Prep. activities to introduce new concepts/skills

Posted by: Jalapeņa

Prep. activities to introduce new concepts/skills - 08/23/03 10:00 AM

I've already been prepping students by introducing new concepts/skills a week or so before they appear in the PA book, but find that it's not enough. Like Lisa says, something more radical needs to be done. I need a roadmap, & am hoping that the Practical Piano Pedagogy book will provide me with some answers. However, I'd like to hear from Arlene on this subject.
Posted by: Susan

Re: Prep. activities to introduce new concepts/skills - 08/24/03 11:06 AM

This is just a thought. I USED to work ahead in the technic book. They could learn the concept with easier music. Then when we got to it a week or two later in the lesson book we could work more on expression and review. The performance books were reinforcement. It seemed like we went through the books faster. I don't know why I stopped doing that, but I'm going to start back again and see how if it still works.
Posted by: Jalapeņa

Re: Prep. activities to introduce new concepts/skills - 08/24/03 11:18 AM

I've done that, & found it to be very effective. Any other suggestions?
Posted by: Lisa Kalmar

Re: Prep. activities to introduce new concepts/skills - 08/24/03 02:58 PM

I'm not Arlene, but if you want to use PA Primer, which she doesn't, you might like this anyway. I think the trick you're looking for is to simply rearrange the PA Primer materials when they start lessons, PLUS spend at least 2-3 lessons at the beginning with no songs from the books. The stuff you will assign them (plus written work done AT the lessons) will come directly from the primer books plus other places like Artistry at the Piano, Celebrate Piano, Music Mind Games, etc.

This will allow you to teach a lot of the gobblety gook that is important but often gets glossed over BEFORE they start songs. Plus it will set you up for the sequence Susan described that we both already teach from: T&A concepts introduced by rote 2-3 weeks in advance of actual assignment, followed by Lesson book with theory done at the lesson. Performance book then reinforces and gives them songs to play while you set them up for new concepts in the next unit. Just like Mary Gae does with her lessons in Artistry.

I will actually have real lesson plans by the end of the week, but here's an example of what I'm thinking about: I don't like the order PA primer teaches key names and the way it glosses over keyboard topography so quickly. While I'm at it, I also HATE, in retrospect, the finger number presentation, plus the musical alphabet thing looks cute but isn't really my "cup of tea." ;\) What to do, how to fix...

I plan to make game-like assignments on 8 X 10 cardstock that I can jazz up with stickers and colored markers and then laminate for re-use (for other eventual beginners and hand out for home assignments instead of making them find those obscure pages in the books.

So far, for keyboard topography I plan to have two. For week one, one will have a keyboard with two blacks and CDE prominently displayed. I will probably have them write the key names in themselves in different colors. Somewhere there will be written instructions that these need to be memorized for that week, plus the composing assignment for the week will be to make up a piece using hte two blacks. (Week 2 will follow with FGAB.) Note at the lesson they will also have skipped ahead to the theory/lesson book pages and filled that stuff out, even though those pieces won't come for several weeks.

Also, for keyboard topography, I will have an assignment card called "Blind as a Bat." This one will have Halloween bat stickers to jazz it up and the instructions to blindfold themselves and then find the two blacks. Step 2 will be able to ID the keys CD&E while blind. Week 2 would be to do it with 3 blacks and FGAB.

For fingering, a card will be "Simonette Says", which will be a game form for learning finger numbers. At the lesson I will trace their hands and then have them write the finger numbers on the hand, using different colors for each one, plus LH and RH. (Since I like "sparklies", for the girls we will probably glue on a huge fake jewel & draw a ring on finger 4 just for fun!) The assignment for the week will be learning those thangs. The instructions in Celebrate Piano are way more fun than PA, so I will probably have stuff typed on there more like that. Probably I will pre-draw a face of Simonette and then we will glue a cartoon balloon with the instructions attached to her mouth. Note that any finger number activities in the books will be done at the lessons when this stuff is presented.

For week 2, after they have mastered finger numbers, the next game card will be Tabletop Tappers. These will be fingering sequences for them to practice on either a tabletop or the fallboard. This will allow you to prepare them for playing certain songs in advance by using the same fingering, letting the technique get under their fingers before they ever see a note on a page. Examples of kind of stuff I'm looking for: The Walking SOng on page 12 introduces the repeated note, a very different technical feel. Set them up in advance with a tapper. (Note than In the Jungle in Performance unit 1 actually misses the sequencing with it's repeated finger 4 prior to formal introduction. I've actually had kids initially thrown by that, and it was something I missed preparing them for the first time I taught with this method.) Playing skips will be No Big Deal if you set them up a couple o' weeks in advance with a tapper using fingering for The Doorbell.

That's just an example, and I hope it gives you a glimpse into how my lesson plans will work. Basically, I will be isolating technique, rhythm, & early reading stuff, teaching it separately with fun looking assignment cards before they begin any songs. Once they start songs, they can then be pre-prepared on new stuff, like staff, meter, intervals, etc. waaaay in advance.

