A Simple (and Free) Video Supplement to Support Your Online Teaching

Are you looking for a few extra (but simple) tools to help you with your new journey into online teaching?

Here’s one you may have not even considered!

A free compilation of 48 of the best music-theory videos from all over the web is available to you here on Piano Pantry.

How can this video-series help make your life easier over the coming weeks?

The videos have been leveled into four sets based on the rough/general order in which concepts are introduced in most piano methods.

You will be able to quickly and easily access videos that can help reinforce new concepts your students may be learning. Here are a few examples of videos in each set:

Set 1
  1. Key names and the music alphabet
  2. How to draw the treble and bass clef
  3. Landmark notes
Set 2
  1. Skips alphabet on the staff
  2. Sharps, flats, and naturals
  3. How to build major and minor triads
Set 3
  1. AB and ABA Form
  2. Chord inversions
  3. Circle of fifths
Set 4
  1. Scale degree names
  2. Augmented intervals
  3. Double sharps and flats

 

Before, during, or after your online lesson, grab the link and text or email it to students/parents. (If you use a program such as Tonara, simply attach a link to the video in a theory lesson assignment. Easy!)

Should these videos replace a lesson?
No!

Are they an easy and fun way to provide additional e-learning to your students?
Yes!


Access the video series here.


Here’s a screenshot showing a few videos that are included in the series:

 

Tracking Sheet

If you’re interested in having a way to keep track of what videos you’ve assigned to each student, find the 2-page guide that accompanies this series in the Music Labs Shop or simply add it to your shopping cart now.

P.S. All music labs are studio licenses so you can print it as much as you need for your students.

 

 

 

December Fun

Christmas Games and Activities for Your Studio

Are you looking for ideas on fun “off bench” activities to use in this Christmas season? Look no further! Today I’m going to share some of my favorite games and resources that I return to year after year along with tips for each one.

First, let me briefly share how I store my holiday games. We have to stay organized, right?

 

Storing Games (Both Hard-Copy and Digital)

Inspired by Nicola Canton I’ve started storing my holiday-themed games in these clear plastic document folders.

(P.S. The A4 size is nice because if you laminate a letter size-sheet, the lamination makes it larger.)

It’s not a cheap way to store games as they’re almost $1 a piece, so I’m currently only storing my holiday-themed games in these. The rest of my games are stored in hanging files in a file drawer. (I’ll write a post on that another day!)

The digital files are stored in my cloud file manager.

From there, I name files for what they are. This allows me to see how many games, for example, I have, how many worksheets, etc.

 

Favorite Christmas-Themed Activities

In no particular order…

Holiday Rhythm Cups from Wendy Stevens at Compose Create.

This is a great way to have fun with rhythm in a unique and collaborative way. The set includes three songs in three levels: Deck the Halls, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and Joy to the World.

Check out a clip of my students having fun with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

Continue reading

12 Ways to Turn a Potentially Frustrating Lesson into a Musical Opportunity

A while back I wrote an article for Alfred Music Blog called Learning Music in a Quick-Fix Society: 7 Tips to Foster Music for LifeIn the article, I share seven ways we can help create an environment that fosters the mindset that learning music is more than just a short-term activity.

One of those seven items was that, as teachers, we shouldn’t feel frustrated when students come to lessons either without their books or having made little progress. (Of course, if it’s an ongoing issue, that another story.)

It can be very easy to get irritated at students and in turn, have the lesson take on a sour note and be a negative experience. On the other hand, if we keep in mind that life happens and music lessons are an ongoing commitment, we can look at it as an opportunity rather than a failure.

Here are 12 ways we can turn a potentially negative, frustrating lesson into a positive musical experience. You don’t even have to pick just one! Set a timer and tell the student every 5 minutes you’re going to switch activities!

 

Continue reading

New Sheets Added to Assignment Sheet Central

(Including My Favorite!)

Do you get tired of looking at the same assignment sheet week after week?

I do!

You no longer have a good excuse to use the same-old boring assignment sheet week after week, year after year.

Why?

You now have 21 – yes, that’s what I said – 21 different assignment sheets to choose from in one location here on Piano Pantry as I just added six new assignment sheets to Assignment Sheet Central.

