Mystery Practice Assignments Pt 2

Since last week’s post about Mystery Practice Assignments got so much attention on Pinterest and since my students seem to be enjoying the suspense involved in having to wait to find out what their practice assignment for each day is, I’ve decided to do a follow-up. Here are some of the mystery assignments I will be using this week. These are some of the tried and true favorites that I have used over the years in students’ notebooks as well as one idea that came from a comment on a post about How To Get Kids To Sing. Also, this week there will only be 4 mystery assignments – one for every other day. (Hmmm…could this be another way to reinforce the concept of skips?)

1.Place a small ball in the palm of your right hand. Wrap tape around the ball and your hand. Play the Treble clef notes of your practice piece without letting the ball slip out!

2. Using a kazoo, sing the first line of your practice piece whenever your brother or sister says your name tonight. (Thanks to Leila of 88pianokeys for this one!) Teachers/parents – for this one you may have to supply your student with a kazoo. This will actually add to the mystery since you will not tell him/her what the kazoo is for! You will only tell them that it is explained  in one of their envelopes!

3. Put on some dark sunglasses and play your piece with your eyes closed like Stevie Wonder. Were you able to play it without a mistake? If not, keep trying until you can!

4. Watch one of your favorite 30 minute TV shows and play your piece during the commercials. How many times were you able to play your piece?

For a printable copy of the assignments click here. There are enough for up to 4 students each. Simply cut strips and place in a sealed envelope for each day.

What To Do After The Lesson: A Checklist For Parents

Parents want to HELP their kids do well in piano but often don’t know how and are pressed for time. As a piano parent myself, I totally get it. So in the spirit of multitasking, here are 4 simple things parents can do in the car on the way home (or headed to the next destination) after lessons.

Just remember the word

H.E.L.P.

Highlights – Ask your child questions about the lesson

Encouragement – Make a positive statement about their piano learning

Let it go – Laugh about something. Anything.

Play – for the first 5 minutes at home have your child play something they started learning at the lesson.

You can print a copy of the checklist here to keep in your car!

 

Book Review: Making Music by Susan Bonners

Here is a great book to add to your library of fiction books about piano lessons. Susan Bonners tells an engaging story of a young girl, Annie, who moves to a new neighborhood with her mom and little brother. The trouble is that they are moving far away from her Uncle who was teaching her how to play the piano. In the new neighborhood Annie is surprised to hear piano music coming from a neighbor’s house. As the story progresses we watch Annie and her neighbor  – who happens to be a retired piano teacher –  form an unbreakable bond because of the music.

Young readers who have an interest in playing the piano will easily relate to Annie as they read about how Annie struggles to remember the music her Uncle taught her before she moved away and how she eventually does remember HOW to remember! As a piano teacher, I constantly encourage young students to read fiction books about kids who play the piano or who want to learn to play. I believe that these stories are very valuable in validating children who take lessons by giving them characters who have similar desires and interests as their own. This is especially important because of the fact that piano learning is in so many ways a lonely pursuit.

The piano teacher in me enjoys reading these books because of the “knowing about the process” that is often depicted in them. For example, there is one line that jumped off the page as I was reading Making Music – “Teaching is tiring” the neighbor tells Annie when Annie asks her to teach her to play the piano. Simple relatable comments like that can be very refreshing because they are reminders that other piano teachers sometimes experience the same emotions that I do when it comes to teaching piano.

The story is a quick read that can be helpful for parents as well. Parents who read the book will get a glimpse into the mind of a young child who desires to play the piano and gain an even better understanding of lessons as it relates to their own child.

I found this book at my local library, but after reading it decided that I wanted to have my own copy. It is available through several sellers including Amazon.com.

What books are in your piano fiction library?

Supply and Demand 101: Music Teacher’s Edition

 

This morning I received a very thoughtful email from a parent thanking me for the music books I had chosen for her daughter. As music teachers we spend a lot of time searching for just the right method books to use. I like to use Faber Piano Adventures, and I know that there are many teachers who would either agree or disagree with me about my choice for various pedagogical reasons. But this post is NOT about what method books are the best! This post is about why music teachers should be more concerned about the type of music their students want to play and the type of music the families of their students want to hear.

