Organizing Piano Games and Teaching Resources

Teaching areas can be hard places to organize. Not only do we like to keep items close at hand, but if you teach a variety of levels, the number of teaching resources can easily double.

There are games, scale books, sight-reading materials, pedal extenders, dry-erase boards, game markers, technique tools, highlighters, and much more.

The great thing about organization (like many things in life), is that there’s no right or wrong way.

What we DO need in order to make it happen though is:

  1. Intention
  2. Action
  3. Some kind of (consistent) system
  4. Regular upkeep
  5. Ability to recognize when your “system” needs an update/refresh

In this post, I want to share a few different ways I have stored my own teaching games and resources over the years as well as links to loads of other teachers’ ideas.

As you’re considering a system that works well for your space, keep these things in mind:

  1. Make it easily accessible – Store items in a way that will help you to both use and remember what you have
  2. Categorize – Group your items according to level, concept, game style (such as group games vs. solo games), and more.
  3. Contain – Use a variety of storage formats including magazine holders, containers, drawers, files, and more.

I hope this post gives you lots of fresh ideas as you freshen up your own teaching space!


For more on that, listen in on episode #19 of The Piano Pantry Podcast – Spring Cleaning: It’s Time.


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Friday Finds #243 Best of April

1

Since Cinco de Mayo is right around the corner, here are some of my favorite Mexican-style dishes:

Game-winning Guac (very classic)
Guacamole Salad (fresh and healthy)
Ground Beef Taco Casserole (good as a dip for chips or as the base for taco salads instead of just seasoned ground beef!)
Skillet Chicken with Mexican Green Rice (super easy and great for feeding a family)
Taco Torte (a fun twist and pretty presentation – but easy!)
Churro Brownies (sooo good)

 

2

RCM Piano Syllabus 2022 (6th Edition) – a great rundown from Rebekah Maxner

 

3

Spring is in the air: here are some good Spring Cleaning tips from the special Saturday edition of my favorite news podcast.

 

4

A fun unboxing video from Janna for her new hydraulic bench!

 

5

Looking for a fresh idea for fun little student prizes/incentives?

From Lauren Lewandowski: How I Use Music Money in My Studio
From me: A Simple Incentive Program and Prize Box Items Students Love

 

6

Five Statements Your Kids Need to Hear Today (Forward Progress)

 

7

Helping students at performance time:

Piano Performance Checklists (Piano Pantry)
Preparing Students to Perform Their Best (podcast w/ Leila Viss & Samantha Coates)

 

8

Studio Awards: Policies and Procedures(Piano Pantry)

 

9

Yeah, I’m pretty sure I have almost all of these items, so I agree 100%! 🙂

 

Friday Finds #242

 

1

As this first Friday Finds post following the MTNA 2022 conference, here are a few recaps you might enjoy:

Reflections on MTNA 2022  (Janna Williamson)

2022 MTNA Virtual Conference Recap (Joy Morin)

Music Teacher Eats: MTNA 2022 Edition (Amy Chaplin)

 

2

After staying at my house (and sleeping in my studio space – ha!) during the MTNA 2022 conference, Janna was inspired to do a tour of her studio!

 

3

Teacher Anna Haugen has a website called “Midlife Creative.” She recently did an artist feature post on a woman who makes incredible homemade pizza every Friday night for her family. The kind of pizza she makes is the kind of pizza of I love but don’t take enough effort to make regularly. I’m thinking it’s time for that to change…

 

4

Jennifer Foxx hit a tender spot in my heart when she recently shared a new playlist on Spotify she’s been developing called “Feel Good Songs.” Follow her and give it a listen!

 

5

Interest in choral singing is not declining in America, so why are church choirs disappearing? (Baptist News Global)

 

6

This short 5-minute video taught me some really amazing keyboard shortcuts! Even if you don’t use Evernote, many of these are applicable in other programs.

 

7

 

A great post on using devices for music reading and hands-free page-turning. (Creative Piano Teacher)

 

8

Food Prices are Going Up at Levels Americans Haven’t Seen in Decades (NPR)

 

9

Over the last few weeks, I have found myself incredibly addicted to a YouTube channel called Honeyjubu. She is a Korean woman who Vlogs about home life and food. I’ll just say there has been some serious binge-watching going on.