To make it easy for you, I just copied them here!

Psst…the last one (#21) is my current favorite. I’m using it for the second year in a row (after tweaking it of course! :-))

 

Assignment Sheet-16 | Sticker Boxes

Assignment sheet for younger students includes a fun clip art images, six practice items, and an area for additional assignments all with sticker boxes.

Includes:
  • 6 Practice items
  • 4 Extra activities
  • Sticker boxes for days practiced
  • Student and parent practice reflection with sad face or smiley face

 


Assignment Sheet-17 | Piano Safari

This assignment sheet is for students using the Piano Safari method. Includes clip art of animal technique exercises as well as sticker boxes for practice.

Includes:
  • Clip art of technique exercises
  • Sticker boxes for practice days
  • Area for other activities
  • Student and parent practice reflection with sad face or smiley face

 


Assignment Sheet-18 | Easy as 1-2-3

This assignment sheet is great for adults. 10 practice tips included as well as an area for warm-ups, songs, other items, and notes.

Includes:
  • 10 practice tips
  • Warm-up, songs, other, notes

 

 


Assignment Sheet-19 | Student-Driven

This sheet is great for older teens. It serves not as an “assignment” sheet but a “what did I do” sheet where students take charge of their own learning.

Includes:
  • Student goal(s)
  • Practice-focused accomplishments from most to least
  • Smart practice tools
  • Practice reflection

 


Assignment Sheet-20 | Versatile

This assignment sheet is very versatile and could be used for students of any age. It includes practice tips, an inspiring quote, and daily practice boxes.

Includes:
  • Smart practice tools
  • Inspirational quote
  • Open-ended practice items
  • Daily practice boxes
  • Practice reflection

 


Assignment Sheet-21 | Practice Rating-Scale

This sheet includes indicator for the status for pieces: new, in-progress, review, memory as well as a practice-rating scale for both student and teacher.

Includes:
  • Status of pieces: new, in-progress, review, memory
  • Practice goals for each piece
  • Daily progress
  • Practice reflection with rating scale from both student and teacher

The Assignment Sheet You Love the Most…So Far

Assignment Sheet Central has been live on Piano Pantry for close to two years now. At the time of this post, there are 15 assignment sheets of varying types available. Whether you’re looking for a sheet to use for group classes, adult lesson, or preschool lessons, there will be one for you.

I’m working on adding a few more sheets this week and, in the process, thought it would be fun to share with you the assignment sheet that has been downloaded the most thus far – over 1,000 times to be exact. Funnily enough, it’s the first one on the list. So either it’s a super awesome assignment sheet or ya’ll are lazy and just don’t want to scroll down the page! I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and say it’s the former. 🙂

assignment-sheet-01

 

All in all, readers have downloaded over 10,000 assignment sheets so far. I hope you find them refreshing. Think about it – you could use a new one every year for the next 15 years of your teaching – I would call that refreshing!

The one I’ve been using this past year is definitely my favorite thus far! I’ll let you know when I get it and a few others up.

 

Manipulatives and Games for Private and Group Lessons

A Master List

How many manipulatives, games, and other resources do you have in your music studio?

You probably don’t even have to count to know the answer. A lot!  Am I right?

Keeping track of all our teaching resources can be a daunting task.

Lesson planning for private and group classes can be enough work in itself without having to continuously recall and rehash all the different manipulatives and games we have each time we plan.

After finding myself physically walking back and forth regularly to my game files, flashcard box and such, I decided it was time to put together a master list of every activity or manipulative I had or could use to teach a concept.

It can be very easy to lose track of what we already have. Having a document like this has allowed me to not only have an easy place to reference what activities I could utilize at any given time, but it was an awesome snapshot and inventory of what I owned.

Keeping a master list is also a great place to keep teaching ideas that may not necessarily have physical items to accompany the activity.

I thought you might find this document useful as well.

 

The Master List

Since it is a document that I update on a regular basis I decided to simply share the public link to a Google Doc. Keep in mind that it’s a working document so it’s possible I will add to, edit, and even remove items as time goes by.

