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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Celebrating Musical Milestones

Achievements are a big deal for children, and its fun to celebrate their successes along the way.  When students complete a lesson book level we celebrate with a "party" and mini-recital.  After finishing the last song in a book, they choose a few of their favorite previously learned songs review for their practice assignment and then do a mini performance for me at their lesson.  We spend the rest of the time playing games and top it off with a little treat.
And milestones like perfectly clapping and counting festival rhythms deserve recognition too!
I like how several of the apps and games used during piano lab also have built in reinforcement as they earn a new title by leveling up on Piano Maestro, become a "Rhythm Boss" on Rhythm Swing, or receive a standing ovation on Music Ace when they beat their own High score on a game.

Music Staff Monkeys

For young children, I find that concepts are more memorable when formulated into a fun game.  I incorporate games into nearly every lesson that relate specifically to concepts in their pieces.  For example  I improvised a quick game as a fun lesson starter for my 5 year old piano student who is using the My First Piano Adventures Books.  Since she's already adept at remembering the music alphabet and letter names, I upped the challenge by making a connection with the grand staff.  I had my giant staff set up on the floor when she arrived.  After she "found" the bass clef buttons that had popped off onto the wrong place on the staff and placed them above and below the Bass F line, I introduced the concept of letters on the staff by singing and pointing to the music alphabet lined up on the bottom of the bass clef starting with bass A.  The bottom line is the "Ground" (G) and then the letters step up in order (space-line-space-line-space-line, etc.).

Staff Monkey Game
1. Scramble 3 sets of monkey alphabet cards face down.
2. Take turns picking monkey card "ABCs" to place on the correct line or space by singing up the music alphabet as you point to space-line-space-line on the staff.
3.  The first player to get the all of their monkeys in a column on the staff wins.
Time flies when your having fun!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Powerful Playful Piano Practice Kits


Inspired by this Colourful keys blog post on practice kits I compiled practice kits with a few modifications as a gift for my piano students and it has definitely made practicing sessions with my own children more fun.  The mood cards were definitely a big hit and I love how some students are eager to repeat their songs multiple times in lessons so they can experiment with different moods.
Contents of Practice Pouch
Zootopia Cards (Dollar Tree)
Post-it Notes
Dice
Mood Cards
Candy Pieces
Dry Erase Marker/Eraser
Score Card


As this Ted-ed video suggests, the most effective practice begins with slow repetitions with focused precision to accuracy.  As students practice multiple repetitions while gradually increasing speed the music solidifies under their fingertips.  I was especially inspired by the results of mental practice experiment that suggests the power that practice away from the piano can have.

The various games suggested like "Beat the Dealer" and "Three in A Row" motivate students to really focus on the task at hand while encouraging slow precise practice rather than inefficiently just plodding sloppily over and over through a piece they are trying to learn.