Thursday, January 27, 2011

Music is Fun!

I found this wonderful video showing an experiment using music as a way to motivate exercise.  I have enjoyed showing this to my students as well.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tic Tac Toe Game for the Keyboard

Here is a Tic Tac Toe Board using the keyboard names.  Students pick an Alphabet card and place a chip/token on the correct note.  If they get three in a row they win.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

New Way to Learn Note Names: Drill Cards

I have a new way of drilling the note names with students with simple spiral bound index cards.

Many times students will struggle with certain notes, but those notes are not always in the music they are playing at the time.  Flash cards are great tools, but sorting them out at every lesson can become a hassle.   So index cards that are spiral bound for each student becomes a great solution.

First I find out what notes the student is struggling with by asking them to name the note as fast as the can.  I only give them a couple of seconds, because I want them to instantly know the note.   I also ask them to play the note in the correct place on the piano.  The notes they have trouble with go in the Drill Book.

Then at every lesson I ask them to name the note and play it.  If they do it correctly, they get to put a sticker on the card.  When they get ten stickers, they have successfully learned the note.

I have my students participate in the One Minute Club, so any notes they miss while doing this exercise also go in the Drill Book.  Any new notes we learn can be added as well.

I use the Drill Book for chords and keys.  You could even use it for rhythms, intervals or vocabulary words.

You can keep the books safe in the studio or send the books home for the students to practice with.

You can find a set of 36 spiral index cards at Amazon for $28.39 which ends up being .79¢ each if you get free shipping.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Finger Independence for Beginners

I recently saw a post on the Piano Club Forum about a student who was having trouble with finger independence.  When she presses the key down she doesn't release it.  She leaves it down and plays the next finger and then the next, until all fingers are pressed down.   This is a habit some students develop that with some work can be corrected.

First I would work on with the student on finger number recognition with some finger exercise cards, making sure the student has the proper technique.

Finger Exercises Google Doc
Finger Exercises

Then I might get out some finger puppets and have the student go back and forth between fingers, holding the puppets upright.  We may use some funny voices or animal sounds alternating between the fingers.

For example:  I might say "Have the dog talk to the pig. Roof, oink, roof, oink"  The student would bend the 3rd finger and the 2nd finger alternating.  I would have the student do this with the puppet book upright.  The fingers naturally wants to retract, but if the student doesn't retract the finger, I would point out that only one animal can speak at a time.

Then I would have the student place the book on their hand in a playing position, but switch the book around so they can see the puppet faces.  This means the book would be on the student's hand backwards or upside down,  For single finger puppets, just turn the puppets face around.

I would alternate between fingers tapping on a tabletop, making sure the animal lifts back up when the next finger is played.  You can do animal sounds or use the cards above or make up your own exercises.  The animals really help the children see whether they brought the finger back up or not.

Then have the student try the exercise without the puppets on the tabletop and lastly transfer to the keyboard.

You can find the Old MacDonald Finger Puppet Book at Amazon for $9.35.
I found the other finger puppets at the dollar store (4 for a $1.00)

One post suggested pretending to place chocolate chips in play dough, like making a cookie.  There is a song in Faber's My First Piano Adventure that goes well with this idea.  This would also be a fun activity.

Monday, January 10, 2011

FootNotes Staff Rug

Here is a great rug for your studio or classroom:

The rug is sold by Wenger and retails at
$399.00 and is 6' x 8'.

Though expensive, it could be used for many activities and would be a nice centerpiece for a studio.

A girl can dream at least :)

I can imagine throwing bean bags on the rug, having children stand on different notes and go up or down different intervals.

If the rug is out of your price range, (it's out of mine) then a simple white table cloth could be used as a floor staff.  I have also seen a plain white shower curtain be used as well.  Just get some electric tape and measure out the lines.  Draw on the clef and there you have a inexpensive floor staff.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Versatile Blogger Award

I love blogging about my professional life: piano and preschool music, so I am thrilled to receive the Versatile Blogger Award from Heidi from her blog: Heidi's Piano Studio.  

