Years ago I first tried the idea of using pennies as a tactile way to teach the subdivision of 16th note rhythms. It’s been a while since I used it in my teaching, but now that all of my students are reaching a higher level of playing, it was time to break out the penny jar again!
At our final group class of the year I let each student select a rhythm instrument and pick 16 pennies from my penny jar. We started by stacking them in four groups of four and beating a steady quarter note beat. Then I had them separate them into eight stacks of two and beating the eighth note rhythms. Finally, we placed all of the pennies individually and played them as sixteenth notes with a slight emphasis on the first one of each beat to help maintain a sense of pulse.
We used these fabulous sixteenth note rhythm flashcards from D’Net Layton and I showed them what the rhythm patterns looked like, then we arranged the pennies to match the pattern, then practiced playing it on our instruments. The students really enjoyed this approach, and it seemed to help them understand both the mathematical subdivision of the beats and also how to play them fluidly within a beat structure.
Imagine the look on your students’ faces as they listen to a simple melody transformed into a gorgeous orchestral sound. That is exactly the awe factor that Maestro, Cellist, and Composer Philip Sheppard has in mind with his ingenious new creation, Compose Yourself. Distributed by the award-winning educational game company, Think Fun, Compose Yourself will appeal to experienced musicians, creative teachers, eager students, and even those with no musical background at all! You can’t help but love the simplicity of arranging a selection of transparent cards with unique note patterns to form a melody.
But the real fun is when you enter your personal pattern into the accompanying website and get to hear the results as performed by The English Session Orchestra and/or acclaimed percussionist Evelyn Glynnie. So cool!
Composer Yourself is a perfect addition to any piano lesson, composition lesson, or group class. Think Fun has generously offered to giveaway one free Compose Yourself game to a Music Matters Blog reader! Just leave a comment below to be entered in the drawing. One winner will be selected at noon (CST) on Friday, December 11, 2015 using a random number generator. Enter for your chance to win and then come back tomorrow for another sweet giveaway!
The last week of each month I hold a 1-hour group class in addition to the regular lessons for that week. This gives the students an opportunity to perform for each other, participate in ensembles, and play a variety of games to help reinforce musical concepts.
Since one of our primary focuses this year is on developing more proficient rhythm skills, my plan is to begin each group class with a fun rhythm game. This week we played, “Pass the Rhythm” – a variation on the old “telephone” game and adapted from the Rhythm Squeeze game on Teach Piano Today.
I split the students into two teams – boys v. girls in this case! They lined up front to back and the first and third player of each team was given a white board, marker, and eraser.
I began by tapping a 2-measure 4/4 rhythm pattern on the shoulder of the student at the back of each line. They had to notate the rhythm that they thought I tapped and then pass the board to the next player in line.
The next player looked at the rhythm pattern and then tapped it on the shoulder of the first person in line.
Finally, the one at the front of the line notated the rhythm pattern that they felt. After the rhythm was passed all the way to the front of the line, I had each team hold up their board and compare it with the rhythm I had written on my board for that round. Each team received one point for each correct beat. The students then switched places and we did the same thing for Round 2. We did several rounds and then tallied the points so that the team with the most points was the winner!
Everyone seemed to enjoy this engaging game, and it’s a great tool for determining where they are at in identifying and tapping rhythms!
Despite my best intentions to continue teaching at least my own children this summer, we ended up with a studio-wide summer break. I have to admit, it’s nice to take some time off, gather new ideas, and get re-energized for another year of teaching. My favorite way to launch the new year of piano lessons is with a September Surprise! Students prepare any piece of their choice to surprise me, I plan a few games, and we officially launch the new studio practice incentive theme for the year.
Here are a few snapshots from our evening:
Look at all these beautiful faces eager for another year of piano lessons!
After a fun round of Music This or That (I highly recommend this active and insightful game that Wendy put together!) we moved right into the surprise performances.
One of the favorite performances of the evening was this creative improvisation by Levi.
After all the performances and an energetic drum circle, I introduced our Jungle Expedition practice incentive theme and let students select the wall figure of their choice to represent them on their expedition throughout the year as they travel from hut to hut.
The evening ended with a time of munching on goodies and visiting with one another. So excited to see how each of these students progress as individuals and musicians this year!
For all of you who have been anxiously awaiting (probably me most of all!), I’m excited to announce that the Carnival of the Animals Classical Christian Music Camp curriculum package is finally complete and ready for delivery! This extensive curriculum has been in the works for many years at a conceptual level, so it’s been thrilling to watch it fully come together this week as we’ve given it a trial run in the studio. And from now through the end of July, you can get your downloadable package for only $20 (that’s $10 off the regular price of $30)!
I’m amazed at how much the students grasped as we incorporated history, geography, rhythm, technique, music vocabulary, composition, science, art, and performance into our camp activities each day. It will also be exciting to see how the seeds sown this week continue to bear fruit in the years to come as the students draw on the knowledge and understanding they’ve gained through this experience.
The curriculum is designed as a 5-day music camp curriculum, but could easily be adapted for almost any setting and schedule. It has enough material to last for weeks! Creative music teachers could even use it as a springboard to delve into many other areas of musical study more extensively. Read a full description and view sample pages on this page.
I hope that this Carnival of the Animals music camp curriculum will be a valuable resource to help teachers and students around the world experience the enjoyment and enrichment of learning more about God and the world in which we live through the study of music!
Check out photo highlights from each day of the camp:
The Science of Sound today explores two remarkable instruments – the piano and the glass armonica.
Students use their music vocabulary knowledge to attempt to translate the meaning of Cristofori’s original name for his musical instrument invention: the gravicembalo col piano e forte.
Next everyone gets to take a turn trying to produce a tone similar to one on a glass armonica by rubbing their finger around the rim of a wine glass containing water.
Wrapping up a fun week for a crazy bunch!
Reviewing proper performance procedures before the parents arrive. These admittedly cheesy performance signs still seem to do the trick of helping students visualize and remember each aspect of their performance!
Let’s practice bowing!
The parents are here and we are ready to entertain them with our own original Carnival of the Animals! Each student has written a brief narration to introduce their composition (ala Ogden Nash) – love the clever creativity!