Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!


I am excited to report that I am taking a new Kindergarten Position at my son's school in January.  I have stopped teaching piano privately, so I will not be making any new resources.  I thank all of you for your support and hope my materials continue to help teachers and students learn the joy of music.  I will keep this blog up for all those teachers who are looking for songs and resources.  Have a wonderful New Year!




Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fall Song Sheet

Here are some great Fall Songs.  I have included a Song Sheet for lyrics and visuals to use in the classroom.  Enjoy!




Saturday, October 6, 2012

Halloween Songs




Pumpkin in the dark  (Tune: Farmer in the Dell)
The Pumpkin in the dark, the pumpkin in the dark,
Hi ho, Halloween, the pumpkin in the dark.
The pumpkin takes the witch...
The witch takes the bat...
The bat takes the cat
The cat takes the spider
The spider takes the ghost....
The ghost says, "BOO!"

Idea: Have students pretend to be a character and take another student into the circle each time.  You could also have representations of these characters by way of pictures, cut outs, foam crafts, stuffed animals, etc . . .

Spooky Skeleton Sung to: "Mulberry Bush"
1 Spooky skeleton jumping up & down, jumping up & down, jumping
up & down (hold 1 finger up to jump)
1 Spooking skeleton jumping up *& down,
FOR THIS IS HALLOWEEN!
2 little witches - zooming thru the air . . . .
(make 2 witches flying)
3 black cats - walking on the fence . . .
4 silly scarecrows - waving in the wind . . . .
5 trick or treaters - knocking at your door . . .
FOR THIS IS HALLOWEEN
TRICK OR TREAT! (The children really like yelling this at the end) 

Halloween Ghost 
There once was a ghost, (extend hand and wiggle fingers)
Who lived in a cave. (form hollow with palm for "cave")
She scared all the people (point to children)
And the animals away.
She said "Boo" to a fox, (point)
She said "Boo" to a bee, (point)
She said "Boo" to a bear, (nod head "yes")
She said "Boo" to me! (point at self)
Well, she scared that fox, (nod head "yes")
And she scared that bee. (nod head "yes")
She scared that bear, (nod head "yes")
But she didn't scare me! (shake head "no")

This Old Ghost  Sung to: "This Old Man"
This old ghost, he played one,
he played peek-a-boo on the run.
With a boo! boo! boo! and a clap, clap, snap.
This old ghost is a friendly chap.

This old ghost, he played two.
He played peek-a-boo in a shoe.
With a boo! boo! boo! and a clap, clap, snap.
This old ghost is a friendly chap.
This old ghost, he played three.
He played peek-a-boo behind a tree.
With a boo! boo! boo! and a clap, clap, snap.
This old ghost is a friendly chap.

Did You Ever See A Goblin?  Sung to: "Did you ever see a Lassie?"
Did you ever see a goblin, a goblin, a goblin?
Did you ever see a goblin, stomp this way or that?
Stomp this way or that way,
Or this way or that way,
Did you ever see a goblin Stomp this way or that?
Additional Verses....
Did you ever see a fairy...Dance this way or that?

Did you ever see an old witch...Fly this way or that?
Did you ever see a black cat...Pounce this way or that
Did you ever see a night owl...Sleep this way or that?
Did you ever see a spider...Crawl this way or that?
Did you ever see a scarecrow...Lean this way or that?
Did you ever see a pumpkin....Roll this way or that?
Brown Owl (Tune: Brown Bear) (flannel board figures)  
Brown Owl Brown Owl, Who do you see?
I see a White Ghost looking at me...(Continue using) 
Purple Bat....Green Witch.... 
Black Cat and finally Pumpkin pumpkin what do you see? 
I see a Jack O Lantern looking at me. 

