Friday, June 11, 2010

Teaching Theory

I've mentioned before that I teach my 3 youngest siblings piano. This summer we are changing our schedules just a bit to allow for a slightly more relaxed schedule. So every other week we have regular lessons, and on the off weeks we have a theory lesson... which is much more fun! I've been doing a lot of research and printing many different things for these theory lessons to make them very interactive but fun at the same time. And they are learning, and don't even realize it! They seem to enjoy the different things we do. Stephanie is joining us as well for these theory lessons, since she is done with her lessons for the time being. Here are the things we did at our last theory lesson:

I made this staff and notes primarily for Carrie, but Rachel got some enjoyment out of it too, I think! I had made the staff for my piano pedagogy class 2 years ago at school, but I have found myself using it over and over again! This time I had the brilliant idea to make notes and different time signatures for her to arrange her own measures. It was easy to make with a black sharpie and white card stock. I made 4/4 and 3/4 time signatures, several bar lines, quarter notes, half notes, dotted half notes and whole notes. She seemed to enjoy being creative and coming up with her own rhythms. This will be easy to add to as she learns more symbols as well...rests, more time signatures, and eventually sharps and flats.

Here is a rhythm "game" that I downloaded from All I had to do was print out the sheets and cut them into fourths, and I had four each of all the notes and rests. I printed an extra page of the quarter notes, since those get used up quickly. For this activity I had Justin and Stephanie work together, and Rachel and Carrie work together. I would clap a two- or three-measure rhythm for them, and it was their job to arrange it into the correct measures with the right notes, rests, and bar lines in the correct places. Here is an example:
I had harder ones for Justin and Stephanie than I did for Rachel and Carrie. It was interesting because sometimes one would think it was one way and the other would think it was completely different. I would let them arrange it both ways and then tell them which was right.
This was a good review for them to refresh their memories as far as which notes get what counts in different time signatures.

I downloaded these grand staffs from Susan Paradis' Piano Teacher Resources ( One is just plain and I gave this one to Justin with dimes to use on it. The other one is Peppermint Candy-themed, so I one of those to Stephanie and Rachel with candies to use on them. She also has one that is candy-corn-themed, but I did not have any candy corn for them to use, so we will save that one for this fall. I read off triads and their inversions for Justin and Stephanie to arrange on each of their staves, and intervals for Rachel to arrange. This was thought-provoking for each of them! Stephanie and Justin seemed to have the most trouble with 2nd inversions, so we will be reviewing those again shortly! I enjoyed using these staves as an alternative to just having them fill out a worksheet or something... made it more interesting for them, I think!

We ended our theory evening by playing "The Goofy Piano" game from Susan Paradis' blog. She has it all set up to download and cut out 22 cards... 21 notes and one "Goofy Piano" card. The game is played like "Old Maid", and the person stuck with the "Goofy Piano" is the looser! Because we were playing with 5 people, I decided to add more cards, so I printed off some more of those rhythm cards that we used earlier from musicmattersblog and cut those to size. I ended up putting too many, because the game took FOREVER!! But it was still fun, with Stephanie going out first, leaving Rachel with the "Goofy Piano." It was a fun ending to a fun evening! I think some time in the future I may take out the "Goofy Piano" card and use the rest to play a game like "Go fish." I am just trying to think up a catchy musical-sounding name for it instead! Any suggestions?

Coming soon...a giant-sized keyboard and grand staff, a game using skittles, and a magnetic matching game for the refrigerator! You won't want to miss out!

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