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Helping Students Become Good Sight-Readers: Part 2

Helping student’s become good sight-readers part two: working with the tech savy and auditory learners.

Do you have those students who memorize their pieces in one week and have an incredible “ear” for picking out tunes they hear? Often these students play beautifully, sometimes they even seem to progress faster than other students their age. A casual passerby might think that this is a model student or that the student must be so talented everything comes easily to them. In many ways, this student is easy to teach, that is until sight reading is introduced. As soon as you give this student something to sight-read the circumstances dramatically change. Perhaps this student’s reading skills are passable enough to read new music given them as a learning piece to be worked on for a few weeks, but as soon as this student is given something to sight-read they balk and at very best only haltingly play through the song. So what is a teacher to do with a student who is bored by sight-reading books and drags their feet at any mention of sight-reading.

Sight reading part 2

This past year I started using an ipad in lessons. Originally I had the ipad for personal use but after hearing everyone rave about how much their students loved the ipad I decided to give it a try in lessons. The results? My students absolutely love it! Though quality instruction and feed back can never adequately be replaced by technology; technology can be utilized to a teacher’s advantage. Though there are not apps for every skill a students must learn at the piano, a few high quality apps are worthwhile. Some of my favorite apps to use are sight-reading directed. I seem to always have a small number of students who are auditory learners and either find sight-reading a challenge, or are completely uninterested, and avoid these types of assignments at all cost. The ipad will not work miracles but with the added technology feature these students are much more willing to sight-read their music. Students love the feedback from the ipad.

One of the apps my auditory student’s love most is pianomania. Because students play to a background track auditory students are receiving the auditory stimulation that often times make music so appealing to these kids. But the part they are playing is not predictable enough for them to simply learn by ear. There is music to appeal to all kinds of preferences pop, classical, folk song tunes, and much more.

Another app my students enjoy and often purchase for home use is my note games. It often moves at a slower pace and is affordable for students to use at home.

There are several other apps for sight-reading, and many for rhythm, theory and much more but these are the ones I use most often. If you have an ipad or other tablet I would love to hear what your favorite apps are in the comments below.


Helping Students Become good Sight-Readers: Part One

Most teachers have students who struggle with sight-reading. Sometimes these are transfer students who have developed crutches that eventually limit them in their progress. Or perhaps these students are ones who just don’t seem to “get it” quite as fast as other students. Perhaps some of these students have a learning disability and simply need concepts explained in a different format.  But often times these students excel in some area of lessons but for some unexplained reason struggle with sight reading. There are a myriad of reasons why these students struggle and drag their feet at any mention of sight-reading, but over the next several weeks I will be exploring several ideas teachers can use to strengthen students sight-reading skills and even bring fun to sight-reading.

Sight reading part 1

There are many methods to teaching students note names. Some of the most popular methods include mnemonics such as FACE or Good Birds Don’t Fly Away, guide notes, intervallic reading, and drilling flash cards. Though each method has its staunch supporters, the most important skill of note reading and building good sight-readers has another component that cannot be forgotten. Student’s must be able to play the specific note on the piano. Knowing a note is a C is valuable but I have often seen transfer students try to guess which C it is on the piano, or maybe students find the right one but then they look at me with an inquisitive glance full of uncertainty.

I am sure that all teachers want their students to know how to not only read music but also do so with confidence.  Therefore it is imperative that students not only name the notes on the staff but also know where that specific G is on the piano. This need not be a boring task but can be fun.

Here are five short game ideas you can use to increase your students sight reading skills:

  1. Help students understand and then memorize where all the C’s are on the staff and piano. Student’s should then be asking themselves what C (or 8va) the note is closes to and then find it on the piano.
  2. Hide flash cards around the room and as they find the correct one have them play it on the piano.
  3. Switch Rolls. You become the student. As you play a set of flash card see if the student can catch any of your mistakes. This is as easy game to keep score with; if you get it right you get a point but if you get it wrong and the student catches you and correctly plays the note they get a point.
  4. Get out a white board take turns drawing notes and playing the corresponding one on the piano.
  5. Get a large floor staff and stack of alphabet cards. As the student draws a card the then place a “note” on the correct line or space. (I made notes out of black felt and drew a floor staff out of foam core board from the craft store. This works great for me because it is not too large for my small space and is durable. There are endless ideas for creating a floor staff. If you don’t have a floor staff yet, you should get one soon; the options for use are endless and they are a valuable tool for kinesthetic learners.


Stay tuned for part two, about helping Auditory learners with sight-reading.

Theory Games for Christmas part 3

Snowmen Cap Match Up is a great game to practice treble clef notes from Middle C to G and is an easy game even beginners can play.

Print and cut out the needed resources. Place the cut out caps for the snowmen in a pile. Players take turns drawing caps and matching them to the correct snowman on their board. The first player to place the correct cap on all their snowmen wins.

You can download the game here.


treble cleff c to G snowmen

Theory Games for Christmas part 2

This is a plain board game that can be used in many different ways. Choose your own set of flashcard, find some playing pieces and have a blast.

You can Download the game here.


Gingerbread house game board

A new game for teaching Treble Clef Notes

This weeks game give students practice naming treble clef note from middle C to the low G. Students match the correct bird to the birdhouse. The first student to make all their matches first wins. The game intentionally includes and bird with the letters A and B even though those are not not names they are practicing. I like to include these unnecessary letters so that students are required to think more. I tell them they are trick “questions”. I hope your students enjoy the game. It takes 5 minutes or less to play so it as easy activity to add at the end of lessons.  You can download the game for free here.

I would love to hear if you are finding the weekly game posts helpful. Are there any games on specific topics you would like to see? Leave a comment on what your looking for and I can post a game in the coming weeks.


Treble Clef Bird Match-up