This month's Curiosity Box from The Curious Piano Teachers has been filled with Christmas activities to do with our students. I must admit to being a little lax with preparing these as my printer had run out of ink, however on my last day of teaching this week I opened up one of the challenges on my iPad and to my delight found that each of the students I tried it with really enjoyed it. Two children in Year 7 studying for Grades 1 and 2 wanted to continue way past when I thought they might have had enough and an adult was equally engaged.
So, what was the challenge I hear you ask! The Curious Piano Teachers have compiled a list of Christmas songs and carols and written them down, but not so that they are easily recognisable: rhythm and pitch have been separated and you're only allowed to hear it in your head. I've put three examples below in case you'd like to try it yourself!
The skills needed for these are those of musicianship. The students needed to be able to:
The results were that sometimes students could work out the song from just doing those three steps, and other times they needed to then play the song on the piano to try to identify it. Jingle Bells was easily identified by one student before she'd completed the three steps. The activity is designed for those around grades 3-4 so my students did pretty well!
I tried this with a friend who studied guitar to about grade 3 many years ago. He was able to clap the rhythms brilliantly but was at once stuck on the pitch - he had never been taught to sing as he played so it was almost impossible for him to sing the pitches. I am yet to find out if he has identified any of the songs!
With the New Year around the corner you may be looking for piano lessons for yourself or your child. The sort of teacher you want is one who will prepare you for a challenge such as this, without even knowing it is coming. So don't be afraid to dig into their teaching qualifications, experience and professional development activities before committing to lessons. Look for a teacher who'll make this challenge a walk in the park for you!
How do we solve the age old problem of practising between lessons? I'm sure many of you reading this will either have children who learn an instrument or remember your own instrumental lessons and one of the major problems is practice.
A while ago I wrote a blog post about the parent's role in the piano learning journey; a major part of which is helping with piano practice at home. Today's post is about a free online tool called Cadenza developed by Professor Rena Uptis of Queens University in Canada that teachers can use to help motivate students to practice at home.
Given that students see their teacher for only 30 minutes a week the progress they make is quite remarkable
Given that most students see their teacher for only 30 minutes a week the progress they make is quite remarkable. Compared to the hours children spend each day with their teachers at school, instrumental students, their parents and teachers do a job that is nothing short of amazing!
Cadenza is a free online tool that increases the support available for children outside of lessons. It allows:
perhaps most exciting of all, Cadenza allows the student to upload videos of progress during the week on which the teacher can provide feedback
Children will need access to a tablet during their piano practice time. They can work through the activities set by the teacher, monitor their progress during the week, see how much time they have spent working on activities and write notes for themselves or their teacher. The tool can help develop the skill of reflection as children can note what went well and what they need to focus on during the next practice session.
The creators of Cadenza report that students 'love' using it and that it's fun. Teachers and students report learning more quickly with Cadenza and experiencing more satisfaction as musicians. And why not, the goal is to make music and the sooner we can all do that the happier we will all be!
From January 2019 Surrey Music School will be using Cadenza with all students. If you have lessons with us please sign up and let us know when you've done so. We can then connect and the fun can begin!
Director of Surrey Music School.