If You're A Ghost and You Know It (to the tune of If You're Happy and you know it) 
If you're a ghost and you know it,
Just say Boo
If you're a ghost and you know it,
Just Say BOO
If you're a ghost and you know it and you really want to show it...
If you're a ghost and you know it just say BOO 
If you're a black cat and you know it
Just say Meow
If you're a black cat and you know it
Just say Meow
If you're a black cat and you know it
And you really want to show it,
If you're a black cat and you know it Just say Meow 
If you're a skeleton and you know it,
Wiggle your bones (shake your body)
If you're a skeleton and you know it,
Wiggle your bones
If you're a skeleton and you know it,
And you really want to show it
If you're a skeleton and you know it,
Wiggle your bones. 
If you love Halloween and you know it
Do all three (all 3 actions in order of appearance)
If you love Halloween and you know it
Do all three
If you love Halloween and you know it
And you really want to show it,
If you love Halloween and you know it
Do all three

Five Crows Sung to Five Green Speckled Frogs
5 crows, all shiny black, Sat on a scarecrow's back, 
Eating the most delicious corn, CAW! CAW! 
Scarecrow, he shouted BOO! 1 crow, away she flew, 
Then there were 4 black shiny crows (just 4!) 
Repeat 4 crows, 3 crows, 2 crows, etc. 

THE GHOST GOES BOO
The ghost goes BOO
The ghost goes BOO
Heigh Ho it's Halloween 
The ghost goes BOO

The witch goes HE HE
The witch goes HE HE
Heigh Ho it's Halloween 
The witch goes He he

The cat goes MEOW
The cat goes MEOW
Heigh ho it's Halloween
The cat goes MEOW

The owl goes WHOO
The owl goes WHOO
Heigh Ho it's Halloween
The owl goes WHOO
I’m not afraid of the kissing monster
Click on Video to hear the tune.

I’m not afraid of the clapping monster, I’m not afraid at all
I’m not afraid of the clapping monster, I’m not afraid at all
Spoken (And he goes)  q q h | q q h| q q q q| w |
                                           q q h | q q h| q q q q| w |
I’m not afraid of the humming monster, I’m not afraid at all
I’m not afraid of the humming monster, I’m not afraid at all
And he goes (repeat rhythm while humming)
I’m not afraid of the whistling monster, I’m not afraid at all
I’m not afraid of the whistling monster, I’m not afraid at all
And he goes (repeat rhythm while whistling)
Usually I make a big deal of how brave the children have been, then I say “There is one monster left and he is really scary.  Try to be really brave by not letting this monster know you are scared”
I’m not afraid of the kissing monster, I’m not afraid at all
I’m not afraid of the kissining monster, I’m not afraid at all
And he goes (Repeat rhythm while kissing)
I point out that some kids were afraid because they went “oooh or gross”

Resources for Halloween

Here are some great free resources for Halloween:

Candy Match Up: Worksheet to identify notes


Silly Spider:
Students choose a spider and place alphabet chips along the spider's leg.


Witch's Brew:  Students pick a rhythm card and perform it.  If they pick a witch they get a piece of candy.



Also check out my Halloween Music Games Volume 1 and Volume 2



Monday, October 1, 2012

Halloween Music Games Volume 2


Halloween Music Games Volume 2 has 5 new and exciting games for your students to help them improve at note naming, intervals, chords, rhythms and symbols.

Don't Eat Jack: A fun filled game that focuses on rhythm recognition. The game has five levels and is sure to be a favorite with your students.
Find the Ghost: Players race around to find the ghost cards and then identify symbols.
Haunted House Harmony: Students build chords or intervals in the haunted house
Pumpkin Patch Match: Players match notes. There is a Catch the Jack-o-lantern version as well.
Candy Corn Catch: Identify notes on the staff or keyboard using candy corn.

Check out Halloween Music Games Vol.1 for even more games and activities




Includes: Games, printables and instructions
Format: PDF
Printing: 8.5' x 11' - Grayscale or Color
Price: $10.00
Instructions for purchasing it with Paypal: Click on the Buy Now button. You will be asked to pay with Paypal. Once your transaction is accepted, an email will be sent with a zip of the games.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Peek inside Shooting for the Stars

My studio is in full swing and the students are loving Shooting for the Stars.  Here is how the incentive works:

Students earn stars for different things during their lesson.
I have chosen to give stars for the following items:

1. Sight Reading: Each week the students sight read a piece during their lesson.  If they are successful they earn a star.

