Random Ramblings…

Is everyone else equally crazy this time of year?! We just finished our Music Progressions evaluations this weekend – hooray! (So that’s my excuse for a dearth of posts this week.) I told my students I would even give them one week off of playing scales as a reward for all their hard work. 🙂 They were thrilled! Now I’ve been thinking through some new things I want to try next year. I think I’m finally ready to take the plunge and offer an “official” computer lab in my studio. We do various technology-related things throughout the year, like recording CDs, participating in the Clavinova Festival (another one of my students just won a new Clavinova this month! That makes three from my studio now. If you have a Clavinova Festival in your area, I highly recommend it!), notating compositions in Finale, etc., but I’ve never offered a full-blown computer lab.

So, I’ve been exploring the Music Learning Community website more indepth and considering whether I should develop my computer lab around it to start with. I’ve heard wonderful reviews of it from lots of teachers and I know my students love the free games they play on it. The site offers “more than 450 web-based, fully interactive, multimedia learning games for music students — beginners through Level 4.” Pretty impressive!

Anyway, I’m putting this on my list of things to explore and figure out this summer. If any of you offer a computer lab or use Music Learning Community in your studio I’d love to know how it works for you and if you have any tips for someone just starting out.

Songs for Teaching

When I taught Character First! Education classes in some of our local elementary schools, there was a Kindergarten teacher who had moved her piano into her classroom. All throughout the day she would take a seat at the piano and play little songs to help reinforce various grammatical rules, spelling, math facts, etc. The students loved it and the songs were such an effective way to help them retain information like this. I got a copy of the book she compiled with her songs and look forward to using it someday when I have children of my own that I am teaching.

I was thrilled to discover that there is an entire website full of Songs for Teaching! There are songs for a whole variety of subjects and lots of songs within each subject. To be honest, I didn’t care for some of the music (a few of the ones I listened to were more like a rap song and didn’t have much of a melody), but I think it would be easy enough to sing the lyrics to a different tune. Plus, I’ve only scratched the surface of the hundreds of songs available! They even have some music-related ones that might come in handy.

Ten Killer Tactics for Developing a New Skill

Trent of The Simple Dollar Blog has an excellent post, outlining Ten Killer Tactics for Developing a New Skill. I know many teachers want to develop skills related to other areas of interest, but find themselves so busy with the responsibilities of the many hats that they wear that it’s hard to know how to go about it. Here are the ten tactics he recommends:

1. Clearly identify the skills you actually want to build.

2. Set aside time every day – or on an extremely regular schedule – to focus specifically on building those skills.

3. Develop a game plan for building a specific skill.

4. Invest in top-quality resources for learning.

5. Set a clear goal that you want to reach.

6. Use something in the “real world” to work on as you learn.

7. Gather support for this skill growth.

8. Share the progress you’re making along the way.

9. Capitalize on your newly-found skill by applying it to a project that you can share with others.

10. Get started. Now. Not later.

Trent explains each of these tactics further in his post and then gives some excellent, practical examples of how he’s developing new skills in his own life (including learning to play the piano!).

Stay tuned later this month for my announcement about a new project I’m working on that goes along with this idea… 🙂

Weekly Lesson Organizer

In my Get Organized! and Storing Music posts, I alluded to a system I use to help stay organized when teaching lessons to 30+ students each week. It’s nothing fancy, but it helps me keep track of what materials need to go to what student and keeps my most frequently used teaching tools readily available. Here’s a snapshot of my weekly lesson organizer:

I have a hanging file for each day of the week that I teach. If I get a new book for a student, I just drop it in the file for the appropriate day. If a student accidentally forgets a book in the studio, I drop it in their lesson day file. Same goes for worksheets I want to remember to give to a specific student.

Here’s a closer look at some of the other items I keep in the organizer:

This handy notepad is where I keep track of all the music I need to look for or purchase the next time I make a trip to the music store.

I love these music flashcards! The ones I use the most are the notes on the staff. I like that each card has the full staff, regardless of whether the note is in the treble or bass clef. And I really like the second and third sections on each card that contain short patterns incorporating the specific note so that students can practice identifying and playing the note in a context similar to what they would find in a piece of music.

A collection of dice and pawns that can be used for various games at the keyboard. Very handy!

An assortment of magnets that I use with a magnetic white board. I use these for melodic dictation or I draw a quick staff on the board and use the magnets for note or interval identification.

The white board and markers get used every day in my studio! I can’t imagine functioning without them. Whether it’s something simple like writing out the Major scale pattern or practicing drawing treble clefs to fine-tuning notation skills or writing answers for listening activities, this board is well-used (obviously, since it’s falling apart!). Using a white board and markers provides an easy way to incorporate activities that address all three major learning styles – aural, visual and kinesthetic.

I’d love to know if you have tips for staying organized in your studio! I’m constantly looking for ways to run things more efficiently and love to know what’s working well for other teachers!