Friday, September 15, 2017

Piano Safari and Teaching Rhythm: Sound before Symbol Makes Sense


I love using the Piano Safari rote pieces with my students!  They enjoy being able to play cool sounding songs from the beginning, and it allows them to really focus in on proper technique from the start. This video posted by Julie Knerr, one of the authors of Piano Safari, is a perfect example of how engaging playful activities in lessons delight students as the time just whizzes by. The order she introduces concepts in is very intuitive.

Sounds before Symbols:
Introducing rote pieces first really encourages students
to pay attention to the sound of the music in addition to applying proper techniques. I like how Dr. Knerr intentionally introduces the sounds of rhythm patterns on the drum first that will later be used in rote pieces.  The natural sequence of language development applies to our musical language development too. Children learn to speak as they imitate sounds and it is much later that symbols are associated with the sounds when they learn to read.
One week after teaching Charlie Chipmunk (Piano Safari Rote Pieces) and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (My First Piano Adventures Book A) to a student, I made the connection that both songs have the exact same rhythm pattern.  So for the followup lesson I pulled out my bed bug rhythm hotel and some silly putty for her to stretch the short and long rhythm patterns of the songs on the board before I introduced quarter and half notes.  Having a prior familiar sound experience to associate the visual sound patterns with helped my student to really internalize the concept. By using silly putty to represent the length to the sound, students can make the sound visual association that doesn't happen as easily with younger students if you just point to a picture of a quarter or half note and tell them how many beats it gets.

Reasoning behind the Fingering: I had previously wondered why the instruction and reminder videos just use the pointer finger (#2) instead of the entire rounded hand shape we are aiming for in piano, so I love how she noted that children must first focus on the arm motions and later move to the fine motor skills of the fingers. When my students easily pick up on the arm motions required I encourage them to use a "Nile the Crocodile" house perhaps with the thumb supporting the 3rd finger if needed.  But for those students who tend to have flyaway fingers or stiff pinky's the finger 2 approach seems like it would effectively help them to relax and focus on the arm motion without building tension in their hand.
Here's a link to another informative read on sound before symbol that I discovered today.
Sounds before symbol: lessons from history

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