My favorite first lesson, and a sweet flannel board staff tutorial

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My four-year-old son has recently been very interested in my piano lessons. He will quietly wander into the room while I am teaching and say that he just wants to watch. He has actually had quite a bit of music instruction over the past year and a half, as he has attended all of my preschool piano classes and has been sort of my "guinea pig" while coming up with fun music games. But my husband and I have never pushed him to learn, we want him to want to on his own!

In the past when I have mentioned to him that if he wants to learn I can teach him, he has said, "but I already know how to play the piano!"

So last week I mentioned to him that whenever he wants to learn to play the piano I would be happy to teach him, and to just let me know when he wants to have lessons. He thought for a second, and then said, "how about tomorrow?"

Music to my ears!

We had his first lesson last week and it was a success. We are keeping it very low-key and not requiring a lot, as far as practicing goes - at his age I do not want to force him to practice. I want this to be a fun, positive experience to give him a great introduction to music - and we'll see where it leads!

We traced his hands and wrote in the finger numbers (which he already knew from our piano class) and played some finger number games. We used drips and rainbows to make a song with short and long notes (thanks to Anne Crosby Gaudet and her excellent blog post and Music Discoveries workbook) and then clapped the rhythm and played it on the piano. We then learned a short song in his Celebrate Piano!book and then he got a turn playing the MiDisaurusgame on my studio computer.

Here is my buddy boy at his first lesson!

Now I'd like to share with you my FAVORITE teaching aid from the past few months - my flannel board staff! I had the idea for this baby after getting a new sewing machine. Ok, so that's not entirely true - I was wanting to make some kind of music staff for teaching, and had a few ideas, but then my HUSBAND actually had the idea to sew the lines on! What a guy.

This has proven to be such a helpful teaching aid. I have used it in many preschool piano classes, as well as in numerous private lessons. It's been a wonderful way to get students off the bench and thinking about music theory in a fun and hands-on way.

So you want to make one? Simple.

Take a big piece of cardboard. I cut mine from a big cardboard box. Mine is about 24" by 32".

Get a piece of white flannel large enough to cover the cardboard and wrap around to the back (so you'll want it a bit bigger than your cardboard).

Measure off and mark where you want your lines to be. Mine are 1 1/2 inches apart, with about 4 1/2 inches between the two staves. I used a washable marker to mark a few dots where the lines should be, and then was able to wash it out after sewing the lines.

Load some black thread onto your sewing machine and then sew a wide and short zigzag stitch (hope that makes sense...I'm not up on my sewing terminology!) for each staff line.

Once all of the lines are done, carefully line the fabric up with the cardboard so the lines are straight. Fold it over the cardboard (sort of like wrapping a present) and slap some duct tape on the back to hold it in place.

Voila! You've got yourself a flannel board staff. 

You can then use felt or flannel to make all sorts of notes and clefs and things to put on your staff to use in teaching. Maybe sometime I'll share more of the ways I have used mine.

Have fun!

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