In the process, I also discovered a similar one called Hamimommy.

Do you have any favorite Vlog channels you follow on YouTube? Let me know in the comments!

 

10

Thanks to Leila Viss for telling me about the “Everything Happens” podcast by Kate Bowler. Recently, I really enjoyed the episode with novelist Ann Patchett.

 

11

14 Food Logos With Sneaky Hidden Messages (Taste of Home)

Oh my goodness, you have to take 5 minutes to actually read and process each of these 14 logos. So fun!

 

12

For Easter each year, we drive 50 minutes immediately following church to an extended family pitch-in lunch for my husband’s side of the family. Due to having to pack up food prior to church and have it sit for 3 hours in our car before the meal, I always do easy things that can survive without heat or refrigeration (or be OK with a simple ice pack).

This year’s picks:

Scotcheroos (made with Special K cereal)

Dill Pickle Dip with crackers

 

YQA: Preschool Piano Classes

This post is part of a series called Your Questions Answered that highlights questions that readers like yourself have asked of me. If you have a question feel free to contact me here!

 


Hi, Amy!

I absolutely LOVED reading your most recent post offering your reflections on what you’ve learned as you celebrate your teaching milestone. So much of it truly spoke to me!

I am gearing up to launch a preschool piano class this fall and was wondering if you’d share with me how you structured your class – number of weeks, length of class, number of students, lesson plan structure, etc.

(I am currently thinking 8-week sessions, 45-minute classes, 3-4 students, ages 4-6.)

I’ve been learning a lot about MLT, audiation, and MMfP, but I feel like I’m stalling the preschool class launch because I am still so new at all of it. I have been teaching using Piano Safari, as well as several other methods for several years now, and recently ordered the new Piano Safari Friends materials. I also have several years of experience teaching the Music Together program (early childhood family music classes). However, I have felt like until I could teach as an MLT “purist,” I should wait.

Your thoughts on combining methods and doing what works for you and your students has encouraged me to consider another way without worrying about doing it “wrong.” I’d love to hear more about your experience with this age group and the bird and bolts of how you structure your classes!

Marissa L.

 


Hi, Marissa!

Thank you so much for your kind words about the blog post. It is SO NICE to hear directly from people impacted! So thank YOU! 🙂

As far as the preschool piano class goes, your email made me realize that the photo I shared in the blog post was perhaps deceiving! The photo I posted was from a free one-off summer class I did with our local parks department for a few years. I used that photo because I was pulling from a multitude of curriculums with those kiddos.

I have yet to run a full preschool piano class. While I offer the group class, it seems I’ve never had enough students timed just right for it to be a go. I’ve only ended up doing private preschool lessons. Here’s how I advertise my preschool lessons though:

“Lessons are paid for and attended in 8-week sessions. Students come once a week for a private lesson or group class of 2-3 students (depending on availability). Private lessons will be 30 minutes and group classes 40 minutes”

So, whether it ended up being a private lesson or a group class, parents were only committed for a short period of time.

I think what you’re planning as far as length, time, and students are perfect!

As far as curriculum goes, for the most part, I now pretty well use Music Moves Keyboard Games books 100% for this age. I’ll tell you what I’ve done in the past though (as far as combining resources) that worked well for quite a while:

I didn’t necessarily use all of these at once but did combine many of them at one point.

As far as the Music Moves for Piano series goes, let me say this: just do it – don’t feel like you have to know or understand it all to try using it! Keep pressing on and learning a little more at a time.

The Keyboard Games Books are in my opinion the absolute best piano book for preschoolers out there as the songs are short, encourage exploration all over the piano, and especially support the audition of basic rhythm patterns in duple and triple meters.

It’s worth it!

Good luck and I would love to hear how things pan out!

 

~Amy

 

Music Teacher Eats: MTNA 2022 Edition

This past week was the 2022 Music Teachers National Conference. Since it was virtual, a few teacher friends and I decided to come together so as to not miss out on one of the best aspects – spending time together. Plus, it’s easier to feel more enveloped in the virtual experience when you’re not alone and easily distracted by other life happenings.


How to Make Music Teacher Friends (The Piano Pantry Podcast) – 12 min.


