Thursday, May 3, 2012

It's so simple, really.....

 "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." Henry Brooks Adams

I have been teaching piano for 20 years now and have tried all kinds of things to enhance my students' learning experience. What I have learned during all this time is no matter how lofty my goals as an instructor may be, at the end of the day it is about making lessons enjoyable and teaching concepts in a way that the students will understand AND enjoy the learning process!  Effective instruction involves much more than merely explaining a concept - if the student can learn the concept interactively they will retain it much more easily. I enjoy creating games or learning activities that reinforce whatever the lesson is about. I have found that this can often be accomplished easily and affordably by using simple items that most of us have on hand!

A while back I heard about a teacher using Scrabble tiles to teach beginners about locating various keys on the piano. The tiles fit perfectly on standard-sized piano keys and children greatly benefit from tactile learning. I located an old Scrabble game, pulled out all the A,B,C,D,E,F and G tiles and began using them with my beginner students. They LOVED it!  We then began playing a game where I put all of the tiles in a bag and put game markers at each end of the keyboard. The student and I would take turns drawing letters and moving our marker to whichever key name we drew. The first person to reach the middle of the keyboard was deemed the winner. Later, when we began learning about sharps and flats, we used these tiles again in a similar manner, except they had to put their marker on the key that was a half-step higher or lower than the letter they drew. I have a few students who are siblings and it is always fun to let them compete against each other with this one!

I am an advocate of using flash cards to help students learn note names, key signatures, etc. but I have found that if I help them create the flash cards themselves (using colored index cards) they retain the information even better. We have created flash cards for everything from note names to key signatures to primary chords and they always enjoy doing it. Then of course once they have created the flash cards and reviewed them we have various games and activities that help them remember each concept.

I would love to hear from other teachers about creative things you do with your students to reinforce musical concepts!