Lines & Spaces and Steps & Skips

I love it when last-minute ideas turn out to be the funnest activities for students! To teach about lines and spaces and steps and skips, I got out the ol' trusty masking tape and slapped it on the rug to make a quick musical staff. I cut out notes out of sheets of craft foam (LOVE that stuff!) and voila - a fun musical staff game!

Here is my giant musical staff. Please excuse the graininess/yellowness of the photo, and the fact that I can't seem to get it to rotate!

I used this fun game for preschoolers. We had already introduced the staff, and how notes can be high or low. We first practiced walking up the staff in steps - line, space, line, space, line space (this was fun to tip-toe!) - and in skips - line, line, line or space, space, space (hopping works well)! We also played each on the piano - steps by playing every single note going up or down, and skips by playing every other note. We then practiced putting notes on the staff in steps or skips. The kids loved walking on their notes after they placed them on the staff, as I played the steps or skips on the piano. We then played a game where I would hand them a note and call out "step!" or "skip!" and they would have to place the next note on the correct line or space. It was fun with two kids at a time - they started on a note at the bottom of the staff, and I would hand each a note and call out "step" or "skip" and they would use their notes to try and get across the staff (wouldn't it be fun to pretend the staff was a river to cross?).

As I was playing this game with a student who loves to get stickers as rewards, I had a sudden stroke of genius as I drew a staff on her assignment sheet and had her put her little circle stickers on the staff on lines or spaces, as if they were musical notes. So fun!


Themed Classical Music for Kids

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In brainstorming for some upcoming preschool piano camps, I started thinking about fun classical pieces to share with young children. What fun it would be to have a theme for a piano camp, and to use classical works related to that theme to teach the children. Here are some that I came up with - I know there are so many more!! In fact, here is a great website with an even better list with more themes, including themes such as Fairy Tales, Transportation and Halloween, and lists of pieces that are Fast or Slow.

Clouds by Griffes
Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven
Clair de Lune by Debussy
Morning Mood from Peer Gynt Suite by Grieg
In the Mist by Janacek
Jardins sous la pluie (Gardens in the Rain) by Debussy
To Spring by Grieg
Rustles of Spring by Sinding
Prelude Op. 28 No. 15 (Raindrop Prelude) by Chopin
see a more extensive list of pieces about weather & seasons here

The Night Sky
The Planets by Holst
Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven
Clair de Lune by Debussy
Variations on Twinkle Twinkle (Ah, vous dirai-je, maman) by Mozart

Jardins sous la pluie (Gardens in the Rain) by Debussy
Jeux d'Eau (Water Games or Fountains) by Ravel
Reflets dans l'eau (Reflections on the Water) by Debussy
The Moldau by Smetana (love this piece!!)
La Mer by Decaux (so fun to find this youtube video - I played this piece for my senior recital and it is hard to find!)

The Cat and the Mouse by Copland
Carnival of the Animals by Saint Saens (with movements about many different animals, such as: Royal March of the Lion, Hens and Roosters, Tortoises, The Elephant, Kangaroos, Aquarium, Characters with Long Ears, Aviary, The Swan)

Grasshoppers and Dragonflies from Cinderella, Op. 95 by Prokofiev
Flight of the Bumblebee by Rimsky-Korsakov
Papillons (Butterflies) by Schumann

Excursion No. 4 by Barber
The Happy Farmer by Schumann
I Bought Me a Cat by Copland (after I watched this video my 3-year-old started singing the song - he LOVED it!)

What pieces would you add to the list? What themes would you add?

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Introducing Curved Fingers to Young Children

At our preschool piano camp we wanted to teach the kids about curved fingers - but how can you make that a fun and understandable concept for 3- and 4-year-olds? I decided to take my usual bird's nest analogy and add in a fun little visual to help them understand the concept. I found the idea for these cute little fuzzy birds on this blog (which actually is written by a fellow-piano major of mine from BYU) and decided they would be perfect  for teaching about curved fingers!

The kids LOVED holding their little birds (which are made with the really BIG pom poms, so they fit perfectly in a little hand) in their curved-finger birds nest. They could easily see that if they flattened their fingers, their poor little bird would fall right out of the nest! We had a lot of fun with these little birds.

In what ways have you taught important piano concepts to young children in fun and creative ways?


Giant floor piano!

One of the highlights of our preschool piano camp was the giant keyboard we used to learn some music theory and keyboard topography. I had seen some wonderful ideas on other blogs using big floor pianos, and decided that we needed one! We ended up having one made as a vinyl banner (because I wanted it to look nice and professional and to last awhile), and it turned out awesome! The kids absolutely loved running and jumping on it and learning things using this huge piano!

A few things we used it for:

  • Learning HIGH and LOW on the piano - we did a BIG version of my high/low game where we picked a picture of something and the kids had to decide if it was something high or low, and then run to that end of the keyboard. They had fun jumping down the keyboard to represent raindrops, stepping up and running back down to represent a slide, etc.
  • Learning about the 2 black keys and 3 black keys, and we taught them a little song by rote using the 3 black keys, and they loved walking on the keys and hopping up to the next set of 3 black keys while singing the song!
  • Learning all of the white key names! My friend made the cutest beanbags and we ironed on pictures of Doggie D, Grandma G, etc. so the kids could practice putting them on the correct keys. The kids were so smart and learned them all so quickly!


Preschool Piano Camp

Well hello - I am alive and well and am finally jumping back into the blogging world! Last week a piano-teaching colleague and I taught our first ever preschool piano camp. We had so much fun and it was an overall success! Over the next little while I would like to share with you some of the fun games and activities we used to teach these great kids. First, a few things that I learned (or things that I already knew but that got reinforced during this week):
  • Preschool-aged children LOVE music - to them it is a magical, wonderful thing. If taught creatively using a fun, hands-on approach, you will be amazed at how smart they are and how much they can really learn at such a young age!
  • Young children can pick up on musical concepts before needing the full-out explanation. For example, they can learn to clap eighth and sixteenth notes without necessarily knowing that a sixteenth note gets 1/4 of a count!
  • Get out a bunch of fun instruments and a young child will stay busy for a long time - children love exploring different sounds on drums, rhythm instruments, bells, the piano, etc.
  • Never take a late flight (especially when you are pregnant and traveling with a 3-year-old) arriving home at 1:00 am on the day that you lose an hour through daylight savings time, the night before you teach a 9:00 piano camp. :)

In planning our curriculum for our camp, my friend and I drew our inspiration from many sources - including some great method books for young beginners, ideas from fellow-bloggers and our own personal teaching experience. Here are some wonderful books that I would highly recommend for young students:

Music for Little Mozarts: Lesson Book 1Music for Little Mozarts - I LOVE the story format of this book and the way that the characters of Beethoven Bear and Mozart Mouse are used. We found that the children at our camp LOVED anything in a story format, and that they learned concepts so well when taught this way.

Lesson and Musicianship 1B: A Comprehensive Piano Method (Celebrate Piano!®)Celebrate Piano - This is a wonderful method book for children. I love that it gets them playing in many different keys/hand positions right from the get-go, and it also emphasizes things like transposition a lot. There are some cute pre-reading songs in this book that we used.

My First Piano Adventure, Lesson Book A with CD (Faber Piano Adventures®)My First Piano Adventures - I recently purchased this book and I love, love, LOVE it! One of its major strengths is that it teaches good, solid piano technique in really fun and creative ways.

Stay tuned for some fun preschool piano activities!

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