While it is critical for piano students to get a comprehensive foundation in things like posture and fingering techniques, it's also valuable for them to understand just how fun it is to play music.
Consequently, if teachers always emphasize drills and technique over activities that are more creative, the student may begin to feel that playing the piano is just a lot of hard, dry work.
Rare students may be really motivated by practicing chords and drills, but most of them prefer to have some time set aside for fun.
As a piano instructor, what can you do if you find that you're always running out of time for the more creative side of teaching?
Keep reading to find out!
Don't Forget to Plan for Creative Activities
Too many piano teachers create comprehensive lesson plans that include all sorts of drills and exercises, but neglect to specify any creative activities. Maybe in the back of their mind they are thinking that they could do that one fun exercise if there's time at the end.
The problem with this approach is that there's never time at the end.
This means that the creative activities need to be built into each and every lesson plan. Perhaps the best way to do this is to begin each lesson with something that's fun and creative.
Fun Ways to Start Lessons
Young students love it when their teacher spells a word on the piano by playing certain notes. For instance, you play the notes "DAD" and your student has to tell you what word you spelled. Then, it's the student's turn to spell out something for the instructor.
To introduce aural training in a fun manner, begin the lesson by playing a song and ask them to figure out how to play it by ear. You can do this at various levels of difficulty depending upon where the student is in their lessons.
Getting familiar with rhythm becomes fun when you use an improvisation activity at the beginning of your lessons. First, try swaying to the rhythm with your student, then move on to using Kodaly words and clapping. By using both words and movements, the rhythm really gets solidified in the student's head. Next, have the student play the rhythm using one note on the piano before improvising a two-note melody. Eventually, your student can work up to an improvisation consisting of five notes using the rhythm.
Even improving note reading can be fun when you challenge your student with flash cards. Set a timer for one minute, then show the student a music note flash card. The student has to name and play the note as quickly as possible. How many can he do in one minute? The challenge is for him to improve his performance next week.
Everybody knows the words to Happy Birthday, but wouldn't it be fun to be able to accompany the song with chords? That's the basis of another fun lesson starter in which the instructor teaches the student how to play Happy Birthday using chords.
These and dozens of other lesson starters are the perfect way to start each learning session with a bang. While they may take up more lesson time the first time you use each one, only about five minutes or so are required to complete these activities once they become more familiar. Nonetheless, this is a really valuable way to engage your students and ensure that they are enjoying even as they learn.
Adding More Fun Into Lessons
Starting lessons off with a fun and creative activity makes for a marvelous ice breaker. However, it's possible to keep the fun going by using a few other guidelines.
For example, it's wise to keep in mind that children tend to have short attention spans. Even spending five minutes on a song or activity can feel like an eternity to them. This means that it is sensible to plan several relatively short activities for each lesson. Of course, if your young student is really motivated or inspired by a certain activity, there's no reason not to spend a little extra time on it.
Children also love to learn when games are involved, and these games don't have to be complicated. A bag of animal-shaped erasers is all you need to conduct a lesson on keyboard geography. Have the child choose an animal and then place the eraser on the highest C they can find or on the B flat that is closest to middle C. Kids will giggle, laugh and learn as they place each eraser. Once several are in place, ask the child to play each note on which an eraser has been placed to see what kind of song it makes.
Another enjoyable activity is opening up the top of the piano so that kids can look inside. Most kids are fascinated by learning how things work. Try to set it up so that the student can see inside the piano while she plays it or so that she can inside it as you play it. This is an opportunity to see the hammers as they strike the strings. Doing so may make her feel more connected to the piano, and she'll definitely have a lot of fun.
If you really want to engage a child in piano lessons, then consider having him learn to play a song he loves. It could be absolutely anything from a nursery rhyme to a popular song from the radio. Of course, kids are really drawn to the songs in the latest animated films too, so this is always an option. Regardless of which song the child names, it's up to the instructor to find an easy way to teach it so that the child can actually play their favorite song.
Another creative activity that never gets old is asking a student to improvise. To add another level of fun to the exercise, ask the student to tell a story with their composition. It could be sad, happy, exciting or absolutely anything else. Emphasize that there is no wrong note because this is the student's composition. You never know how you might inspire a young musician with this activity.
Quick Ideas for New Activities
If you have run out of creative ideas, then it pays to have a few additional activities that you can call upon when you need them. Here are some really fun activities:
- Do finger warm ups while wearing finger puppets;
- Watch a funny commercial, then ask your student to compose a jingle;
- Ask your student to play their current piece with the lights out;
- Let your student cut up their piano piece into two-bar chunks, then have them reassemble it;
- Create silly lyrics to go with your student's piano piece, and sing it as they play; and
- Use jelly beans as rewards for correct answers in sight reading and ear training exercises.
Use Technology for More Inspiration
Most kids today love to incorporate technology into everything they do. Accordingly, it might be smart to schedule some creative time during lessons using a music learning app. Here are a few suggestions:
- Lost in Harmony: This free app is available on Android, iPhone and iPad. Essentially a music-based game, kids can play with rhythm concepts and much more as they venture through a story that includes the European countryside and tropical beaches;
- Beat Racer: Available on Android, iPad and iPhone, this free app allows players to pretend they are driving a futuristic car while playing a beat-catching rhythm game;
- My Singing Monsters: In this fun, free app, kids get to populate an island with a unique collection of singing monsters. Adding new creatures changes the songs they sing;
- Tune Train: Little kids love this free app for the iPad and iPhone in which they get to compose songs just by drawing lines on the screen; and
- mDecks Kids Ear Training App: With colorful animations, this Android and iPhone app is a wonderful way to introduce kids to all sorts of concepts like intervals, solfege, triads, Kodaly signs and much more.
Introduce Prodigies to Your Students
Are you looking for even more ways to make learning about music fun and creative? Turn to the engaging video lessons and other activities at Prodigies. Our programs are designed to be educational as well as fun, thereby encouraging kids to keep learning.
Many of our lessons can be used in connection with formal piano training, but they can be just as valuable to kids who are simply curious about music. If you want an easy way to add more creative activities into the piano lessons that you teach, Prodigies is ready to help.