As someone who loves to cook and host, I was quick to volunteer our home as the location. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to come together with other teacher friends. It’s practically like a spa day as you walk away feeling rejuvenated, refreshed, and newly motivated!

Call me crazy, but since I usually cook for two, I considered cooking for five for multiple meals and days as a fun opportunity. Of course, my teacher friends were happy to oblige. 🙂 Meet my friends and guests:

Joy Morin – Color in My Piano

Christina Whitlock – Beyond Measure Podcast

Janna Williamson- JannaWilliamson.com

In this post, I thought it would be fun to share all the recipes I cooked over the course of the week (at least those that are available online).


For more recommend recipes, visit the first post in this series: Music Teacher Eats: Fall Edition.


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Friday Finds #241 Best of March

 

1

Curious about the Boom Card “boom”? LOL Check out Melody Payne’s tutorial on using boom cards in online lessons.

 

2

Language Matters: What Languages Learners Need to Know About Ukrainian (Duolingo Blog)

 

3

Coffee Drinks from Around the World (Williams Sonoma)

 

4

Canva is such an amazing resource and one that I have come to use almost daily. Even when I think I know a program well, I find myself always learning something new from Katie Wardrobe at Midnight Music. Check out the podcast episode #134:10+ Canva features you probably didn’t know about.

 

5

Music Notation Software Recommendations for Teachers and Students (Color in my Piano)

 

6

“The Pianist” Movie – A True Story (Piano Street)

 

7

Recent recipe finds worth a try:

Baked Chicken Taquitos (Kirstineskitchenblog.com) – My brother made this and even his (super picky) kids loved them, as did we!

Cuban Beef Picadilla (The Kitchn) – A fairly simple dish that can be served with rice or cauliflower rice on the side.

 

8

The Best Music Quotes for Piano Teachers (Creative Piano Teacher)

 

9

I just find this soooo touching and yes, it totally made me cry at the end!

 

10

An excellent article from Jane MacGrath on progressing students through what she calls “black hole literature.” An excellent pairing to this article is another article and free download from Janna Williamson on how to evaluate repertoire difficulty.

 

11

WordPress vs. Squarespace (Janna Carlson | Studio Rocket Web Design)

 

12

We’re all a little picky on the way we teach chords and scales. Maybe this new complete scales and complete chords book will be one that works well for you!

 

Webinar Appearance with Duet

Just a quick note here to let you know that I will be presenting a webinar, Connect and Engage: Online Professional Development Resources for the Independent Music Teacher on Wednesday, April 6th @ 10 am PT/1 pm ET.

This is a free webinar sponsored by Duet Partner.

Register here: https://zoom.us/…/tJwsc-yurD0uGtaAVX7pA9gWT7l4rygudbLe

In this webinar, we will explore the wealth of both professional development and teaching resources available to teachers as well as best practices for utilizing information without getting overwhelmed. Whether you’re a new or seasoned teacher, this will give you a wonderful snapshot into all that’s at your fingertips.

Piano Pantry: Celebrating 6 Years

This coming Sunday, March 20, 2022, marks six years since I hit publish on the first post here on Piano Pantry, Welcome to My Studio.

It’s been a fun creative outlet for me and a great way to connect with you. I enjoy creating new teaching resources and sharing ideas as quickly as life and physical ability allow.

As a big THANK YOU for being here, we’re celebrating with a discount in the SHOP!  In this post, I’ll share a few product and resource highlights from over the years followed by the discount code at the end of this post.

Here’s a fun little timeline/history of what has been brought to you over the past 6 years:

Preloader
  • First Post

    “Welcome to My Studio”

  • Resource

    Speaking Sessions

  • Resource

    Assignment Sheet Central

  • Resource

    Evernote for the IMT [Video Tutorial Series]

  • Resource

    Secret Letter Email Newsletter

  • Post

    Friday Finds #100

  • Product

    Music Lab Series

  • Post Series

    Your Questions Answered

  • Podcast

    Key Ideas Episode #11 with Leila Viss

  • Post

    Friday Finds #200

  • Product

    Happy Birthday By Ear

  • Branding

    New Piano Pantry Logo

  • Product

    Note Rush Sequenced Assignment Series

  • Product

    Christmas By Ear

  • Post Series

    Music Teacher Eats

  • Product

    Consulting

  • Resource

    The Piano Pantry Podcast

 

First Free Resource

Assignment Sheet Central

The first big resource I shared in Piano Pantry back in 2016 was Assignment Sheet Central which now houses more than 20 free assignment sheets.

