Our Pre-Primer (and some of our Primer), (and actually some of our Level 1) students consistently check their fingers before playing each key. Rather than focusing on the sheet music, they look down at the piano keys every few notes, resulting in numerous pauses in each line of music.
We put together this Finger Power activity to encourage our young students to keep their eyes on the sheet music as much as possible.
We also use this activity to strengthen understanding of stepping up/stepping down. Getting the firework display reward keeps the students super focused on playing the 8 notes without looking down at their hands.
We have had a few tears from the youngest student who didn't get through all 8 notes. Sometimes it seems a little harsh for their turn to be over if they look at their fingers at any point, but it has been so effective. After having their turn terminated a couple of times, students are super focused and disciplined enough not to look at their hands. It has been really rewarding watching them all grow stronger in this area of trusting their fingers to find the keys on their own.
The trick is to repeat this activity for several weeks - even when it's easy for the students. It's important to remind them to carry these skills from the activity to their actual music books.
We created the Talking Wheels activity to give our students a chance to socialize in our online group lessons. We select a subject from the Talking Wheels menu: - All About You * All About School * All About Piano * All About Today * All About Christmas
Then we spin that subject’s wheel to decide what we are going to talk about. I usually go first, and share something funny or exciting which motivates the students to share their answers/thoughts on the topic. This week, we will be spinning the “All About Christmas” wheel so everyone can share about the Christmas break.
This works really well - especially with our elementary school students who love to share about pretty much anything - especially if they haven’t practiced that week 😁. (Sometimes it works too well, and we have to be careful that the activity doesn’t take up too much time of the 40-minute lesson!) We find it’s important to encourage social interactions to build friendships and help the students to feel comfortable with each other.
I thought all our primer students fully understood how the music alphabet worked. And then, after months of lessons, one student asked me "When are we going to get to the Z note?"
So now, we use this PowerPoint activity to rehearse music alphabet every week 😊.
And any students who are struggling get to use the flashcards to practice at home with mom and dad!
Some of our students are really struggling with the landmark notes, and often mix up treble G with bass F. I put together a PowerPoint to help them. We are testing it out over the next couple weeks to see if it helps.
This short PowerPoint, has 3 sections:
- a brief introduction to Landmark notes
- lots of quiz slides on identifying bass F and treble G
- several 2-bar phrases for them to play using bass F, treble G and middle C. Finger number animations help the students to place their hands at the correct place on the keyboard.
Usually, having the most points at the end of the lesson, is enough of a reward, but last week I gave boxes of Skittles to the winner. That brought big smiles to several faces.
Find it at www.wheelOfNames.com
These cards are great for reminding students of the names of the staff notes. Print the small ones double side so your students can have a single card with all 4 phrases on them.
Also included on the PDF are 2 blank staves that can be used for lots of different games. We used them for spelling games - students spelled words out on them using pebbles or small erasers. Just click the images below to download!
This year, we are not running the "Fantastic 30" challenge for the students to learn 30 pieces before the end of the school year. Instead, our theme is review, review, review.
As we try to produce strong musicians with solid understanding of music theory, we have set review targets for the students.
This month, we are giving away the Music Makers Review Activities that we use with our "Music For Little Mozarts" students. Join the Piano-Together Club and you'll get them in your mailbox in March.
One of the PDFs we are using a lot is Five Star Rhythm Exercises. Some students are great at counting "one-two" for a half note/minim, and "one-two-three-four" for a whole note/semibreve, but sometimes the speed of the "one-two" is slower than the speed of the "one-two-three-four." I mean, not much is happening in the whole note, so why not get it over with quickly and move onto the "real music" LOL!
We are still working out online versions of our board games, but we easily adapted several card games, and added some new games too. For example:
PASS OR PLAY
Select a section of music for students to sight read or tap the rhythm. Student A can choose to “play” for 2 points, or “pass” it to Student B. If Student B does it correctly, he scores 3 points. If he fails to do it correctly, Student A scores 1 point.
NOTHING TO TELL
A score study game. Good to play at the start of a new piece.
Ask the students to take turns telling you something about the music until they have pointed out everything there is to say about it. The last person to tell you something about the music is the winner.
Give the student a starting note. Call out a series of 4 or 5 intervals. The student should tell you which key you will end on by following those intervals. For example:
Students score a point for each one they answer correctly.
Print the list of 10 games here with instructions for adapting the games to groups or one-to-one lessons.
1) Finish the lesson with Sight Reading
There are lots of Sight Reading books out there. Sight Reading pieces are short so you can do as many or as few as you like - right up to the end of the lesson without running over. Check out these sight reading cards for Pre-Primer/Primer students
Primer Sight Reader cards
Pre-Primer Sight Reading Cards
2) Finish the lesson with a theory game
Some theory games take longer than others. Select a theory game that will take a little less than the remaining lesson time (you need to leave a minute or two to celebrate the winner and talk about what they learned through the game).
3) Finish the lesson with a group piece already completed - a mini concert
It's good to learn new music - after all, that's why the students come to us, but it's really nice for the them to play something they already know, just to enjoy the music and the experience. Group pieces played well are particularly satisfying.
4) Finish the lesson with a chat
One time, one of my student forgot his music book at home. While I was searching my library to see if I had another copy for him to use, he said "Miss Julia, shall we just sit and talk instead? Can I share something with the class?"
I told him that his mom wasn't paying for him to come and talk, but I did allow him to share what turned out to be a rather long story about his iPad, while I looked for a book for him.
Though I had to cut his story short (I didn't want the lesson to become a group discussion on iPad games), it reminded me of the importance of getting to know the students. Not just talking "piano" in the lesson, but allowing time to find out about them - what they like, what they dislike, their hobbies, their favorites etc. These brief chats help the students and the teachers to get to know each other.