Make Learning Challenging Rhythms So Fun That Sudents Will Beg to Practice Them

Preschool students can easily learn to clap quarter, half, and whole notes, but when it comes to more complex rhythms such as eighth notes, sixteenth notes, the combination of two sixteenths and an eighth note, or other rhythmic combinations, this can be a different situation. Just as more experienced students can struggle with accuracy when learning challenging note combinations, preschool students can also find these rhythms difficult. A simple solution to this difficulty would be to wait untill preschoolers are much older to introduce some rhythmic values but I have found that there is a better option.

Teach students challenging rhythms in a way that they will beg to practice them more! Dessert Rhythms is the ultimate tool for teaching challenging rhythms. Though this resource was designed for preschoolers it can be used with any age. In addition to the dessert rhythm cards there are instructions for 10 exciting rhythm games.

I believe students who start taking lessons in preschool should be given all the foundations for a successful future in music. Because playing musically requires rhythmic accuracy, in my experience I have found that students who start learning complicated rhythms earlier in their musical studies are more likely to become proficient musicians who can confidently enjoy learning music and gradually develop a certain amount of independent when learning pieces from an instructor at a younger age. Even if students don’t yet understand the mathematical division behind rhythm, students can still learn to clap and play complex rhythms correctly.

So how does one introduce complex rhythms with preschool students? Complicated rhythms need to be connected to something that all preschoolers relate to. What can all preschoolers relate to? Food and more specifically deserts! A few year ago I created cards with rhythmic values on them and pictures of desserts in which the syllables corresponded to the rhythmic values. The cards were a huge hit! Students loved saying the names of desserts and clapping the rhythms and students seamlessly translated the names of food they were clapping and saying to playing the piano.

This was a perfect situation. I had students who were playing accurate rhythm, verbalizing the rhythm, and I didn’t have to bribe them to count out loud! Besides who doesn’t want to say ice cream milk instead of counting out loud! Even my older students have asked about the dessert rhythm cards they see in the studio and want to try them.

Looking for a way to get your students to count out loud and correct that pesky rhythm?  Check out the dessert rhythm cards  recently added to the store here. With the dessert rhythm cards, there are instructions for ten super fun, creative, and exciting games to play.

Teaching Complex Rhythm to Preschoolers: Preschool Camp Part 3

In part one and two of the preschool summer camp posts, I focused how I introduced the staff and middle C to preschool students. Now I would like to explore the rhythms games we played to reinforce the complex rhythms I find it important to have preschool students learn.

For preschoolers to understand challenging rhythms these rhythms need to be associated with something all student’s can connect with. Wondering what all student’s can connect with that helps rhythm? Stay tuned for next week’s post with a resource all kids absolutely love!  

Once children have been introduced to complicated rhythm they need to practice this skill many times. Because rhythm is such as important skill in learning piano, I spent part of each day at the camp working on rhythm with fun games. 

Planning a Preschool Camp Part 3. Three fun games to teach advanced rhythm to preschool students.

 

Below are three games for working with students on learning complex rhythms.

 Little Lost Duck Rhythms:

I purchased small rubber ducks from the party store and with a permanent marker I drew a rhythm on the bottom. I asked the students to close their eyes while I hid all the ducks around the room. I then told the students that the ducks were lost and needed help getting back to the pond (a plastic bucket). To return the ducks to the pond students need to find each duck and clap the rhythm on the bottom. The students thought this was so much fun and loved the little ducks so much they kept asking to take one home!

Clap and Listen:

On colorful card stock I drew different rhythmic combinations such as sixteenth notes, two sixteenth notes and an eight note, and other challenging rhythms. (Curious how I teach preschooler’s challenging rhythms? then you will want to check out next week’s post with a super cool resource.) I then clapped each of the rhythms showing students what each card sounded like. After demonstrating each card to the students I again clapped one of the cards and asked them to figure out which card I had clapped and run to stand by the corresponding card.

