Five Things Every Piano Teacher Needs When Working With Preschoolers

I hope you all are having a wonderful start to the New Year. After a refreshing Christmas break, January was full of adding new students to my teaching schedule and keeping up with existing students. I have been so busy starting new piano students and finishing up the new practice incentive for my students that blogging took a back seat for a while. But now I am back, and I have some great new games and products coming this year to give you the resources you need to make this year a fun and exciting for your students!

Last fall I wrote a post on the 5 things I like to always have handy when teaching elementary age students. Though I use some of the same resources in working with preschool students, there are many other resources I like to have on hand with younger students that I do not use with older students as much.

If you are just starting to teach preschool students or are looking for some new fun activities for your preschool students, here are a few ideas to get you started. If you don’t yet teach preschool students I highly recommend considering working with this younger group. They can be so much fun!

What every piano teacher needs when working with preschool students.

Buckets and Beanbags: One of the most inexpensive resources I purchased last year was a set of buckets and beanbags. I have found an infinite number of uses for the buckets and beanbags but one of my student’s favorites is when we play the listening toss game. On each bucket I place a picture of what they are listening for in the music I play such as happy and sad (Major/Minor), Slow and Fast, Legato and Staccato, or Piano and Forte. Whatever my students hear, they then put a bean bag in the correct bucket. Though this is such a simple game, my students love to toss the bean bags in the correct bucket and they are learning basic music analysis skills all students need.

High and Low Picture Cards: At every preschool students first lesson (and subsequent lessons), I introduce the concept of high and low sounds with my set of high and low picture cards. My set of high and low card are pictures of objects high in the sky or low down on the ground. I have had students pick a card from my hand and play either high or low notes on the piano and I have hidden the cards around the room and had them find and come play notes that are high and low on the piano. Additionally I have taped the high and low cards on the buckets mentioned above and played a high and low listening game. These are just a few of the games that can be played with a set of high and low cards.

Dessert Rhythms: One of the most popular resources in my studio is dessert rhythms. Students love saying the names of their favorite foods while learning about rhythm. With dessert rhythms, I can now successfully teach young students to correctly clap sixteenth notes and other complex rhythms with success. Want to know more about the very popular dessert rhythms resource? Check on this post here and this here.

Staff board: I find I use my staff board just as frequently with preschool students as with elementary students. My preschool students first learn about high and low, going up and down, and same versus different on the staff. After students have what I refer to as general staff awareness skills I begin to introduce the names of the lines and space.

Vinyl Keyboard: My vinyl keyboard is second in popularity with my students to dessert rhythms. Not only can students move around on the keyboard when learning to differentiate high and low sounds, but I also find my vinyl keyboard to be a valuable resource in teaching students about the names of the keys on the piano. With just a simple set of music alphabet cards, I can ask students to put them in the correct order on the vinyl keyboard. After my students have put the cards in the correct order, students love when I ask them to close their eyes while I mix-up the cards. When students open their eyes, I then ask them to find what is wrong and if they can fix it. In fact, any game that asks preschool students to close their eyes is sure to be popular!

Four Free Christmas Themed Music Games

Looking for some holiday games to add some fun to music theory this Christmas? Check out these three free Christmas themed music theory games.  And a bonus winter themed game to practice the whole and half step pattern in major or minor scales.

Mix up piano lessons this Decmeber with four fee Christmas themed muisic theory games.

Mitten Match Up

A Gingerbread Journey

Snowmen Match Up Caps

Penguin Scales

Looking for games to use all year round? Check out the store section.

 

Five things I need in my piano studio for students ages 6 to 9

I have many resources I have accumulated over the years of teaching, but recently I have been thinking about the resources I use every week in lessons and what I absolutely cannot live without (other than my piano of course!). Whether you are a new teacher, are just now beginning to add fun games and manipulatives to lessons, or are a pro at using games and manipulatives here are a list of five things I find handy to have in lessons that you might want to try too.

The top five things every piano teachers needs when working with elementary age children

Plastic animals: One of the items use in lessons with every student ages 6-9, are plastic counting animals. My Students love counting practice repetitions with these animals. Students have even come to expect that when I assign a new piece, technique, or add dynamics to their piece that I want them to practice their song (or section of their song) several times so I know if they can complete the assignment successfully at home. Doing repetitions no longer makes my students sigh, but instead they get to count with the plastic animal and add one animal for each correct repetition. I use high quality plastic animals from Safari LTD but you can use any plastic animals you have on hand. Safari LTD animal sets are available on Amazon or at Michaels and Hobby Lobby.

Dice: I have a hand sized foam die that I like to use when I need students to practice a piece or section of their piece several times in their lesson. I have students roll the die to see what number they get. The number they roll becomes the number of times they must play their piece (or section of their piece) that needs practice. Though sometimes I do assign as specific number of repetitions I find that using the die adds a fun element to lessons all while learning to play the piano even better.

Allie the Alligator: Another item I use often in lessons is Allie the alligator. Allie helps student’s keep their wrists up. I introduce Allie with a story. Allie lives below the piano keys in her swamp and she doesn’t like when student’s wrists touch her swamp. If she sees you in her swamp she reminds you with a gentle nudge to keep your wrist up and out of her swamp. Allie the alligator has become so popular in my studio that students have even been known to ask me to use her even if they don’t really need a reminder to keep their wrists up. Looking for more ways to encourage students to have a level wrist? Check out this.

Music Alphabet Cards: I find music alphabet cards to be one of the most versatile resources in my studio and one that can be made for a very low cost! There are multiple uses for alphabet cards from the youngest students who are learning their musical alphabet and names of the keys to older students who are learning their scales and chords. Though there are an infinite number of games that can be played with music alphabet cards, some of my favorites for learning the musical alphabet are laying out the musical alphabet cards on the floor in the wrong order and having students correct the order, or having students pick a card out of my hand and find the corresponding key on the piano. For more advanced students who are learning the scales and chords all one needs are some alphabet cards and some cards with sharps and flats on them. A great activity for learning scales or chords is laying out a scale or several chords on the floor and having students put the sharps or flats in the correct place to make major or minor scales and chords. Children also enjoy fixing scales and chords that are laid out in the wrong order.

Rhythm Cards: I find having a set of rhythm cards very helpful. Not only can I teach basic rhythm such as quarter, half, and whole notes, but I can also use the cards to teach students about time signatures, ties, and complex rhythms. When teaching complex rhythms, I also find it helpful to have the dessert rhythms cards on hand. There are many options for using a set of rhythm cards. One can either have students create their own rhythm, put the correct beats in a rhythm you made, or listen to a rhythm you clap and “write” the rhythm with the rhythm cards.

Bonus sixth item: I had such a difficult time choosing five items I can’t live without in my studio that I decided to add a sixth, my floor staff board. To teach the names of notes to students I often use my floor staff board. With my floor staff board, I have a felt treble clef and bass clef and several black dots for notes. Though I primarily use my staff board for learning the notes on the staff there are many games that can be played with a staff board as well. One of my student’s favorite games and one I find to be very effective, is letter draw. In letter draw students pick a letter card from a stack and place a note on the correct line or space corresponding to the letter they drew.

 

These are the five basic resources I keep in my studio and use almost every day. Want to find out what else I use to keep lessons fun and engaging each week? Check out the store for all the other fun games I play with my students each week.

 

What resources do you use almost every day your studio (other than your piano) when working with children?

 

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!