2. Rhythm: Each week the students perform a rhythm by clapping, counting and then playing them on a note or chord.  They can also earn additional rhythm stars by counting while playing an assigned piece or performing a song with wonderful rhythm.

3. Note Naming: The students always play their rhythm to a note or chord I have them name.  I usually include notes they are struggling on.  If they get them correct they win a star.  I also have the students name notes in their assigned piece.  More stars!

4. Presentation: I give this star to students who come prepared with materials and present their assigned piece musically.  Dynamics, articulation, pedaling, artistry all can encompass the presentation star.

5. Practice: I assign goals for my students to accomplish each week and I can usually tell if they have practiced or not.  You could modify this if you assign a practice log.

6. Super Star: This is going to be stars students earn for special things like memorization, mastering a scale, performing, etc...

Each student then chooses an alien on my stars board.  The alien keep track of the stars they collect each week.  I purchased some foam stars to stick up on the board and the students write the number of stars they earned at their lesson and stick the star next to their alien.

It is up to you what the stars mean, but my students spend their stars on prizes.  Different prizes cost different amounts.  I have made several games revolving around this theme and hope to have them available soon.  Here are some pictures of the stars board.



Sunday, August 26, 2012

New Theme for 2012: Shooting for the Stars

I am excited to begin a new school year with our new theme: Shooting for the Stars.  Students will collect stars as they explore the galaxy of music.  Here are some great pictures of my studio decorations.



Thursday, June 21, 2012

Stars and Stripes Rhythm Fun

I was asked by a reader to create a game similar to my Pot of Gold Game with a Patriotic twist.  I came up with an American Flag Version with stars to fill in.

You can use the Rhythm Addition Cards to fill in the board.  You add up the beats and fill in the stars with tokens.  You can fill the stars with bingo chips, pennies or candies.  You could also use this game with any concept you would like review.  Just add numbers to the cards and that will be how many tokens they get to add to their board.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

New Incentive Cards: Star Wars and Legos

A reader requested some new incentive cards for Star Wars and Legos.  You can use these for just about anything.  I have used it for writing incentives for my son.  For each word he writes neatly, he gets a chip.  He loves it!





Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Blackbeard's Revenge

Blackbeard's Revenge is a game from the Hidden Treasures Studio Kit.  It is a game fashioned after Old Maid.  You match up the cards and try not to be the one who get the cursed "Jolly Roger" card.  You can get all four version for $6.50 or buy them individually.

The Blackbeard's Revenge Kit: Includes note name cards, keyboard cards, interval cards, key signature cards and chord cards.






The Blackbeard's Revenge Note Names comes with 41 pirate flashcards of staff notes on the Treble and Bass Clef.  Keyboard cards are also included.






The Blackbeard's Revenge Intervals comes with 48 interval flashcards from 2nds to Octaves.








The Blackbeard's Revenge Chords comes with 50 cards with chords in root position.






The Blackbeard's Revenge Inversion Chords and Keys comes with 78 cards with inversion of chords and key signatures.







Monday, May 21, 2012

Summer Fun!

After 15 years of teaching I am taking the summer off for the first time ever!!  I am looking forward to doing some traveling and relaxing, but  I still want my students to continue to practice in the summer so I came up with a summer practice chart.

Each key has a specific goal to accomplish.  Some are just for fun and some require some concentration.  They are supposed to color the key in when they have completed the goal.  If they can bring back all the practice sheets colored in I will have a prize for them (candy) when they return.  I plan on writing some page numbers in on some of the keys to give them some specific pieces to practice.  The goal is to review the material they already know and keep their skills up.  I have included a blank one for you to modify.  Hopefully if you have students that take the summer off, they can use this to stay motivated!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How Many Hours a Day Should I Practice?

I came across this great article about practicing at  Bulletproof Musician.  They have other great articles to read as well.



How Many Hours a Day Should You Practice?

by Dr. Noa Kageyama · 144 comments
practice time for musicians
2 hours? 4 hours? 8 hours? 12 hours?
How much is enough?
Is there such a thing as practicing too much?
Is there an optimal number of hours that one should practice?

