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June 2018 Plans

The reason I keep this blog is because I myself can’t remember what I did from one week to the next. I had to go back and read my own past blog posts even to have a clue about this one. Here’s what we did in June:

Week 1: We practiced intervals with Interval Ice Cream.

Week 2: We practiced rhythms with Whiteboard Rhythm Dictation.

Week 3: We played the Catch My Mistake Sight Reading Game. Amazingly, I lost every time.

Week 4: We composed with Chromatic Composition.

Chromatic Composition

It was time for a little chromaticism this week. We composed with this worksheet I worked up and all the students enjoyed it eventually, though some of them gave me some doubtful looks at the beginning.

The basic instructions are all on the worksheet. The only variations I did were to what rhythm I gave them for the right hand. Beginners got only quarter notes and half notes. Older students got something more advanced. For the most part, I did all the writing and most of the playing. I find that for most students the actual writing and playing is so difficult, it gets in the way of their free composing and ruins the creativity of the experience.

Other variations would include having the more advanced students continue on with more measures. Or transposing it to another key.

 

Chromatic Composition
Chromatic Composition Exercise

 

 

Catch My Mistake Sight Reading Game

Catch My Mistake Sight Reading Game

Some of my students were dismayed to learn that sight reading never ends. I still practice it regularly. Here’s one easy way to make it more fun for some students.

What You Need:

  • Sight reading measure cards OR plenty of sight reading material at various levels
  • Chips, tokens, marbles, coins, buttons, or whatever small thing you have a lot of and can be used as game tokens
    • I used the flat glass marbles that are used for filling vases. They look sort of like gems, and a lot of my students enjoyed pretending they were rubies, sapphires, emeralds and diamonds. But anything will work.

Setup:

  • Give five marbles to the student and five to yourself. (We kept ours on our own side of the piano keyboard.)

How to Play:

  • Display the first card in the deck (or select the first sight reading measure or phrase, if you are using a book for sight reading). Make sure it’s easy and short enough that the student should be able to do it perfectly.
  • The student’s job is to take a close look and then play it perfectly. If he succeeds, the teacher owes him a token. If the teacher catches him in a mistake, he owes her a token.
  • Display the next card in the deck.
  • The teacher’s job is to play it with a deliberate mistake. If the student can pinpoint where the mistake occurred, the teacher owes him a token. If after two repetitions, the student cannot find the mistake, he owes the teacher a token.
  • Repeat until someone runs out of tokens. Or if lesson time is up, count the tokens to see who has the most.

Variations:

  • To make it easier, use only the first set of cards in the deck (treble clef notes in C position with seconds as the only intervals). Or you could give them more than one chance to get it right.
  • To make it harder, use the whole deck, so any interval is possible. Or flip two cards each time to make a two measure phrase. Or use harder sight reading material from a book. Or give the student only one chance to identify the mistake.
  • To make it longer, rob the bank when someone runs out of tokens instead of ending the game.

Whiteboard Rhythm Dictation

Whiteboard Rhythm Dictation

What You Need:

  • A whiteboard, chalkboard, or if you don’t have either, just use a piece of paper
  • Markers (or chalk) in a variety of colors
  • Rhythm cards like these

Setup:

  • None

How to Play:

  • The teacher draws a rhythm card. She counts a preparatory measure out loud and then claps the rhythm on the card without counting aloud.
  • The student chooses his favorite color of marker and writes the rhythm up on the board.
  • Switch jobs and repeat
  • If you choose to play for points, here’s how I did it.
    • The students get two points if they correctly write the rhythm within two times of hearing it. If it takes more than two repetitions, they go down to one point. I never let them get to zero because we keep going until they get it right.
    • The teacher gets one point for getting it right and has to get it on the first attempt. This ensures that the student will always at least tie me. Only one student complained that it wasn’t fair enough to challenge her. I switched to one of the variations below and she stopped complaining.

Variations:

  • To make it easier, limit your rhythm cards to very basic things like four quarter notes, two half notes, etc.
  • To make it harder, include the harder rhythms or make it two measures long.

Interval Ice Cream

Interval Ice Cream

This is a good example of the kind of activity I don’t like. It requires lots of cutting, gluing, and laminating, and then it only appeals to kids of a certain age. But I created it years ago before I realized what a pain that kind of thing is, so I occasionally still trot it out.

What You Need:

  • It’s easiest to just look at the picture below, but you need to create:
    • 8 ice cream cones, labeled unison, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and octave
    • ice cream scoops in a variety of colors with an example of intervals glued on

Setup:

  • Lay out the ice cream cones, face up
  • Make a heap of the scoops nearby, face down

How to Play:

  • The student chooses their favorite flavor of ice cream and adds the scoop to the ice cream cone with the correct interval written on it.
  • Repeat.
  • When all the scoops are on, we see which cone is the tallest or which one has the most appealing flavor combination.

Variations:

  • To make it easier, don’t use all the possible intervals. Limit it to just seconds and thirds or whatever intervals the student has covered.
  • To make it harder, give the student a time limit, or require him to name whether each interval is major, minor, perfect, etc.

 

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