3/29/12

New Printable: Piano Point Card




I hope you all are having a wonderful evening! I have another free printable for you tonight...something super simple that has been a big hit in my studio.

I have often used some kind of practice incentive in my studio, the most effective (and simple) being some type of card where students can keep track of points earned for various activities. I used to give out points for things such as: reaching a weekly practice goal, passing off a piece, coming to lessons prepared, performing a piece, etc. Most recently, I decided to try out a fabulous idea that I read on Laura's blog months ago.

Basically, I handed out a list of "Signs of a Good Student" at the beginning of the semester. I used many of Laura's same items, and added or adapted others. Each week, students start out the lesson by choosing a "mystery card," which has one of the signs of a good student on the back. During the lesson I watch to see if they did it, and if they did they get a point on their point card.

Students fill out the point card by placing a sticker on one of the keys. Once the keyboard is filled, they earn a prize. I have found this to be a great way to encourage good practice habits in my studio. I like that the card can take awhile to fill out (with students usually earning one point per week, and sometimes bonus points for various things), but also does not include too many spots for stickers that it is unattainable.

Download the point card here or on my "Printables & Downloads" page. Cut it in half and you've got two point cards. Enjoy!

What type of practice incentives do you use in your studio?

3/28/12

New Printable: Musical Easter Egg Hunt




Today I'd like to share a fun new printable! This "Musical Easter Egg Hunt" is the perfect springtime flashcard game for your elementary-level piano students. It's based off this version of the game that I threw together last year. I have just used it in private lessons with my young students, but it would also be great as a group activity. Hope you enjoy!

You may download the file here, or you can find it on the "Printables & Downloads" page.

3/27/12

Teaching Tip Tuesday: Ask Questions


Teaching Tip #6: Ask Questions!

A great way to teach is by asking questions. And by actually waiting for the student to come up with an answer! I think that so often we ask a question to a student who sits there timidly for a moment, and too soon we jump right in and tell them the answer. When a student knows you actually are waiting to hear their answer, they will become more accountable for their practicing and for their music knowledge.

I recently had a student play a piece that was very well-learned, and being so pleased with their hard work I asked them, "What are some ways you practiced this song that helped you to learn it so well?" Posing a question that makes them really ponder how the practicing process yields good results, while at the same time complimenting their hard work, can be so effective in reinforcing good practice habits.

3/20/12

Teaching Tip Tuesday: Kids LOVE Stickers.

Teaching Tip #5: Kids LOVE Stickers

At times when a little more motivation is needed but you don't want your students to only practice because they want to win a really cool prize, I have found that stickers work like a dream. They are inexpensive and with a large variety your student will never get tired of receiving them. Something about those cute little sticky circles have an almost magic effect on a young child - eyes light up and excitement mounts as they get to pick their own sticker (the ballerina and the pony go the fastest in my studio) and put it on the page in their spot of choice.

My young students get to put a sticker on the page of their piece when they pass it off. We pass off technique assignments with stickers. I use them to show on a picture of a keyboard which notes are needed in an arpeggio. Sometimes after a really good lesson a student gets to pick one to put on their shirt. You get the idea. We love stickers in my studio! Sometimes I even give them to teenagers or adults - because let's face it, old people love stickers too!

p.s. If you want some really cute music-related stickers, check out the Music for Little Mozarts sticker book, available on Amazon.com. They are super cute!

3/16/12

Creativity.

Something I am constantly reminded of as a mother and as a piano teacher of young children is just how creative children are! Their minds are learning and absorbing so much and there really is no limit to their imagination and creativity. I think that is a good and simple reminder for us as music teachers - keep it fun, keep it exciting, and encourage and praise creativity. See what they come up with. Encourage composition and improvisation. Get off of the piano bench. Enrich their lives with the wonder of music.

My four-year-old son drew this "song" for me the other day. I think he got the idea from this video we watched a couple of weeks ago that really made an impression on him. Note the raindrop notes, the apple notes and the walking houses and people (with musical notes for feet, of course). Oh and the crab in the middle is one of my favorite parts.


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3/13/12

Teaching Tip Tuesday: Communicate with the Parents

Teaching Tip #4: Communicate with the Parents

It is very important to communicate with the parents, especially when the student is very young. Often the parents know better than you the things the child is really struggling with in regards to lessons because they are with them at home every day during practice time!

They can help to tell you what parts of the lesson are hardest for the student, or what parts they are not enjoying (for example, one parent recently told me that their child hates practicing her scales and arpeggios - well I would have never known if she had not told me - now I can come up with ways to make it more fun and exciting!). Parental involvement with young students is so imperative that it is absolutely essential to have a good line of communication with the parent.

3/10/12

Weekend Repertoire: Barber Excursion No. 3


At my weekly library excursion last weekend (we call it "Wafflelibraryfriday" at our house - each Friday we try to cook waffles and visit the library - fun tradition!) I decided to pick up a few classical CD's to peruse. I am a lover of many types of music, but somehow I always come back to classical.

I picked up a CD of Barber's Excursions, and apparently I was not familiar with Excursion No. 3, because it was a new, beautiful discovery for me! The gorgeous harmonies and beautiful flowing melody drew me in, and then I was pleasantly surprised by the fun, syncopated rhythms. I think I may need to add this to my "Repertoire Wish List!" Take a listen!



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3/6/12

New Printable: Beginning Muscle Builders Booklet

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I am super excited about this new printable! Today I want to share with you my technique program for my young beginners.