What Do Performers Say?

Some of the great artists of the 20th century have shared their thoughts on these questions. I once read an interview with Rubinstein (or it may have been Horowitz – I can’t remember exactly whom), in which he stated that nobody should have to practice more than four hours a day, explaining that if you needed to practice more than four hours a day, you probably weren’t doing it right.
Other great artists have expressed similar sentiments. Violinist Nathan Milstein is said to have once asked his teacher Leopold Auer how many hours a day he should be practicing. “If you practice with your fingers, no amount is enough,” was Auer’s response. “If you practice with your head, two hours is plenty.”
Heifetz also indicated that he never believed in practicing too much, and that excessive practice is “just as bad as practicing too little!” He claimed that he practiced no more than three hours per day on average, and that he didn’t practice at all on Sundays. You know, this is not a bad idea – one of my own teachers, Donald Weilerstein, once suggested that I establish a 24-hour period of time every week where I was not allowed to pick up my instrument.

What Do Psychologists Say?

When it comes to understanding expertise and expert performance, psychologist Dr. K. Anders Ericsson is perhaps the world’s leading authority. His research is the basis for the “ten-year rule” and “10,000-hour rule” which suggest that it requires at least ten years and/or 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to achieve an expert level of performance in any given domain – and in the case of musicians, often closer to 25 years in order to attain an elite international level. Note that the real key here is not the amount of practice required but the type of practice required to attain an expert level of performance. In other words, just practicing any old way doesn’t cut it.

Mindless Practice

Have you ever listened to someone practice? Have you ever listened to yourself practice, for that matter? Tape yourself practicing for an hour, take a walk through the practice room area at school and eavesdrop on your fellow students, or ask your students to pretend they are at home and watch them practice during a lesson. What do you notice?
You’ll notice that the majority of folks practice rather mindlessly, either engaging in mere repetition (“practice this passage 10 times” or “practice this piece for 30 minutes”) or practicing on autopilot (that’s when we play through the piece until we hear something we don’t like, stop, repeat the passage again until it sounds better, and resume playing through the piece until we hear the next thing we aren’t satisfied with, at which point we begin this whole process over again).
There are three major problems with the mindless method of practicing.

1. It is a waste of time

Why? For one, very little productive learning takes place when we practice this way. This is how we can practice a piece for hours, days, or weeks, and still not feel that we’ve improved all that much. Even worse, you are actually digging yourself a hole by practicing this way, because what this model of practicing does do is strengthen undesirable habits and errors, literally making it more likely that you will screw up more consistently in the future. This makes it more difficult to correct these habits in the future – so you are actually adding to the amount of future practice time you will need in order to eliminate these bad habits and tendencies. I once worked with a saxophone professor who was fond of reminding his students that “Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent.”

2. It makes you less confident

In addition, practicing this way actually hurts your confidence, as there is a part of you that realizes you don’t really know how to consistently produce the results you are looking for. Even if you establish a fairly high success rate in the most difficult passages via mindless practice, and find that you can nail it 3 or 4 out of every 5 attempts, your confidence won’t grow much from this. Real on-stage confidence comes from (a) being able to nail it 10 out of 10 tries, (b) knowing that this isn’t a coincidence but that you can do it the correct way on demand, because most importantly (c) you know precisely why you nail it or miss it – i.e. you know exactly what you need to do from a technique standpoint in order to play the passage perfectly every time.
You may not be able to play it perfectly every time at first, but this is what repetition is for – to reinforce the correct habits until they are stronger than the bad habits. It’s a little like trying to grow a nice looking lawn. Instead of fighting a never-ending battle against the weeds, your time is better spent trying to cultivate the grass so that over time the grass crowds out the weeds.
And here’s the biggie. We tend to practice unconsciously, and then end up trying to perform consciously – not a great formula for success. Recall from this article that you have a tendency to shift over into hyper-analytical left brain mode when you walk out on stage. Well, if you have done most of your practicing unconsciously, you really don’t know how to play your piece perfectly on demand. When your brain suddenly goes into full-conscious mode, you end up freaking out, because you don’t know what instructions to give your brain.