Here is how this award works:
  1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.
  2. Share 7 things about yourself.
  3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic for whatever reason! (In no particular order…)
  4. Contact the bloggers you’ve picked and let them know about the award.

Thank you Heidi for recognizing my blog.  I have loved looking through Heidi's Piano StudioShe has some wonderful ideas and a love for children.  I especially like her focus on the pre- reading little ones :)
1. I am a mother of three very busy children: Jacob who is 6, Elizabeth who is 11 and soon to be 14 year old Christina.  They all have red hair and are all very different.  The two eldest play piano (YEAH!) and the youngest loves to dance and sing while they play.

2. I am the eldest of three kids and have a wonderful, supportive family.  I love to organize and plan things (especially vacations).  Here are some pictures of some recent vacations we took as a family.

Jacob enjoying the waves at Myrtle Beach
My husband and meat the Outer Banks
We had a great time at Disney World in 2009

3. I have been married to my wonderful husband for over 15 years.  He is a police attorney and is the youngest of five.  All of his brother and sisters live in NC and many live in our neighborhood, which makes it easy to find a baby sitter :)

A Christmas Picture of my Husband's Family

4.  I am a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill and so is my husband, so needless to say we are big Carolina fans!  Go HEELS!

5. My girls have been involved in several theater productions and I have actually gotten bit by the theater bug as well.  I have shared the stage with my oldest and have gotten to music direct some shows as well.
Christina is playing Dorothy(On the Right) in a CTG Production
of "Dorothy Meets Alice"
Elizabeth (red head in the middle) in Triad Stage's "A Christmas Carol"

6. I play the keyboard  in Francisco Road ( A Christian Rock Band).  My husband is the lead singer and my daughter also helps out with vocals.  We have played around our area and have a wonderful time performing.  You can see more about us at

7. I plan on redecorating the inside of my house this year!  So I will be looking at some decorating blogs :)  Wish me luck!

I have been following many website and blogs for years, using their wonderfully ideas in my studio.  Many times it has inspired me to create a game or activity of my own.  Thank you to all the wonderful, creative people who take time to share their ideas!

Versatile Blogger Award:
1. Fenwick Piano Studio
2. The Music Box
3. The Music Hub
4. The Elementary Music Teachers Blog
5. Evolving Music

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Practice Incentive Chart

My old method of rewarding students work was to have their parents sign their practice goal sheet.  I would assign various goals: Say note names 3 times, Count out loud, Sing the words and play.  Students would check off that goal and then get a prize if all the goals were checked off.  Some diligent students would always come in with their goals completed, while others came to their lesson and the practice assignment hadn't been touched.  Sometimes I would write a question on the assignment just to check and see if anyone was reading them.  So after reading many blogs and articles, I came up with a program that will work with my current prize system and practice assignments.

The students each have a sticker chart (seen below) and they are awarded a sticker for completing the various activities.  Once they fill up the sticker chart, they are awarded a prize.  The great thing about this incentive program, is it focuses on the display of the practice goal and not how many times they practiced it.  I will see if they can name their notes names, count out loud, etc. . and if they complete the goal to my satisfaction they will get a sticker.

They get awarded stickers for other achievements as well: Completing theory, learning a scale or warm up, composing a song, etc. . .

I am going to be updating my prizes.  Since the student won't be getting a prize every week, I would like to have some nicer prizes.  I have the standard candy and pens, and some silly bands but, I would like to get some things the older teenager would like.  Any suggestions?

