by Dr. Julie Knerr
In my new job at Hartt Community Division at University of Hartford in Connecticut (snowy Connecticut right now!), I travel between rooms to teach. This is quite an adjustment for me, as in Oklahoma and Ohio, I had a permanent teaching studio, with my books and props right there. However, the benefits of teaching in such a vibrant school setting outweigh the downsides of having to carry my teaching stuff around from room to room each day.
In fact, I often feel like I look like the Music Man, as I carry my drum, pedal extender, carpet squares, and three bags of books and teaching aids around the building. But it is worth it when I see the children engaged in learning and excited about piano. I thought I would share my top 10 teaching aids with you. I shared one last blog post, my new Fuzzy Dynamic Meter. It has continued to be a big hit this week as my students prepare for the recital on Saturday.
I don’t know how I taught before I discovered these! They have so many uses, including:
- Marking Keys. In this picture, I have marked the keys of the blues scale with blue page marking tabs. This allows the student to concentrate on improvising the blues with freedom and without being stilted by trying to remember which notes to play.
- Marking Pages to be Practiced. I have the students choose one color for “Working on Pieces,” another color for “Review Pieces” (pieces they have passed but want to continue to play for fun), and one color for “Recital Pieces” for upcoming performances. The students can see which pieces to practice without consulting the written Practice List (since really, most kids don’t consult the Practice List anyway!!)
I love color coding the music. I usually mark RH red and LH blue, and we mark many other things such as specific intervals, Mini Essay 12: Marking Intervals with Colors, practice spots, slurs, and rests. The children are amazed that colored pencils can be erasable. Available at Michaels Craft Stores.
I made these cards myself. Most of my Teaching Aids are low tech, made myself. We hope someday to make these available for purchase on our website. The sizes are proportional to allow students to see the duration of the notes. We make rhythms and tap and count them (in Ta’s, of course!, see Mini Essay 8: Philosophy of Rhythm). These are useful in lessons or group class.
No dangling feet!! This was the best $250 I ever spent. Don’t go for the cheap extenders. Get this one from dphmusic.com. It is rugged and easy to adjust. I even have started asking my beginner’s parents to buy one for home practice. If the child is very small, they will need the pedal extender for several years. And they can pass it down to siblings or resell it to a new beginner when their child outgrows it.
I love my drum. So do the children. We:
- Play our Rhythm Exercises from our Sight Reading Cards on it,
- Students Accompany their Classmates on “King of the African Drum,” “African Safari,” and other pieces.
- Antiphonal Patterns. I play a rhythm, and the student imitates.
It is a privilege to play the drum, and playing it really helps students with their rhythm.
I got my drum from westmusic.com. Type “gathering drum” in the search box.
Who doesn’t love shiny, flat marbles? They are generally used to fill the bottom of vases of flowers. I use them to:
- Mark Keys, such as when a student is learning the Hungry Herbie Hippo transpositions in Repertoire Book 1.
- Repeating Marbles. Have the student move a marble from one side of the piano to the other as he does each repetition.
I got my marbles at the Dollar Store in the plant section. A bag for $1.
4. Sparkly Rings
Found in the party favor section of Walmart, these rings help very young students practice finger numbers, for very young students. “Let’s put this blue one on LH Finger 3.” “And the pink one on RH Finger 1.”
Learning the names of the white keys in relation to the groups of two and three black keys is important. These balls, worms, and foam letters make it fun! I got my balls and worms at Walmart, and made the foam letters myself out of foam sheets, also found at Walmart. You will need 7 balls, 7 worms, 7 D’s, E’s, F’s G’s, and 8 A’s, B’s, C’s.
My Velcro Board becomes indispensable when students begin Piano Safari Repertoire Book 2 and learn all the Note Names on the Staff. Using the same foam sheets as above, I put velcro on the backs and attached it to the board.
Oh, the many uses of Fuzzies! That is another blog post. We will have Fuzzies available at our MTNA booth. If you will be in Chicago for the conference in March, please stop by and say hi! I make the Fuzzies myself. It is about as “crafty” as I get.What are some of your favorite Teaching Aids?