3. It is tedious and boring

Practicing mindlessly is a chore. Music may be one of the only skill-based activities where practice goals are measured in units of time. We’ve all had teachers who tell us to go home and practice a certain passage x number of times, or to practice x number of hours, right? What we really need are more specific outcome goals – such as, practice this passage until it sounds like _____, or practice this passage until you can figure out how to make it sound like _____.
After all, it doesn’t really matter how much time we spend practicing something – only that we know how to produce the results we want, and can do so consistently, on demand.

Deliberate Practice

So what is deliberate, or mindful practice? Deliberate practice is a systematic and highly structured activity, which is, for lack of a better word, scientific. Instead of mindless trial and error, it is an active and thoughtful process of experimentation with clear goalsand hypotheses. Violinist Paul Kantor once said that the practice room should be like a laboratory, where one can freely tinker with different ideas, both musical and technical, to see what combination of ingredients produces the result you are looking for.
Deliberate practice is often slow, and involves repetition of small and very specific sections of your repertoire instead of just playing through (e.g. working on just the opening note of your solo to make sure that it “speaks” exactly the way you want, instead of playing the entire opening phrase).
Deliberate practice involves monitoring one’s performance (in real-time, but also via recordings), continually looking for new ways to improve. This means really listening to what happens, so that you can tell yourself exactly what went wrong. For instance, was the first note note sharp? Flat? Too loud? Too soft? Too harsh? Too short? Too long?
Let’s say that the note was too sharp and too long with not enough of an attack to begin the note. Well, how sharp was it? A little? A lot? How much longer was the note than you wanted it to be? How much more of an attack did you want?
Ok, the note was a little sharp, just a hair too long, and required a much clearer attack in order to be consistent with the marked articulation and dynamics. So, why was the note sharp? What did you do? What do you need to do to make sure the note is perfectly in tune every time? How do you ensure that the length is just as you want it to be, and how do you get a consistently clean and clear attack to begin the note so it begins in the right character?
Now, let’s imagine you recorded all of this and could listen to how this last attempt sounded. Does that combination of ingredients give you the desired result? In other words, does that combination of ingredients convey the mood or character you want to communicate to the listener as effectively as you thought it would?
Few musicians take the time to stop, analyze what went wrong, why it happened, and howthey can correct the error permanently.

How Many Hours a Day Should I Practice?

You will find that deliberate practice is very draining, given the tremendous amount of energy required to keep one’s full attentional resources on the task at hand. Practicing more than one hour at a time is likely to be unproductive and in all honesty, probably not even mentally or emotionally possible. Even the most dedicated individuals will find it difficult to practice more than four hours a day.
Studies have varied the length of daily practice from 1 hour to 8 hours, and the results suggest that there is often little benefit from practicing more than 4 hours per day, and that gains actually begin to decline after the 2-hour mark.  The key is to keep tabs on the level of concentration you are able to sustain.