Now, the parent who sent me the email wasn’t concerned about the brand of method book. She was appreciative of the STYLE of music that was in the books. One of the first questions I ask parents and students when beginning lessons is, “What music do you like to listen to?” Another question I often ask is “What TV shows do you watch and what is your favorite movie?” These are research questions that help me determine what songs I will use to teach them how to play the piano. This approach to teaching piano is definitely more time-consuming than the traditional way of teaching, but it is absolutely essential for success with students and families. People want to learn how to play the piano in order to play their favorite music, not ours!

This is where the Law of Supply and Demand comes in. What do you think would happen if you got a student who always dreamed of playing Beethoven’s music but his piano lesson only consisted of learning blues songs? Or what if you had a student who loved pop music (and most students do), but the piano lesson only consisted of learning classical music? Well, the answer is simple – the student would most likely quit as soon as he is allowed to do so.

Now, as music teachers we have several clients for each student we teach. Yes, the student is a client, but the student’s family members are too! Remember that the family members have to listen to – or endure in some cases –  the practice sessions! Consider two scenarios – Student 1 is learning music that the family members enjoy   and  Student 2 is learning music that the family members either can’t relate to or don’t enjoy. Which situation would most likely result in more diligent support of practice at home? Of course it is the scenario where the student is learning music that the family enjoys!

So, the Law of Supply and Demand for music teachers –

Supply students and family members with music they love to hear and the Demand for your lessons will go through the roof!

 

 

Our First Piano Graduation of the School Year

Yesterday I had my first student of this school year to graduate from her piano level. She just completed Faber’s My First Piano Adventures Level A! To celebrate the momentous occasion I taped the FINISH LINE pictured above from the piano to the wall. When she finished the last piece and a set of review questions, the student got to run across the finish line!   Of course that was very exciting for her and I must admit it was for me too! Now to really make sure that she understood just how big of an accomplishment completing her piano level was, I presented her with some gifts as well. She received a My First Piano Adventures Level A Christmas Book, A gift wrapped Wind Chime, and a bag of goodies! To top it all off and to create excitement among my other students and parents, I will be sending out a group e-mail to share the news with everyone. How do you celebrate piano graduations in your studio? I’d love to hear about it, so leave a comment if you’d like!

Get Parents Geared Up For A New Piano Season!

 

With the start of a new school year we usually focus on getting students geared up for a new piano season, but have you ever considered having a special kick off event just for parents? Part of my teaching philosophy is that the music studio should be a community of families who are committed to arts education. So, this year in addition to our normal events that involve students and their families I decided to have a Piano Parent Mtg. the week before lessons began.

This gave new and returning parents an opportunity to meet each other, ask questions, and share piano stories. I had a chance to give out helpful information for the year concerning upcoming event dates, fees, curriculum and all the things that we’d be doing in the studio this year.

We even had a chance to do some role plays about practicing at home. The parents seemed to really enjoy getting different ideas on how to handle practice issues at home.

And what would an event be without food? So of course we had refreshments. We even had door prizes for some products that were donated by local merchants as well as a drawing for FREE registration.

The evening went very well, and so far I’ve heard from more than one parent that their child was a little upset about not being invited to the meeting! What can I say, us parents deserve a little time with our friends too, right? Next year I’m going to call a Piano Parent Gathering instead of meeting.

How do you get parents geared up for the start of the new school year? I’d love to hear about it!

 

Summer Piano Shorts: Octaves

Here’s another quick and fun piano exercise piano students can learn on their own! This activity shows how octaves in the left hand can be used to make their songs sound better. Try it out! Print a copy of it here. Come back next Monday for another Summer Piano Short!

Summer Piano Shorts: Arpeggios Make Great Intros

This is the first in a series of what I call Summer Piano Shorts. These are  just quick piano experiments for my piano students who are taking the summer off from lessons. You can download a copy of this worksheet to use at home or with a student. They will be able to play a nice intro for songs using arpeggios. Look for a Summer Piano Short every Monday!