This stemmed from a period of time when I went through what was called my “assignment sheet addiction“.

 

Newest Free Resource

The newest resource available to you is The Piano Pantry Podcast launched in January 2022 and now has 11 published episodes. Listen to the 1-minute trailer here

So far, the most downloaded episode is #2 Managing Your Podcast Consumption

 

Most Popular Post

Piano Safari Stuffed Animals Blog Post

Several years ago, I spent quite a bit of time hunting down little critters to accompany the technique exercise in Piano Safari. I shared my favorites in this post which remains the most popular on the site to date.

 

 

Most Popular Freebie Download

This Candy Car Contest download is insanely popular.

It’s a fun little studio-wide activity to use during holiday or group-class weeks. Kids go crazy over this little contest.

 

 

 

Newest Product in the Shop

Piano Lesson Warm-Up / Focus Activity

Doing a focus activity at the beginning of lessons has several wonderful benefits including helping students transition from their day and turn their mental and physical focus to the piano.

    1. As a bonus, this routine has a fun chant-like flow students easily follow and memorize.

 

Most Popular Products in the Shop

Not surprisingly, the most popular product in the shop is the teacher-licensed book Christmas By Ear: 8 Tunes to Harmonize.

The format encourages the development of audiation, improvisation, and creativity skills by presenting multi-level steps/variations on playing each tune. Each song includes its own checklist so students can use and build on these sheets year after year as their skills progress.

Once again, I’m not really surprised that the second most popular product is Happy Birthday By Ear.

This 11-page teaching guide is all you and your students will need to learn (and remember how to play) this tune.

Students are guided by learning the melody, harmony, and a variety of creative variations while fostering their audition of the piece.

 

 

 

Birthday Discount

As a big THANK YOU for being here, we’re celebrating with a discount in the SHOP! Since the blog launched in 2016, I’m giving 16% off your entire order through March 31, 2022.

Use the code BIRTHDAY16 at checkout.

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Expressive Movement Videos for Preschool Lessons and Group Classes

Over the years, I’ve shared about an expressive movement resource I use off and on during preschool lessons and early elementary group classes from John Feierabend called Move It!: Expressive Movements with Classical Music for All Ages.

The series includes 20 dances set to Classical works from Brahms’s “Waltz in A-flat” to Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet.” The movements reflect both the form and expressive quality of the music. They’re really fun and my kids have always enjoyed them.

During Covid times, I found myself wanting to give a small assignment like this for my preschool kids to do at home. Unfortunately, the series I have is only available on DVD. So, I went searching for other options available online and quickly came across a large number of videos on YouTube.

These videos make for a fun and quick “focus activity” to use at the start of lessons or group classes for preschool or early to mid-elementary students.

You could also use them at the beginning of group lessons as you’re waiting for everyone to arrive for the class. Students can join in as they enter the studio.

Do it along to the video, or learn it yourself and have them follow you.

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Piano Ensemble Repertoire

Do you include group classes in your studio in some way, shape, or form? Do you have at least two pianos? If so, then consider incorporating ensemble playing into this time!

Piano ensembles are a fun and easy way for students to experience collaborative playing and have been a staple activity in my group classes for years. I’ll share some great sources for piano ensemble music in today’s post.

(For holiday-specific ensemble music, check out the post: Christmas Collaborations: Recommended Piano Ensemble Music)

Before we dive in, one point of advice I wanted to mention is that I have always approached this as a sight-reading activity. I do not send music home prior to a group class for them to practice.

Music is chosen based on what I know students can easily sight-read. Since I am lucky to have four keyboards with headphones, they spend a few minutes playing through their part a couple of times then we unplug and play together.

Also, erring on the side of easier than I think they could play has proven to be a good rule of thumb for successful experiences. I’ll try to give you some specific examples throughout.