There are three ways you could utilize this document

  1. If you want to keep the document as is and not risk being at the mercy of my future edits, you could download it.
  2. If you want to always see the updated version, I would recommend bookmarking the link in your browser (or in Evernote :-). This way you simply click on the link and you always see the most updated version.
  3. If you wanted to create your own list you could even copy and paste into your own document to get you started and create your own version with the materials you have!

I’m working on hyperlinking directly to every item on the list if it’s available. It’s not complete but I have a good start.

May this document help you add a little more sanity to your lesson planning and studio organizational life. 🙂

Click the link below to view the document.


Manipulatives and Games for Private and Group Lessons

 

A Great Game for Reviewing Major Chords and 5-finger Patterns

Don’t you just love it when you come up with an activity or game that turns out to be a real winner making you wish you had thought of it sooner? I had one of those moments recently and wanted to share the activity with you right away as it was such a hit.

I was looking for a fun way to do a big review of all the 5-finger patterns and chords in preparation for a festival in which a few students will be participating.

The only game I really have for that concept is one of my favorite TCW card games (that’s Three Cranky Women if you’re not familiar) – Flashy Fingers.

Most of the TCW card games though are not made for students just learning, or even in the early-mid stages of mastering any particular concepts. They really have to know their stuff to play most of the games. Believe me, I’ve tried a lot of their games with students who didn’t know the information like the back of their hand and it makes the game a lot harder and not nearly as much fun if they have to sit there for a minute to even figure out the answer.

Don’t get me wrong, they are high quality, wonderful games (I own every card deck in the series), they’re just more useful once the student really knows what they’re doing. The games really help students learn to think faster about concepts they already know and understand well.

Just because particular games are made to be played one way doesn’t mean we can’t utilize them in another, so that’s what I did!

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Lesson Planning

A king-size master spreadsheet

When I started teaching piano full time, one of the biggest challenges for me personally was finding a method for lesson planning, tracking student progress, and materials.

The latter item I’ve mastered using Evernote (see Evernote Part 1: Studio Management), but the first two I struggled with for several years (I’ll avoid sharing the details of my failed attempts!)

We all know the best way to learn is to make mistakes and find a better way on our own, and that’s what I did.

One thing I’ve learned about myself is I’m a very visual person. I don’t do well simply making a note or two here or there for items I need to remember for students for their next lesson. I need to see the big picture. For one semester I even tried somewhat “winging it,” without writing down anything before the lesson and I felt kind of out of control and disorganized.

Finally, in 2014 I was inspired by an article in the September/October 2014 Issue of Clavier Companion written by Arlene Steffen, Stephen Hughes, and Craig Sale called “Lesson Plans: A teaching essential?” (I would highly recommend you read it!)

Thanks to their detailed article, my king spreadsheet was born. 

Because a spreadsheet like this will be completely customized to your teaching style (and studio calendar), it doesn’t do me any good to give you a copy of mine. So, in this post, not only do I walk you through the details of what I include, but I’ve also created a video showing you through how to create your version.  I’ll show you tips and tricks for using Excel like a pro! Continue reading

Assignment Sheet Addiction

It’s Small, White and Written All Over…

The iconic spiral-bound notebook. 

Is there a piano student in all the world who can be found without one?

One of the first, if not THE first one I had was small (approximately 3″ x 5″) with a red cover and side spiral. I kept it for years but cannot seem to find it in my old memorabilia. Knowing me, I probably threw it away during one of my “reduce and minimize” streaks.

As a teacher, I used notebooks for years, but in my effort to grow and manage the structure of lessons better I started making my own assignment sheets. I distinctly remember this as a period of intense growth and scrutiny of myself as a teacher as I was in the early stages of my graduate studies.

During this time, I was trying to figure out how to be a piano teacher as opposed to a classroom music teacher. Although I had been teaching piano part-time for years, it felt like a whole new world as I learned about true piano pedagogy. I had no idea there was so much that should be incorporated into the lesson!

For years, I relied solely on method books to guide me and tell me what I was supposed to be teaching. It took several years and even some graduate pedagogy courses to truly have a deeper understanding of the big picture. Some of that growth came from simply studying and teaching from different methods, understanding the philosophy behind the progression, and experiencing what does and doesn’t work for certain students.

