

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!

symbols

Jazz For Young Children

If you read my previous post about the Jazz Education Network Conference  that I recently attended you already know that I am really excited about incorporating some of the many ideas about music education I was exposed to while there. Today I want to share some of the ideas on teaching young children about jazz in both the group setting and the private lesson.

The picture above is from the cover of a jazz CD for kids as young as preschool by music educator and artist Louise Rogers. I used songs from this CD in my preschool music class this week and the children LOVED it! While listening to the CD the children experienced jazz rhythms, scat, jazz history and jazz themes. Even some of my shy preschoolers who usually don’t dance during music time got on their feet and moved to the beats!

My favorite thing about Bop Boo Day is the way Louise uses poetry set to jazz to teach the children the history of this music and familiarize them with some of the jazz greats like Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald and others.

This week I’ve also used the CD to play in the private piano studio as students arrived for their lesson. The jazzy beats really helped the kids (and me) get geared up for their lessons after a long day of school. We kept the music going from the door all the way to the piano keys as I showed the students how to play along with the songs on a single note in swing rhythm. If you’ve been looking for a fun way to encourage your students to improvise, this works really well.

If you’re interested in resources to help you teach jazz to young children, check out the JEN K-8 Jazz Education site here.

 

2012 In Review and Many Thanks!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 16,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 4 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Ear Candy Game: Quarter Note Lollipops!

Here is a new game to help teach/reinforce note reading.

Materials Needed:

Small poster board or other heavy paper

Twizzlers Pull Apart Candy

Skittles

Dum Dum Lollipops

Ways To Play:

For group lessons: After making a staff and bass/treble clef using the Twizzlers, have the student(s) place lollipops on notes you specify.

For each note they properly place, they get to eat the lollipop or save it for after the lesson

____________________________

For private lessons: You can have the board completely set up with staff, clef, and notes made of lollipops and skittles. Then have each student choose a lollipop or skittle they want at the end of their lesson. They get to eat it ONLY IF they can correctly name the note.

____________________________

This game can also be used to help students identify note on lines or spaces.

For more advanced students you can have them play the melody built by the notes for a bonus take home bag of candy.

Introducing The Quarter Rest

Rests on printed scores are often ignored – especially by beginning piano students. I have my own ideas about the reasons why. At the top of this list is the fact that in today’s fast paced society silence is so rare that it has become a foreign concept to many. For others it is something to be feared and avoided at all costs! Musicians, however, know the value of a well placed rest. The well placed rest can convey a range of emotions and create magical moments in the music.

Here’s a quick way I introduced the quarter rest with my beginners last week.

Starting from a familiar place – quarter notes drawn on foam flash cards. (You can purchase foam paper at the dollar store or a local craft store.) The student can play or stomp the rhythm. Younger kids may even like to do the Dinosaur Stomp!

Here comes the quarter rest silencing the last beat!

What happens to the sound if the quarter rest moves to a different spot?

Finally, what happens if we get rid of the quarter rest?