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.

Add Some Easter Fun to your Piano Lessons this Week

As of recently the blog has been very quite. Blogging has been a new adventure for me this year and I am still learning to balance teaching, life, and posting regularly. In addition, not only did I double my studio the spring but my husband and I also recently moved. Now that all the boxes are unpacked and things have fallen into a bit of a routine I feel I can finally start devoting more time to the blog.  I have some great posts coming in the next few weeks I hope you will enjoy and a regular posting schedule!

Around the holidays I often enjoyed incorporating holiday themed games for the concepts my students are working on. For Easter I was specifically looking for a simple game idea to use with my preschool piano students. A few weeks ago I picked up some plastic Easter eggs knowing that somehow I could use them with my students. I knew I needed something simple to prepare and I wanted to provide students with an opportunity to review what we have been learning. I decided to send my preschool students on a simple egg hunt. Inside each egg is either an activity, a song, or name of a key they are learning on the piano.Add some Easter Fun to Piano Lessons This week

For example, my preschool students are working on naming the white keys and finding two or three groups of black keys. I cut several index cards in half and either put a song they are working on, a letter from the musical alphabet, or a picture of two or three black keys. I placed the index cards in about eight eggs with a surprise sticker or temporary tattoo in one egg. I am planning to start each lesson with the review game, by having them find all the eggs and then go through each egg completing each assignment.

I am looking forward to trying this game with my young preschool beginners this week. For older students working on note recognition I have put note flashcards in each egg. I will be having these students name the note and play the correct key on the piano. There are endless options for using Easter eggs in lessons this week by putting different cards in each egg. You could review songs in preparation for recital time, practice rhythm, sight reading and much more.  If you need a quick inexpensive way to add some fun to lessons this week I hope this gives you some ideas.

Free winter scale game

Did you miss the caterpillar scale freebie?  Though you can’t use this game all year, this is a great winter game to teach or review scales. Student’s draw cards to fill in the key name and scale they are making (or you can assign the scale they are to create). Players then take turns drawing cards until they have completed their scale. The first player to have all cards wins.

You can download the game here.

Penguin scale board


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