[ 08-24-2003: Message edited by: Lisa Kalmar ]
Posted by: Jalapeņa

Re: Prep. activities to introduce new concepts/skills - 08/24/03 03:30 PM

Thanks, Dr. Lisa. \:\) I wanted to do a Mary Gae-like intro., sans piano pieces, for the first few weeks using PA, but wasn't sure how to do it. Your ideas sound great.

I just think that beginning students shouldn't be playing any pieces before finger #'s, keyboard topography, a few landmark notes (I plan to teach bass clef "All Cows Eat Grass," Middle C, & treble clef "FACE" as landmark notes) & basic rhythms are learned. I think that giving students a couple of weeks of piano prep. activities--before assigning any piano pieces--is the way to go.

I'd still like to hear from Arlene, though. True, she doesn't use PA, but she may still have some great advice to share. \:\)
Posted by: Lilla

Re: Prep. activities to introduce new concepts/skills - 08/25/03 06:35 AM

The activity/theory workbooks from both Sing & Play and Time To Begin include worksheets very similar to the descriptions above. JFYI
Posted by: Jalapeņa

Re: Prep. activities to introduce new concepts/skills - 08/25/03 06:53 AM

I have both the Sing & Play (S&P) & the MT Time to Begin (MT TTB) books, but am looking for something to use with average-aged beginners (age 7 & up), not preschoolers. I doubt that children aged 7 & up would appreciate the nursery rhymes, etc. in S&P or the Chip & Bobo illustrations & mind-numbing "music" (cough, gag) of MT TTB. I do agree that the S&P & MT TTB books contain good piano prep. activities. I just want a better way to package the activities, if that's possible. Of course, I could always use Mary Gae George's intro. to music, pretend to be a drill sergeant & tell students they're in piano boot camp, LOL. \:D Seriously, I think Mary Gae's intro. to music is the best piano prep. course for average-age beginners. I just don't know how many of today's young people would discipline themselves to do all of Mary Gae's drills. Lots of memorization, much use of the metronome; would drive the average student ballistic I'm afraid. Somehow there must be a middle ground between babyish activities & military-like drills that will appeal to the types of students I usually have to work with. Lisa's ideas sound like they'd work. Thanks, Lisa. \:\)
Posted by: Lisa Kalmar

Re: Prep. activities to introduce new concepts/skills - 08/25/03 07:22 AM

Well, they aren't necessarily my ideas - good pedagogy is good pedagogy is good pedagogy - just my ideas how to attractively package them for regular age beginners so that it enhances PA and you can get more mileage out of the course and those first beginning lessons. My suggestions were, of course, for someone who chooses to use PA and not those other methods for whatever reason or not...

The problems most methods have is one of publishable space. Many of the most important concepts beginners need to get under their belt that would benefit them in the long run are in fine print or stuck in the back of the book or chapter (example: Music Tree warm-ups) or all jumbled & stuffed together on a page. This makes it easy for teachers to miss or skip, plus students are more likely to not practice it daily. If my eyes glaze over when I look at pages 4 & 5 of PA lesson, for example, do you think the average 8 year old is going to realize that stuff is as important as a song and practice it as such? But if you prepare a cool looking age-appropriate practice card and assign it before songs start you'll/they'll be ahead of the game.
Posted by: Jalapeņa

Re: Prep. activities to introduce new concepts/skills - 08/25/03 07:37 AM

I had to type that post fast, then quickly take Piano Kid to school. I just now logged back on to finish my post & state that what I'm looking for is a way to package age-appropriate activities attractively so that they appeal to students & seamlessly fit with the PA books... when Dr. Lisa beat me to the punch! \:D I already know what needs to be taught. I've been teaching piano, working mostly with beginners, for many years. I'm just looking for a more creative presentation--a better package.

If I wanted to use S&P or MT TTB, I would.

[ 08-25-2003: Message edited by: Jalapeņa ]
Posted by: Lilla

Re: Prep. activities to introduce new concepts/skills - 08/25/03 08:03 AM

You guys are both referring to lesson materials. I mentioned the activity pages. Not that you have to use them. LOL. Just that the description of oversized cards (a nice idea btw) fits almost precisely what's on some of the pages in those activity books. Don't you guys occasionally reach into your stack of books, flip open a page to fit a particular instance, and use something from another method? I do it all the time. Had to settle down a rambunctious DD student yesterday and used some pages from Bastien Piano Party purely for re-focusing and attention-getting. First time I've ever used it but it fit purpose at the time. We also banged out quarter notes and half notes on a over-turned stainless steel bowl. Fun and my student loved it. yeah, yeah - I know you're talking about 7 yos. Same logic.
Posted by: Lisa Kalmar

Re: Prep. activities to introduce new concepts/skills - 08/25/03 08:23 AM

Ya, I know those pages, but we're talking about creating assignment pages for them to take home and have daily practice with, (like Artistry at the Piano Introduction does only more fun looking) preferably without having to buy extra books on our nickel for all of those beginners I've got starting next week, LOL, or break the law by copying.