Incentive Chart Google Docs
Practice Incentive Chart

Here is a blank incentive chart for you to put your own goals in.
Blank Incentive Chart Google Docs
Blank Practice Incentive Chart

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mitten Songs

Mittens on My Hands (sung to The Wheels on the Bus). 
The mittens on hands cover my fingers
The hat on my head covers my ears...
The scarf around my neck is oh so long...
The boots on my feet jump in the snow...
The coat on my body keeps me warm

Teaching Ideas:
1. Have the clothing items in the song and dress yourself or a child

Mittens Mittens
Mittens Mittens for the snow time, when the world is white.
Mittens for my two hands, (hold up hands)
Mittens left & right (show left & right)
Mittens with a thumb place (show thumb)
Mittens warm and snug
Mittens make me feel like a bug inside a rug (hug self)

Three Little Kittens (tune-Three Blind Mice)
Three little kittens, Three little kittens.
Lost their mittens, Lost their mittens.
They all ran around with their tails in the air.
Looking for their mittens everywhere.
They found them hiding under the chair.
Those three little kittens,  Those three little kittens.

Teaching Ideas:
1. Talk about the way kittens and mittens rhyme.  Can you think of an animal that rhymes with hat? (rat, cat, bat) How about coat?  (goat)
2. Hide the items and have three children go look for them

The Mitten: for Jan Brett's The Mitten
(to the tune of "The Farmer in the Dell")
The mitten on the ground.
The mitten on the ground.
Brrr- Brrr It's cold outside.
The mitten on the ground.
The (mole) snuggles in.
The (mole) snuggles in.
Brrr- Brrr  It's cold outside.
The (mole) snuggles in.
(After the last animal, all pretend to sneeze and fall out of the mitten.) 

Teaching Ideas:
1. Sing the song as you read the book
2. Have a white table cloth and have students pretend to be the different animals in the mitten

Mitten Mates Sung to: "If You're Happy And You Know It"
Each mitten has a mate, has a mate.
Each mitten has a mate, has a mate.
Can (child's name) find the pair?
(He/She) is looking here and there.
Can (child's name) find the mate.
Find the mate? 

Have several pairs of mittens for the children to match.  You could make some on card stock or have the children bring in some mittens from home.

Winter Pokey

You put your right mitten in,
You take your right mitten out.
You put your right mitten in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the winter pokey, [shiver]
And you turn yourself around.
That's what it's all about!

Others Include:
You put your left mitten in....
You put your right boot....
You put your left boot....
You put your winter hat in....
You put your snowsuit (whole body) in....

Dressed and Undressed 
The day is cloudy and the wind is bold. 
Dress up warmly, you mustn't get cold!
Put on your coat and zip it up tight, 
Put on your left boot, put on your right.
Put on your scarf and put on your hat, 
(ut on your mittens and clap-clap-clap!
Go outside and play and play. 
Come in again, and then we'll say-
Take off your coat that was zipped up tight, 
Take off your left boot, take off your right.
Take off your scarf, take off your hat,
Take off your mittens, and then take a nap! 
Act out this fun action poem.

Recommended Reading
1. The Mitten by Jan Brett
2. Three Little Kittens by Paul Galdone
3. The Missing Mitten Mystery by Steven Kellogg
4. One Mitten by Kristine O'Connell

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Piano Assignment Sheets

Here are some new piano assignment sheets I created for the new year.  I don't stress the amount of time a student must practice, but rather goals to accomplish for that week.  I inserted a staff and keyboard at the bottom, which will really come in handy.

My first assignment sheet has an example of how I use it.  For elementary students, many times the goals are the same for each piece, so to save time I assign the same goal for each piece.  Sometimes that goal will not apply, so I cross it out.  I use a practice incentive and check for different goals to see if the student can accomplish it.  They get a sticker for doing this.  I encourage them to check off the goal when they have done it, but this does not always get done.

For older students, their goals become more piece driven, so I have more space to write out details I want them to focus on.  The gray shaded area is for the name of the piece.  I like using post its as well and colored pencils to remind the students of things to work on.

Piano Assignment Sheet 2011 on Google Docs

Piano Assignment Sheet 2011

Piano Assignment Sheet Example on Google Docs
Piano Assignment Sheet 2011 Example

Piano Assignment Sheet Advanced on Google Docs
Piano Assignment Sheet Advanced 2011


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