With a creative mindset, The Dollar Tree can be a piano teacher’s greatest resource! Here is my latest find and how you can use it to make your piano teaching life easier – and more fun!
With 5 minutes and a sharpie, you can transform this simple wooden puzzle into a visual tool for:
1. Teaching Whole Note, Half Note and Quarter Note recognition and their matching rests.
2. Help students understand the concept of REST in music by asking – What side of the house is quite?
3. Help students understand the concept of Symbols representing sound in music by asking – What side of the house do you think is noisy?
4. Reinforce the concepts above by sending an unopened puzzle home with your student (You can afford it – remember it only costs $1). Have your student draw the symbols on the puzzle and take a picture of it at home to show you their creation at the next lesson.
Bonus: Use the back of the puzzle to write steps 1-4 down (with a sharpie) to help you remember for the next time you use this!
Here is what your final creation will look like –
I found a few other cool things at my last trip to The Dollar Tree which I’ll be sharing in my next post! In the meantime, what everyday things have you transformed into piano teaching tools? Share in a comment below to help other teachers make piano lessons fun!
As the awesome piano teacher you no doubt are, you want your first piano lessons of the new school year to be spectacular! So, allow me to suggest an idea from www.teachpianotoday.com. I call it “Light Up The Keys”. All you need is some glow sticks (purchase at the dollar store) and a concept or song to review. To review 5 finger patterns, I had my student turn off the studio lights and place glow sticks on the notes for the patterned I called out. I called out 5 different patterns, and she was able to win a glow stick for each pattern that she correctly placed.
We had so much fun that we decided to use the idea with a song. We decided to have Christmas in August and play the beginning of Jingle Bells. See how it went below for this 4-year-old.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you might already know that I love doing recording projects with my piano students every year. For the past several years we have done CD’s. The first year we did a studio wide compilation CD then we moved to making individual CD’s for each child. The CD’s were a hit with parents and kids, but this year I decided to try something a little different. This year we recorded and placed the recordings inside stuffed animals at Build A Bear Workshop! Every time they squeeze their stuffed animal they get to hear themselves playing the piano!
How cool is that? Way cool! Even the staff at Build A Bear was impressed with these kids!
Who says private lessons have to be lonely lessons? With YouTube and a little creativity, the private lesson can become a great social experience for young students. When students are working on a common goal like learning scales or a certain number of songs each month, etc., they can record quick update/challenge videos to their piano friends. I’ve been doing this with my younger students the past few weeks, and they are getting a kick out of it! They look forward to watching the messages they received from other students and then recording a new message at the end of their lesson. As you can see from the video, the students have really picked up speed in learning their scales for the scales challenge.
How do you use video in your studio? Share your ideas in a comment below!
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?
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!
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!