Mass Shootings: Please, don’t scare the children.

Note: This is not a political statement either for or against guns, just something worth noting if you teach children.

Most of my students are either young and blissfully unaware of the shooting that ocurred last week, or they are slightly older and are discussing it with their friends. I had one student who was very concerned about the shooting the day after, but particularly by a statistic the kids at school were talking about: that there have been 18 mass shootings this year (or some say 18 school shootings this year).

While it is true that there have been 18 incidents of a gun being discharged on school campuses, they are not mass shootings or what we tend to refer to as a “school shooting”. This particular statistic includes things like:

  •   A man parking in the school’s parking lot and killing himself.
  • Accidental discharge of a gun at a military high school.
  • Accidental discharge of a police officer’s gun
  • A teenager committing suicide in the bathroom
  • A personal dispute being continued at a football game after school.
  • USA Today has an article listing all events.

Yes, these things are horrible! I wish they didn’t happen! (Notice I’m not proclaiming a solution or attempting to explain why they happen).

It is important that we, as teachers, are honest with our students and do not hype them up or cause fear. They look to us, one of the few adults in their lives they probably trust, for guidance and reaction. If we behave as though we are terrified, the kids will be even more so. They are already upset by what they hear on the news and from their friends, and I believe that we have a duty to reassure them that they are safe. The likelihood of a student being involved in a situation like the one in Parkland is very low. A student is more likely to be struck by lightning or hit by a car.

Whatever your view politically, please, try not to scare the children.

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Chord Identification Flash Cards

Flashcards I created for another piano teacher. They are meant to help students practice identifying their major and minor keys and chords.

Includes: 33 major & minor chords, plus Cb7, C diminished, C augmented.
14 cards for identifying what chord it is in the key of C (tonic, submediant, etc) and what inversion the chord is in.

If printing at home, simply print page one, flip it and print page 2. Then repeat for pages 3 and 4.

Click Here to view!

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Holiday Solfege Bingo!

In this 5×5 bingo game students are given a short phrase from a popular Christmas or Hannukah tune (both sacred and secular included) and the starting “do”, along with the key signature. Use this fun bingo game to test your students’ solfege skills by calling out the title of the song, or singing the tune. For a challenge, white out the starting “do” and require advanced students to work it out on their own. Also works well in teams or pairs. Calling card includes title so teacher doesn’t have to solfege on the go!


Yes, I am aware that it might be more expensive than you would typically prefer, but consider the following: it took me probably about 16 hours to make it, it will save you significant time planning for the week before break, and can take up several hours of lesson or exam time that you would otherwise have to prepare for on your own. It is also an excellent review for sight-reading and solfege skills while being a fun activity!

Features: 24 different melodies of varying difficulty, 13 unique student cards, teacher calling card with song titles, “do” indicated, key signature given. All melodies are in treble clef.

Songs included:

  • 12 Days of Christmas
  • All I Want for Christmas is You
  • Angels We Have Heard on High
  • Away in a Manger
  • Chestnuts (The Christmas Song)
  • Deck the Halls
  • Dreidel
  • Frosty the Snowman
  • God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
  • Greensleeves/What Child is This?
  • Oh, Hannukah
  • Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  • Hatikvah
  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  • I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
  • Jingle Bells
  • Joy to the World
  • O Come, All Ye Faithful
  • O, Holy Night
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem
  • Ode to Joy
  • Oh, Christmas Tree
  • Santa Claus is Coming to Town
  • Silent Night
Posted in Lesson Plans & Ideas, sight-singing, Teaching Chorus, Teaching Voice, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to tell when your child isn’t practicing.

Excellent article that applies to all instruments, and not only to the piano. (And it’s not too long, either!) Click Here to read it!

Not much needs to be added to the article, but I do want to make the dreaded comment: learning music is not always fun.

FUN in music is being able to perform well on pieces you have learned, especially with others. Sometimes you will be frustrated (particularly if you aren’t practicing well), sometimes it will be tedious or irritating, and that’s completely normal! Take a break and do something else, play something different, and then come back to it in a few minutes. A practice session for a beginner should be about 20 minutes of playing (not setting up) and then take a break and come back to it, unless they are making progress and want to practice longer. Some advocate no more than 45 minutes at a sitting (due to the brain’s processing ability). I encourage two 45-minute sessions for advanced students, rather than one hour-and-a-half session.

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Recital Programs!

As a creative person, I do enjoy making an attractive product like a recital program, but sometimes they are a pain. Below you will find a link to purchase some I have created, if you do not want to go through the hassle of making and formatting your own. Right now I have Christmas Lights and Holly Berries. I am considering making a wintery one with snowflakes, so if you are interested in that one please comment below (so I am not wasting time making something nobody wants!) and let me know if you want a half page or a 2 page.