It was a good idea, though... Plus it reminded me I have a stack of Kids & Keyboards sheets that would probably be perfect for a couple of them.
Posted by: Susan

Re: Prep. activities to introduce new concepts/skills - 08/25/03 08:48 AM

Lisa, thanks for the ideas. I don't know if I have that much energy and I don't have enough time to make a lot of materials. It seems like teacher gripe about this all the time. Obviously the method books don't address the problem. Why can't we buy what we need?
My problem is about 1/2 of my students have trouble learning notes in PA Primer, even though it's the best I've used. This thread has made me realize that, evidently, I am not preparing them enough, so I'm going to have to do something different.
Posted by: Lisa Kalmar

Re: Prep. activities to introduce new concepts/skills - 08/25/03 09:05 AM

Susan - Do you mean learning the notes on the staff or the key names on the piano?

Thanks for commenting. I generally like the sequencing of the method but the longer I've taught it discovered some annoying holes for some but not all students. The beautiful music and T&A, though, keep me from wanting to switch to something else.

Anything else specific you've come up with that needs addressing? Thanks!
Posted by: Jalapeņa

Re: Prep. activities to introduce new concepts/skills - 08/25/03 09:09 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Lisa Kalmar:
Ya, I know those pages, but we're talking about creating assignment pages for them to take home and have daily practice with, (like Artistry at the Piano Introduction does only more fun looking) preferably without having to buy extra books on our nickel for all of those beginners I've got starting next week, LOL, or break the law by copying.


Exactly.

Of course, one has to listen to Mary Gae's Seminar A tapes to fully understand just how great her Intro. to Music method is.

I have been wanting to come up with something similar to what Mary Gae does, only make it more appealing to my students, most of whom are not likely to want to use the Artistry at the Piano method books (nothing wrong with the Artistry books except that they are for super serious students, not the type of students who usually enroll in my studio). My children are all in school now, so theoretically I should have more free time on my hands. Unfortunately, that's not the case, as I'm doing more entertaining for the ag. dept., more editing & errands for my husband, more fitness walking for my health (particularly my chronic sciatica pain that occasionally flares up even though I take Rx medication), more cooking (girls are older & eating more now), & more housework. Lisa has so kindly stepped up to the plate & offered me some great ideas. Thanks, Lisa. \:\)
Posted by: Arlene Steffen

Re: Prep. activities to introduce new concepts/skills - 08/25/03 04:10 PM

OK, I will admit that I haven't read any of the previous posts and I'm simply responding off the cuff to the original question. Sorry if duplicate anything else said. First week of school here and you know how that is!

Preparatory activities have to be thought out with the big picture in mind. What is it that you want to accomplish in a week, month, semester, year.

Take a category, any category. Say ... technique. My year-end goal might be for the student to play major 5-finger patterns that begin on white keys with a comfortable posture and ringing tone. That's the big goal. Now break it down into steps that allow you to reach that goal, markers along the way so to speak. They might include playing comfortably between 2-3 and 3-4 and 4-5, keeping the thumb on the corner, flexible wrist, floating arm, firm fingertips, etc. These are a lot of things and tackling them all at once is overwhelming for the student. Make a plan in order of importance and build on it.

See where I'm going with this? Big picture broken down into smaller parts, then put back together.

It never hurts to start with the obvious. I think we sometimes get caught in the trap of thinking things are more complex than they are. The big picture focus really helps make the planning more manageable. Keep that end goal in mind at all times.

That's it for now!
Posted by: Jalapeņa

Re: Prep. activities to introduce new concepts/skills - 08/25/03 05:49 PM

That helps, Arlene. I know you're busy, but I hope to hear more from you on this subject when you have time.

My goal is to introduce students to each & every concept before it is introduced in PA, so that by the time they get to those things in the books, they already know what to do & don't get confused. As I said earlier, I already do this, but would like to do more of it, esp. note reading.

Seems like most of my students in TX did well with the way I taught PA, but I had a couple of non-intuitive students who really struggled. I don't know if it's the way I was presenting the material or what. It could be that those students wouldn't have done any better no matter how the material was presented to them. But as a conscientious teacher who strives to provide each & every student with the best musical education possible, I wish to examine the way I teach & see if there are areas in which I can improve.
Posted by: cindylouwho

Re: Prep. activities to introduce new concepts/skills - 08/27/03 01:00 PM

Just wanted to say a big THANK YOU for all the ideas and inspiration I find on the Piano Club. This thread is a perfect example, what a treasure chest of ideas! You guys are awesome!
Posted by: Lisa Kalmar

Re: Prep. activities to introduce new concepts/skills - 08/29/03 11:22 AM

For anyone who wants to make their own Blind as a Bat practice gamecard for beginners, I found this groovy free template to use!
http://maryland-info.com/bat.htm