Monday, August 31, 2009

Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes

This song is excellent for reinforcing the concept of a steady beat because the key words/actions always fall on the beat. If you have a keyboard with a metronome function or a metronome try having your child match the beat of the metronome - start very slow (40 beats per minute) and work up to 200.

Song: On the Bench Sit Straight and Tall

Sing this to the Tune of London Bridges to help remind students of correct piano posture.
"At the piano sit straight and tall,
Touch the fallboard, don't lean at all (reach out and let knuckles touch fallboard)
Pretend your hand is on a ball
Don't droop your wrist at all.

Piano Pokey

I made a giant keyboard by drawing piano keys on an old sheet (a vinyl tablecloth would work even better). We do the hokey pokey with a little piano twist. It seems to take little kids a while to figure out the difference between left and right. Each time I have them hold out their hands flat and look for the capital L in the left hand before we start.
"You put your right up high, (pretend to play piano w/ right hand on the right side of the keyboard)
You put your left down low (play piano w/ left hand on left side of keyboard)
You put your right up high, and you play it all around (wiggle fingers like your playing the keys)
You do the piano pokey and you turn yourself around (normal hokey pokey actions)
That's what its all about."
(Repeat using feet)

I Caught a Fish Alive

I adapted this traditional song to meet my piano teaching purposes. There are two variations. With young children it is beneficial to start with large motor (that use big muscles like legs & trunk) activities and then work gradually towards the fine motor (that use small muscles like hand and fingers) skills required for playing the piano when the child masters the skill.
Large Motor Skill
Make a giant staff (5 parallel lines) on the floor using yarn,masking tape or an old sheet or tablecloth written on with marker. Have the child place circles (notes) starting on the bottom line and going up the staff 5 notes (line, space, line, space, line) and then back down (a five finger scale) so it looks like a mountain. Then sing this song while holding a toy fish marching up and down the mountain.

1,2,3,4,5 (Walk up the notes)
I Caught a Fish Alive (Walk down the notes starting w/"a fish alive")
6, 7,8,9,10 ((Walk up the notes)
I let him go again (Drop the fish)
Why did I let him go? (Tap sway or march in place to the beat for the rest of the song)
Because he bit my finger so.
Which finger did he bite?
My (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th) finger on the (right/left). (Wiggle the correct finger on your right or left hand).

This introduces in a subtle way the idea of line notes, space notes, steps on the staff, high & low notes finger #s, feeling the beat, and left & right. I might even let the children choose a cute rhythm fish card with basic notes and rests on it from www.susanparadis.com website and name them Mr. Half Note, or Miss Quarter Rest, etc.

Small Motor Skill
Once this is easy for the child, we'll switch to moving the fish in the air with our arms like it is climbing up and down the stairs. Next we'll go to the piano and play the first part of the song on the C scale using the 3rd finger supported by the thumb like in the My First Piano Adventures Tigers At My Door Song - (Select the Song & Watch Nancy to Learn How).

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fruit by the Foot Half Notes

After observing my son's kindergarten teacher I've seen how you can make any moment a learning moment. So in preschool even snack time will be packed full of learning adventures. Today Dan and I made half notes & numbers out of fruit by the foot. Even after the fruit was gone the paper wrapper was still fun to form into shapes with. Who says you can't play with your food?
Pretzels, mini oreos, cheerios and fruit loops can be great to build notes with too.
I made some snack placemats with a staff on one side and a keyboard on the other. I'm going to have the students line up their "Snack Notes" on their staff placemats and then practice clapping the rhythms once they are more familiar with the note values.

Steady Beat Elephants

One of the fundamental skills for success playing any musical instrument is to "feel the beat". Every day we will start preschool with some "feeling the beat" activities. Hear are just a few ideas to try at home.
Listen to "Friends at the Piano" (on the Faber My First Piano Adventures Lesson Book CD). Tap the beat on your lap or clap. Then vary the motions by tapping lap & clapping. Or for even more fun make animal motions to the beat - clap like a seal, make your arms into a trunk and sway like an elephant, peck your head like a woodpecker, etc.

Sing Head, Shoulders Knees and Toes to the Beat of the Metronome. We started really slow w/ metronome at 40 and worked up to 200 beats per minute. Make sure you listen for the speed of the metronome before you begin. For a challenge try it with your eyes closed.

Piano Adventure Preschool

I am so excited to start teaching piano preschool next week. Once a week for an hour Dan, Emily and 3 of their friends will get together in a preschool setting to learn piano concepts. Today I did a practice run with just Dan & Emily. It was a lot of fun!