Tips for lovely recital programs:

  1. Keep it Simple. Your program really only needs some sort of outline, maybe a festive image or two (clipart is good for that) to frame the important information. Clutter is distracting from both the performance and the information.
  2. Write Minimally. All that’s really necessary to include in the program is the title of the recital, date, location, and then the names of the students along with their piece titles, and their instrument. Any other information like “Thank you for coming!” can be stated in your introduction at the recital. If you want to include a website link, make it small across the bottom. You can see how I organize my student’s names in the samples below.
  3. Make it Pretty. The program will be a keepsake for many students, and I personally prefer it to handing out certificates. (I give them commemorative buttons instead of trophies or whatever.) The program should have color representative of whatever season or theme the recital reflects.
  4. Small is Ok. It’s just fine to use a half sheet recital program. It is, in some ways, easier for a parent to store these in a shoe box, and cuts down on costs for you. Simply print the front at home, flip it and put it back into your printer so it prints on the other side, cut it, and you’re done! (Test this before doing the whole batch!)
  5. Charge a Fee. Some teachers charge a small recital fee, $5 or less per family, to assist with printing and the coffee you’ll need to keep the creative juices flowing.
  6. Optional. You could also include age, grade, number of years playing, how many recitals performed, etc. I have two students performing on their birthday this year and I put a cute little Christmas light bulb next to their name.
  7. My Recital Programs. Here are the programs I created.
Posted in Teaching Band, Teaching Chorus, Teaching Elementary, Teaching Orchestra, Teaching Other Music Classes, Teaching Piano, Teaching Private Lessons, Teaching Voice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Colorful Clef Mnemonics

I know what some of you will say: “Don’t use mnemonics! It’s terrible!”

While I do try to get students to memorize each note, or at least one starting note, sometimes a student needs the mnemonic to help them remember. (Every kid is different, right? Differentiated instruction?) When you’re in a classroom full of kids, sometimes having the mnemonic on the wall is helpful and saves time for everyone. I hope you will enjoy these mnemonic devices, complete with colors and the clef letter on the clef!

Editable versions are available, but not yet posted on TpT. Feel free to email me through TpT to get the editable version, after purchasing the original.

Posted in Teaching Band, Teaching Chorus, Teaching Elementary, Teaching Guitar, Teaching Musical Theatre, Teaching Orchestra, Teaching Other Music Classes, Teaching Piano, Teaching Private Lessons | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Recital Tips (gifts!)

As far as teaching careers are concerned, mine has been relatively short. I taught a few lessons as a teenager, but have only been consistently teaching for approximately 6 years. Here is what I have learned:

  1. Make a simple program of all students and pieces played. Kids love to see their name written down, and it helps relieve anxiety about when students perform.
  2. Keep your own program and mark which students you are accompanying, the track number of their CD accompaniment, etc.
  3. Arrange the recital order from beginning students to older students. It is much more enjoyable to see the really good students later on in the recital, and it helps to not intimidate the students who are nervous.
  4. Give a unique gift to the students. Certificates get thrown away, and participation trophies are meaningless (and expensive). I recently started giving buttons! The kids can collect them, and they are small enough to store easily or wear whenever. These are the buttons I ordered for this year: colorful sheet music (my favorite!), treble clef with roses, and this bold design. This year I have two students with birthdays on the recital day. I am giving them this button.
  5. Send multiple reminder emails with the following information: what is appropriate to wear (if jeans are not acceptable, emphasize it), what time they are to arrive (15 minutes prior for piano students), the location, how long it will last, and brief reminders about behavioral expectations for students as well as friends and families (flash photography!).
  6. Have a separate area for the students to sit while they wait for their turn. This makes stage transitions easier and helps them relate to other students.
  7. Arrange the pieces so that students who might be both singing and playing an instrument are not doing one after the other, and try to avoid putting two of the same piece of music close together in the recital order. I also like to make sure I don’t have all students of one instrument type in a row. So three piano students (that’s six pieces!), violin, two piano, clarinet, voice, three piano, flute, etc.
  8. The night before, pack a bag with all the things you will need (including programs and gifts!) and review the items before you head out the door.
  9. Consider having a “finale” number, something as simple as “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” that would be enjoyable for students, a photo op for parents, and encourage them to stay to the end of the recital.
  10. Ensure that the recital is special — include decorations if at all possible, or host the event at a location other than the studio, preferably one with a small stage. This year mine will be at a piano store that has a room for recitals.
  11. Remember that your behavior, dress, and attitude will affect the children whether you realize it or not. If you are flustered and disheveled, irritable, stressed out, etc. students will begin to think this is the norm for a recital day. If you appear prepared, relaxed, let mistakes roll off your shoulders, etc. then students will know they have nothing to worry about!
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