Though this was such a simple game, it was a great game for students to move around and get their wiggles out while also learning to listen and identify rhythm.

Drums and Cards:

One of the crafts we made at the camp was drums for use in our class. I made these drums out of empty oat meal containers and allowed the students to spend a few minutes decorating their drums. After students were finished with their drums, we returned to the floor and practiced beating rhythms. I had students copy the rhythms I beat on my drum and use preschool rhythm cards to create and beat their own rhythms. Curious about preschool rhythm cards and how to add a ton of fun to any rhythmic practice? Then check back next week!  

 

Preschool Music Camp: Part 2

As I was planning this summer’s preschool camp, I knew I wanted to introduce middle C to the preschool students. Because preschool students need concepts broken into small manageable pieces for them to grasp concepts, I decided the first step in introducing middle C would be to lay a solid foundation for understanding the musical staff. In part one, I covered how I laid a solid foundation for the musical staff and began preparing students to learn middle C.  On the following camp day I introduced middle C.

An important skills in learning and remembering middle C is the ability to identify middle C versus other notes. For young children all the notes on the staff can look similar which causes confusion. Preschool students can often think that any note on a line is middle C. With this knowledge I planned games for camp that would help students learn to determine the difference between middle C and all other notes.

 

camp part 2 middle C

After I briefly introduced middle C on a large staff board and had each student to make their own middle C on the staff board, we the two games below.

Treasure Hunt:

For this game I printed flash cards and taped them to large foam squares. Many of the cards were middle C but some were other notes. I then laid the cards out to create a maze with different path choices but only one correct path. To determine the correct path, students needed to find only the middle C cards. When they came to a path choice one path had a middle C while the other path had another note. The goal was for students to reach the end of the maze where I put a small prize, such as a sticker or other fun item, for each of the students. This game was a huge hit with the students.

Apple Picking:

The second game I played with the students was apple picking. For this game I created a tree out of cardstock and taped it to the wall. On the tree I taped apples that I had printed with either middle C or another note on them. The goal of the game was to gather all the “sweet apples” (middle C) and discard all the “sour apples” (not middle C). Each student took turns picking one apple off the wall and deciding it was “sweet” or “Sour”. Though this was a simple game I was surprised by how popular it was. Due to the simplicity of this game I actually plan to add it to my regular weekly games with students.

 

If you would like to use either of these games in your studio here and here are sheets of apples you can print and here and here are sheets of middle C flash cards with a few other cards as well.

The Best Idea for Making Musical Friends: Preschool Music Camp Part 1

Learning piano can be such an isolated activity, particularly if you are the only child in your family taking lessons and if none of your friends have started lessons yet. These are the circumstances for several of my preschool piano students. All of my preschool students love coming to lessons, but previously they didn’t have any friends who were also taking private lessons.

I feel it is important to incorporate a social and collaborative element in student’s musical studies. With this goal in mind, I decided to organize two four day summer camps for my preschool students. Each camp day was an hour in length and we played musical games and learned many basic musical skills. I even introduced middle C and these students still remember where middle C is on the staff even though they had not previously had any exposure to middle C!

If you have always considered hosting a camp, but weren’t sure what to do or are looking for new ideas to use with your camp or upcoming group class stay tuned because over the next several weeks I will cover some of the fun games we played at the camp. Even if you don’t do camps or host group lessons, many of these games can be used for private lessons with just a few minor changes.

One of the primary skills I covered in the camp was preparing to teach middle C and learning middle C.Preparing Preschoolers about Middle C

Before introducing middle C to my students I wanted to lay a solid foundation for staff awareness skills. The students attending the camp were already familiar with the lines and spaces on the staff and high and low on the staff. I thought that before learning middle C we should discuss the middle of the staff. Below are two games we played to learn about the middle of the staff and middle of the keyboard.