5 Keys For More Effective Practice

1. Duration
Keep practice sessions limited to a duration that allows you to stay focused. This may be as short as 10-20 minutes for younger students, and as long as 45-60 minutes for older individuals.
2. Timing
Keep track of times during the day when you tend to have the most energy. This may be first thing in the morning, or right before lunch, etc. Try to do your practicing during these naturally productive periods as these are the times at which you will be able to focus and think most clearly.
3. Goals
Try using a practice notebook. Keep track of your practice goals and what you discover during your practice sessions. The key to getting into the “zone” when practicing is to be constantly striving to have clarity of intention. In other words, to have a clear idea of the sound you want to produce, or particular phrasing you’d like to try, or specific articulation, intonation, etc. that you’d like to be able to execute consistently.
When you figure something out, write it down. As I practiced more mindfully, I began learning so much during practice sessions that if I didn’t write everything down, I’d forget.
4. Smarter, not harder
Sometimes if a particular passage is not coming out the way we want it to, it just means we need to practice more. There are also times, however, when we don’t need to practice harder, but need an altogether different strategy or technique.
I remember struggling with the left-hand pizzicato variation in Paganini’s 24th Caprice. I was getting frustrated and kept trying harder and harder to make the notes speak, but all I got was sore fingers, a couple of which actually started to bleed. I realized that there had to be a smarter, more effective way to accomplish my goal.
Instead of stubbornly keeping at a strategy or technique that wasn’t working for me, I forced myself to stop practicing this section altogether. I tried to brainstorm different solutions to the problem for a day or so, and wrote down ideas to try as they occurred to me. When I felt that I came up with some promising solutions, I just started experimenting. I eventually came up with a solution that I worked on over the next week or so, and when I played the caprice for my teacher, he actually asked me how I made the notes speak so clearly!
5. Problem-solving model
Consider this 6-step general problem-solving model summarized below (adapted from various problem solving processes online).
  1. Define the problem (what do I want this note/phrase to sound like?)
  2. Analyze the problem (what is causing it to sound like this?)
  3. Identify potential solutions (what can I tweak to make it sound more like I want?)
  4. Test the potential solutions to select the most effective one (what tweaks seem to work best?)
  5. Implement the best solution (make these changes permanent)
  6. Monitor implementation (do these changes continue to produce the results I’m looking for?)
Or simpler yet, check out this model from Daniel Coyle’s book The Talent Code.
  1. Pick a target
  2. Reach for it
  3. Evaluate the gap between the target and the reach
  4. Return to step one
It doesn’t matter if we are talking about perfecting technique, or experimenting with different musical ideas. Any model which encourages smarter, more systematic, active thought, and clearly articulated goals will help cut down on wasted, ineffective practice time.
After all, who wants to spend all day in the practice room? Get in, get stuff done, and get out!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Hidden Treasure Kit

This year my studio used a pirate theme.  I created games, activities and incentives centered around the theme.  The kids really enjoyed traveling on our treasure map and seeing what adventures would come at each lesson.  I am offering this kit for a low price of $20.00 this summer.  Even if you don't adopt the theme, there are plenty of great games to play.





The Hidden Treasures Studio Kit comes with 11 games with multiple levels, over 280 pirate themed flashcards for notes, intervals, chords and keys, piano assignment sheet, recital templates, invitations and ideas to implement a year long practice incentive.  Your students will blast their way through the year finding lots of treasures along the way.

Hidden Treasures Studio Kit
Includes: Games, printables and instructions
Format: PDF
Printing: 8.5' x 11' - Grayscale or Color
Price: $38.00
Pay with Paypal









Once you purchase the material you will be sent the pdf files within 24 hours.



For an extra bonus, I am giving away a worksheet I created: Navigation the Notes













Saturday, April 28, 2012

K5 Learning


I recently have been looking for help for my son, who is autistic and struggles with learning sight words. I found this great program:  K5 Learning.

I have been able to assign specific assignments to him and track his progress.  I have really enjoyed the program.  Read more below if you are interested in it.

K5 Learning has an online reading and math program for kindergarten to grade 5 students.  I've been given a 6 week free trial to test and write a review of their program.  If you are a blogger, you may want to check out their open invitation to write an online learning review of their program.
A note on the assessments
When kids start K5, their reading and math lessons are cued at their grade level.

Once kids become familiar with the system, we recommend they complete our free online placement assessments in reading and math.  The idea is to gauge skill levels in different areas (phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, site words, comprehension, numbers/operations, geometry and measurement) and cue the lessons at an appropriate starting point in each.  To do an assessment, or to change levels before or after the assessment, just submit the request form from the Parent Dashboard.

The assessments generally work pretty well, but occasionally throw out poor results – especially if kids stop paying attention part way through (giving scores which are too low) or parents start helping (giving scores which are too high).    The assessments are for placement purposes and are not a full blown diagnostic assessment, which would be much longer and potentially counter-productive with the younger kids.

A note on lesson selection
One feature of our system is our automatic lesson selection; most of our parents do not really want to be actively involved in selecting lessons each day, but want to know that their child is progressing through the material in a logical way (and not just repeating 'fun' or easy activities and so on).  To facilitate this, the system automatically chooses the next lesson each day for the student.   In contrast, some parents, tend to be more hands-on, and use our assignment function to a greater extent.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Paint Chips

I came across this idea on Pinterest.