 

Methods are to Recipes…

I’m an avid cook. I grew up watching and helping mom out in the kitchen. Mom is a good country cook who raised her family through the 80 and 90’s – a time of Campbell’s soup and casseroles. Although she had her trusty favorite recipes, we often called her MacGyver in the kitchen as she could make a meal out of nothing.

When I was first married, I used all her recipes, but when the poundage began to add up on both my husband and I, healthy cooking  realized I needed to learn to cook healthier and incorporate flavor through herbs and spices instead of butter and sour cream. Thus, I embarked into the world of cooking shows and an endless recipe obsession.

Stick with me…

One of my favorite shows, when we lived in Australia, was Chef at Home, hosted by the Canadian chef from Prince Edward Island, Michael Smith. He advocates using your instincts and what you have at home to put together simple, easy, and delicious meals. At the time, I thought “yeah right!” I can follow a recipe and make an amazing meal, but I don’t have a deep enough understanding of food to come up with something on my own – I’m no MacGyver.

Stick with me…

A few years down the road and one day it suddenly dawns on me that I’m cooking something for dinner with complete confidence – NO recipe in front of me! What an intense and rewarding feeling that was!

Do you see where I’m going with this? Method books are a recipe. They help us know what musical concept to introduce in what order. However, when we understand pedagogy, how children learn music, the foundations of healthy technique, and more, we’re understanding the flavor of the ingredients and how those ingredients come together to make a pianist. It’s kinda like knowing how the ratio of flour, sugar, butter, and egg make a cookie as opposed to a cake.

There is a connection to my assignment sheet addiction, I promise…

While I still use and rely on the sound progression and solid pedagogy of several methods on a regular basis, I was freed the day I realized I could teach a student without a method in front of me if I wanted.

 

Why the Addiction?

My assignment sheet obsession started out somewhat as a way for me to write out my own “recipe instructions.” Their role became a way for me to help guide my lessons, to remind me of what I needed to incorporate. Each one tells a different story of the goals I had at the time and things I was focused on as a teacher.

I create a new assignment sheet at least once to twice a year, and sometimes I trial a third through the Summer before I decide if I want to use it in the Fall.

They range from simple one-page sheets to a two-page spread that includes incentive program instructions.

I’m not going to weed them out and present you with my favorites because, at one time or another, they were each perfect for me. Who am I to say which one will work best for you?

There were times in the early days when it almost felt that if I could just make the perfect assignment sheet somehow, I would be a perfect teacher. Bahahaha yes, we’re all laughing, I know! Looking back now I realize that is ridiculous.

I’ve learned to let it go and honestly, the main reason I switch assignment sheets now is completely out of boredom. I get tired of looking at the same sheet day in and day out. Plus, I start thinking things like, “Gee, maybe if I add a new joke or quote to the sheet each week I’ll get some of them to fill it out more regularly.” Bahahaha, a laughing matter once again, I know!

There are always students who fill it out diligently and others who don’t bother no matter what I do. I’ve called them anything from “Weekly Learning Guide” to “Assignment Sheet” to “Assignments for the week of…,” to “Piano Homework” to “Daily Practice Steps” and more. Does the title make a difference or inspire them more? Nope, not one bit.

I have a few students who hate it when I switch in the middle of the year, so I just use the same assignment sheet for them all year. Others find the switch refreshing as I do and some don’t care either way.

There were times where I’ve used the same sheet for everyone and times I’ve used a different sheet for adults, preschoolers, elementary level, and high schoolers.

They’re kept in color-coded hanging files next to the piano, and I just pull a fresh one out and place it in the front of their binder on top of last week’s sheet.

Most have been designed in Microsoft Word and Microsoft Publisher but have also experimented with Canva.com.

 

Assignment Sheet Central

You can access all my assignment sheets on Assignment Sheet CentralTake your pick! You name it, I probably have it.

Do you still have or remember your first notebook? What did it look like? Do you use a spiral notebook for assignments, binders with printable assignment sheets, or are you 100% digital?