Interested in hearing more on how I run my group classes?
Listen in on Episode #3 of The Piano Pantry Podcast: Group Class Scheduling Experiences and Ideas


 

Hal Leonard Student Piano Library

My favorite over the years has been the Hal Leonard Student Piano Library Piano Ensemble Series.

Reasons I like this series:

  • They don’t require 4 pianos.
  • The spine is perforated so you can easily remove the parts from the book.
  • There is a teacher score.
  • While the difficulty levels are equal for each part, sometimes they will have 2 parts with one hand only and 2 parts with two hands so that’s a small way I can divide between students based on their sight-reading strength.
  • It includes suggestions for fun midi sounds – a different one for each keyboard. I don’t always use these but sometimes it can be a fun twist. Here’s a fun example (two of these teen students were beginners and two had been in lessons for a few years):

Things I don’t love about this series:

  • The kiddy artwork and song titles. While it’s not terrible, I often choose the piece based on how “un-kindergarten-like” it feels.

 

Buy it on Sheet Music Plus

Hal Leonard Piano Ensembles, Level 1
Hal Leonard Piano Ensembles, Level 2
Hal Leonard Piano Ensembles, Level 3
Hal Leonard Piano Ensembles, Level 4
Hal Leonard Piano Ensembles, Level 5

 

Alfred’s Basic Piano Library

Similar to Hal Leonard, Alfred has a piano ensemble series as part of their Basic Piano Library method.

Reasons I like this series:

  • Each book includes a lot of pieces – more than 4.
  • There are some pre-reading ensembles in 1A.
  • There is a teacher score.
  • It includes suggestions for fun midi sounds – a different one for each keyboard.
  • The pieces are written for 4 keyboards and every part is two-handed
  • Overall, the titles and artwork feel less “kiddie-like” than Hal Leonard’s so it can work better for older students.
  • There are 4 levels but you can opt to purchase two “complete” sets rather than 4 individual levels.

Things I don’t love about this series:

  • The music is harder. There isn’t a lot (even in book 1) that students who have been in lessons for even a couple of years would be able to sightread and play successfully almost immediately. Again, I think this is a good indication that this series might be better for students that play at the intermediate level.
  • The pages are not perforated like Hal Leonard’s (allowing you to purchase 1 book). You have to either tear the pieces of the spite to distribute or purchase 4 copies of the book.
  • The pages of each song are printed back-to-back so there’s no way to separate them out (like Hal Leonard’s) For example, part one is printed on the backside of the previous piece, parts two and three are printed on the same page back to back, and part four is on the front side of the next piece. That means that you either have to purchase multiple copies or tear the pages out of the book to distribute then (dare I say) photocopy one of the parts (the one that’s on the backside of part 2).

 

Buy on Sheet Music Plus

Alfred’s Piano Ensembles, Level 1A
Alfred’s Piano Ensembles, Level 1B
Alfred’s Piano Ensembles, Level 1 Complete
Alfred’s Piano Ensembles, Level 2
Alfred’s Piano Ensembles, Level 3
Alfred’s Piano Ensembles, Level 2 & 3 Complete

 

Self-Publishers

There are two other good locations that I currently know of for piano ensemble music online. I have not used either one extensively as I have the Hal Leonard or Alfred Ensembles but I like what I see and think they are a great option!

Please note that I am not being paid in any way to promote these products. I’m just letting you know what’s out there! 🙂

The first is Lauren Lewandowsi’s site: Piano with Lauren. She has 12 arrangements available.

Each piece includes:

  • A short summary about the song
  • Rhythm Practice
  • Individual parts for harmony (chords), bass notes, and melody
  • Advanced variations of each part
  • Each part is notated in its simplest form first and then as more advanced variations. The variations allow for a group of multi-leveled students to play together.

 

The newest one I’ve discovered is Miss Dorla’s Piano Pyramids.

Each piece includes:

  • 5 parts (at 5 different levels – a real gem!)
  • Conductor Score

 

Any More?

I hope this post has given you some great resources for gathering your students to make music together!

Do you have any favorites to add to the list? Let me know in the comments. I’m always looking for new resources for piano ensembles.


Please note all of these links are affiliate links which simply means I get a very small percentage back without it costing you extra as a way of helping me run this blog. Thanks!