Teachers we're using paint chips to test sight words and math facts.  I decided to put my own musical twist on it.  Instead of words, I used different rhythms.  The students are to match the rhythm to the correct time signature.  You will need to put all the time signatures you want to test on one paint chip.






I also found this unique Better Home and Gardens paint chips at Walmart with a hole in them.  If you get these you could play "Find the missing rhythm."  Students have to put the hole on top of the rhythm that completes the measure correctly.






Saturday, April 7, 2012

Autism Awareness

Hi blog world!  I have been teaching an autism inclusion class for the last nine weeks for a teacher who was out on maternity leave.  It was an amazing experience and has kept me super busy.  So busy, I haven't been able to keep up with my blog.  I learned so much from these wonderful children.

1st:  Autism does not define the child.

The child has autism, but this is not the only thing you need to know about the child.  They each have distinct personalities and different challenges.  They are learning how to do their best, just like every other child.  Some just have some challenges that are more difficult due to their autism.  They have particular interests, hopes and dreams that make a uniquely, wonderful individual.

2nd: Each child is an individual

In my experience, I found children who were really friendly and some who more reserved and withdrawn.  Some children struggled with their emotions and some were very quite.  As I got to know each child, I understood their strengths and struggles.  I understood what motivated them and what they needed help with.

3rd: Repetitive Behavior

Some autistic children display some typical behavior.  You may see arm or hand flapping, rocking or repetitive behaviors.  They may repeat phrases they hear over and over again.  Some children are very easily distracted and need to be redirected to the task often.

4th: Social Aspect

Many children with autism struggle with how to connect socially.  Some children need to be reminded to look in your eyes when talking.  They have a hard time understanding another person's perspective.

Strategies that helped:

Motivation:

I used sticker charts or incentive cards to motivate my students to adapt their behavior.  Many autistic children are visual learners, so the chart reminded them to stay on task because they could see a sticker for each good choice.  For a specific behavior, like saying hello, you could have a hello chart, where the student gets a sticker or check mark for each time they say hello.  When the student has filled up the chart they can pick a small prize or get to choose a preferred activity, like playing computer or playing legos.

Focus:

To keep focus I reminded the child to 'check in' with their eyes (look at me) and repeat the directions back to me.  I used direct instruction and short directions.  For example:  Teacher "Sit for sticker.  Stand, no sticker."  I counted to three to allow the child time to make the right decision.  I also used visual clues, like a picture of a child sitting to remind the student what the appropriate behavior is.  I praised the student for making good choices as well.

Patience:

Children with autism sometimes take longer to understand concepts. Reviewing the material and repeating instructions is needed.  Give them time to process the material and think about it.  Talk to them about what your expectations are before you give them a task.  Some children get anxious easily.  Having a routine and schedule gives them a understanding of what is going to happen.  Students feel they have more control when they can predict what will happen next.

I have a student with autism in my piano studio and have a son who is also autistic.  Consistency, patience and love go a long a way in making things easier.  I continue to look for the best ways for them to learn.

For more information visit:
Autism Speaks
Autism Society

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Monster Box

Motivating students to doing something is a big challenge.  Motivating them to accomplish something with purpose and a specific goal in mind is also a challenge.  With this in mind, I have come up with a Monster Box.  The monster box is a way for students to be motivated to accomplish a task with a specific goal in mind that rewards their efforts in a tangible way.  Much like my Incentive Cards, this accomplishes the same goal, but in a different way.

I made my monster box by simply cutting the top off of a Goldfish box.  Then I glued pieces of construction paper around the box.


I got the monsters from an bulletin board set.  Here is some you could print out from Scappin Doodles for $1.00!

You could put anything on the side of the box, as long as you can cut a whole at the mouth.

I bought inexpensive pom poms to feed the monster with.  My kids loved it!  I made each monster a different focus.  So we had the note monster, the rhythm monster, the dynamic monster and the posture monster.  You could come up with whatever focus you wanted to.







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