One of the downfalls of many beginning method books is that students are often confined to learning only a few hand positions. They get really good at playing in C or G position, and then when trickier keys like E or B Major are introduced (finally), students are usually not as confident.

I like to get my beginning students playing in many different keys all over the keyboard as soon as possible. I want them to be familiar with how these different positions (which include sharps and flats) feel, and I want them to learn that just because there are flats or sharps, it doesn't mean it is hard.

I also want my students to learn chords as soon as possible and be confident spelling and playing many different chords - this is an awesome help in learning practically all of their pieces, and also lends to opportunities to teach harmonization and other creative keyboard skills.

This little booklet guides young students through learning all of the white-key major five-finger positions, including scales, arpeggios and chords.

Each key consists of the following:

  • a colorful "picture scale" to show which keys to play and the names of the notes
  • reminders on good piano technique
  • various hands-alone practice directions for five-finger scales
  • instructions on how to play arpeggios and chords, including technique tips & a fun way to remember the difference between arpeggios and chords (you wouldn't believe how many of my students mix the two up!)
  • a chord-spelling review to help students remember the notes in each chord





Each item has a little circle next to it that can either be filled in or checked off (or better yet, use a fun little sticker!) when the student has completed the assignment. I usually draw a circle around the printed circle of each assigned item for the week, and we pass it off with a sticker the following week.

The colorful circles on the picture scales are just the right size for a standard round sticker (these ones fit great and are super cute - a fun incentive for youngsters!) - and after the student has learned the scale, I love to put stickers on the three notes used in an arpeggio and chord. It is a great visual reminder!

I often add other assignments to the ones in the booklet, such as playing any of the scales or arpeggios in a technique you'd like to work on (staccato or legato, for example). I have also taught students about the damper pedal (by opening up the piano and showing them how it all works), and then we have fun playing our 4-octave arpeggios with the damper pedal for a fun and "fancy" sound. Some of my students tend to scoot on the bench a lot, so I also used this as a way to practice leaning to reach the high or low notes.

Another wonderful thing you can do once the student has learned a few of the keys is to have them practice some simple transposition. Take a song that can be played in a five-finger pattern from their method book (for instance, one that is written in C position) and have them transpose to any other key that they have learned! A great song for this is "Ode to Joy," by the way!

I have been so pleased with the progress of my young students as they have worked their way through this booklet and learned so many different scales and chords. I hope you can get some good use out of it in your studio as well!

I like to print this in booklet format, which you will have to choose in the "Print" settings. Be sure to select the double-sided booklet option - then all you need to do is fold it all in half for a fun little technique booklet. You may download the booklet here, and you can also find it on my "Printables & Downloads" page. Enjoy!

Find Muscle Builder Book Level 2 here, and Muscle Builder Book Level 3 here!


Teaching Tip Tuesday: Recognizing Sharp Signs

Teaching Tip #3: Recognizing Sharp Signs

Well I warned you that some of these tips would be random. And quite simple. When teaching young students about sharps and flats, a great way to teach them to recognize a sharp sign is that it looks like a tic-tac-toe game. There you have it. Happy Tuesday to all!

3/5/12

New Printable: Student Notes & Records

Let's just get this out in the open: I am not a very organized person!

I have never been good at keeping track of student records. I have realized that I am very right-brained, and anyone who knows me well knows that organization (not to mention laundry...) is not one of my strong points! (Who's with me?)

But when you run a piano studio, it's not all about the music and the creative aspects of the piano...(darn)...you also actually need to run a business and keep track of things. Today I want to share my system I have finally come up with that works so well for me. Not only does this help me keep track of when students pay me and such, but has turned into a super simple and effective way to lesson plan!

I have learned that by doing at least a small amount of lesson planning for each lesson, lessons go smoother and are more effective, I stay more organized and on top of what my students are learning and what they need to learn next, and I save lots of time trying to remember what happened at a student's previous lesson.

Here's what I do:

I have a spreadsheet for my studio with a page for each student. I keep mine on the computer in Excel, but you could just as easily print it out and keep it in a binder (in fact I have included a free printable for you to use! You're welcome.)

On this spreadsheet I keep track of:

  • Student name
  • Lesson day/time
  • How many lessons they have had so far during the semester
  • Which lessons they attended, or the dates of missed or cancelled lessons
  • Tuition paid (how much, when and which lessons they have paid for)
  • Lesson notes (this is my super simple lesson planning method. Each day after a student leaves or after I am done teaching for the evening, I sit down at the computer for about ten minutes and jot down notes from the lesson - what we went over, how they did on their practicing, things they struggled with, things they excelled at, things I want to remember, etc. This only takes a few minutes but is such an easy thing to refer back to the next week before they come to lessons again.)
  • Materials needed (Here I keep track of materials they need soon - new books, flashcards, etc. I also jot down things I want to print out for them or teaching materials needed the next week. I can glance quickly at this column and see what I need to prepare or order for each student for their next lesson.)
Here is an example of things I write on my student records sheet. I usually highlight the weeks they have already paid for. If I make a cancellation, or if they don't show up to lessons, I note it in the Attended Lesson column so I know if I need to make up any lessons (when I cancelled) or if they forfeited one of their lessons for the semester (by being a no-show).




So here you go...a free printable for use in your studio if you, like me, have been on the search for a quick and easy way to keep track of things and to plan for lessons. You can also find this on the Printables & Downloads page.

Student Notes and Records

How do you lesson plan in your studio? How do you keep track of student records?

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