1st Game: Listening for high middle and low sounds with the floor keyboard:

One of the resources I use most often with preschoolers is my vinyl floor keyboard. This keyboard is sturdy enough for children to walk on and has an unlimited number of uses. I am always thinking of new ways to use my floor keyboard. I would highly recommend investing in a vinyl floor keyboard if you can, but if you do not have a vnyl keyboard available you may substitute by providing each child with a small personal printed keyboard and markers to place on the keyboard (such as pennies) instead of using their bodies.

Directions for play:

Remind students what high and low sounds sound like and ask them if the middle of the piano sounds different. (Most students will notice a difference but if they don’t you can prompt them with descriptive words such as birds are high and elephants are low, but middle is different it sounds like puppy dogs etc.)

Place the vinyl keyboard on the floor. Instruct students to listen to the sounds they hear you play and move to the appropriate places on the keyboard while you play at the piano.

Note: If you have never used a vinyl keyboard before, you may need to show young children where high medium and low are on the vinyl keyboard. You can also place pictures of things high medium and low such as birds, puppies, and elephants, in the proper location on the keyboard to serve as helpful reminders.

2nd Game: Pin the note on the staff board

I recommend students playing this game already have an understanding of high and low on the staff, but they do not need to know any specific note names. For this game you will need a large staff board you can either hang or tape on the wall. I traced a large staff from my floor staff onto butcher paper and taped it to the wall. You will also need several notes with tape on the back so that they stick to the staff. I cut circles out of card stock for this and placed a piece of blue painters tape on the back of each note as this tape removes easily from most items. Before starting this game, I bridged from the vinyl floor staff to this game by talking about where middle was on the staff. I showed each child where middle was and asked them to place a note in the middle of the staff.

Directions for play:

Tie a bandanna around each child’s eyes so they cannot see. When it is each child’s turn, gently spin them in a small circle (I held the young children’s hands while doing this!) and then ask them to try and place their note on the middle of the staff.  Then allow each child to take their bandanna off and tell you if they placed the note in the middle of the staff. This game was one of the most popular ones on day three of our camp!

Stay tuned for the next part of camp games where I introduced middle C on the staff.

5 Fun Ways to use Popsicle Sticks in the Piano Studio

This summer I had a large number of leftover popsicle sticks, so I began to hunt for more activities that I could popsicle sticks for in my studio. Here are five creative I ideas that I successfully used with my students.

Piano Popsicle Stick Game

1. Popsicle sticks are a great way to divide measures! Create a rhythm for each student but without the measure lines. Have the student place measure lines after the proper number of beats. When the student has completed the activity, have them clap the rhythm.

2. Popsicle Stick Draw. This is a great game for beginners that takes very little prep time. On each popsicle stick draw a letter of the musical alphabet. Place the popsicle sticks in a plastic cup or other container. Have the student pick a stick and play the corresponding key on the piano. Once all the sticks have been drawn students can enjoy creating their own melodies by arranging the sticks and playing them in their chosen order. This game can also be modified to introduce and practice finding groups of two and three black keys by putting either the number two or three on each popsicle stick.

3. Give a student 10 popcicle sticks and ask them to arrange the sticks to look like the music staff. One can even add miniature treble and bass clef pictures and a black dot made out of black construction paper and quiz students on the names of their notes.

4. Use popsicle sticks to teach students about stem direction. On a large piece of staff paper draw black dots to represent quarter notes. Ask students to place the popsicles sticks as the note stems going in the correct direction.

5. On each popsicle stick write a simple activity that can be accomplished while repeating a piece or section. (I am a huge believer in quality repetition at the piano. Check out this post here on why.) Have the student draw and complete the designated activity while repeating their piece. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

a. Cross your feet
b. Close your eyes
c. Stand up, turn a circle three times, sit down then play your piece.
d. Play just the right hand with left hand on your head
e. Play with a smile

Remember learning is so much more fun and students learn better when games and manipulative are added!