THAT FIRST PIANO LESSON:
Straight to the lesson
Technology and Piano
When teaching young children it is important to totally organize and prepare for every lesson in advance - all prospective activity sheets printed, all needed supplies like crayons organized into separate containers for each student, all videos on youtube (or wherever) ready to go with a touch of a button.....And, as always, have Plans B through Z ready at all times!
A good equipment investment is a laminator. 5mm laminate is plenty strong for flashcards, etc. that you want to use repeatedly. If you want to give each student something to take home or a good behavior "prize" at the end of each lesson, laminated items such as small 3 black key cards and 2 black key cards are great.
Speaking of things to take home, I ALWAYS charged parents a set materials fee since their children use specific and unique items at the lessons and will be receiving activity sheets, laminated items such as little cards, flash cards, game boards..... In addition to the total cost of these items be sure to include your time getting them ready...maybe double your purchase cost...and arrive at a price you feel is fair to both parties. Parents have no problem paying for materials.
The Anybody Can Play PIANO app, which is able to be used independently, can be a great advantage for piano teachers! One benefit is its being a totally patient tutor for student practice at home. Since the app is a vertical curriculum, it also gives piano teachers lesson organization simply by following the song progression on the app.
I have even put together a multitude of free activity sheets that complement the training of the app. I am also in the process of putting together very short "Gramma's Piano Lessons" - also free - that each cover one topic. Sometimes children like looking at a video, especially when they have access via youtube to watch again at home. I emphasize the "Gramma" in the lesson series so children realize that playing the piano is a life-long joy!
To subscribe to the Anybody Can Play PIANO app in Windows 10
click here. First week is free - $1.99/mo to continue.
All URLS for activity sheets, videos, etc.
are listed at the end of this article.
Everyone teaches differently, but I am going to "walk through" what a first piano lesson for four-year-olds using the Anybody Can Play PIANO app might be like. At this "lesson" I have the app on the computer/tablet ready to go with an attached keyboard as well as my piano. You can have only one student, but I always had 2-4 students in a class with an adult for each (quietly watching and listening [no phones] and ready to join in when asked - like maybe being Tick Tock clocks along with the children ???)
Hi! My name is________
Sooo, what's your name? "Blue tee shirt boy?.....
No???...... Oh, Tommy!
And you are pink sweater girl, right?.....
No???..... Oh, Jane.
I really like your names - and I like being able to call you by your real names!
Then ask the children if they can spell their names for you ..... (There's always the attending adult to help here!)
Write (or let the children if they can) each child's name on a sticker name tag and ask them to please wear the tags. If one (or all) don't wish to wear the tags, tell them you will wear the tag(s) for them.
This name introduction is actually the beginning of naming keys on the piano. You can revert back to the convenience of knowing someone's real name.
We are going to be using a computer to help us learn to play the piano.
Do you use a tablet or computer for anything?.....
What is the biggest problem?.....
My biggest problem is finding the right spot for what I want to do.
Do you see that cute tag on my computer? To Tick Tock. ..... It shows how to get to the first song - Tick Tock.
I have one for each of you so you can take one home.
What goes tick tock? ..... Right, a clock.
The first song on the app is about a clock and is called "Tick Tock". That's easy to remember.
The words are "Tick Tock Tick Tock I am a clock"..
Sway back and forth as you say the words.
Try to say the words with me...Tick Tock Tick Tock I am a clock.
Go into "teaching mode" so children can say the words along with you.
Now let's listen to the song - sing the words if you can - and pretend we are a big clock.
(standing and rocking back and forth - hands together over the head)
Play and sing via the app (SHOW ME), via youtube with the child singing, or just sing the song yourself or with the words only version of the song on youtube. The Tick Tock song on youtube has both words and finger colors. At this point in the lesson only listen to the "word" version...Be ready to quickly "pause"!
accompaniment with words.
sung by kk.
Let's be teeny clocks this time. Try to sing too.
(index fingers going back and forth)
You are getting really good at this.
Who knows how we could be a grandfather clock? What is a grandfather clock???
OK. Ready? Grandfather clocks!
(standing with pendulum arms hanging down and swinging back and forth)
You were really good clocks!
Let's look at the app now to find out how to play Tick Tock.
That cute little tag on my computer shows us how to do it.
Have the app already loaded with this Anybody Can Play PIANO screen showing and actually "walk" through the steps on your computer with the children.
Let's look at this tab.
What should we do first?.....
Click or touch that little picture of the finger touching a piano key.
OK. Now what? .....
We should start with number 1.
That is the most easy.
Now what? ...
There is a right hand up here and a left hand over here.
We have a choice.
Let's do the right hand first. Left hand will do it later.
We need to click or touch that top song name right by that little clock.
That is the little Tick Tock clock.
A little bee named Busy Buzzy Bumblebee just flew over the keys.
He put a pink dot on one piano key and a blue dot on another one.
Hmmm. This page won't go anywhere until that yellow colored word in the corner is touched or clicked. That yellow word says "CONTINUE"."
Before we touch/click that "CONTINUE" word let's do a fun sheet.
(This page will freeze until "continue" is touched/clicked so this keyboard patterning activity can now be done with a paper keyboard and stickers/colors.)
Pass out paper keyboards. PDF: 2 Octave Paper Keyboards.
Give each child a removable pink dot.
(If you use "Spot for Dots" put both a pink and blue dot on it.) PDF: Spot For Dots.
Video: Making removable stickers
Can you find the key that looks just like the key where Busy Buzzy put that pink dot?
Go through what is necessary for them to find that key.
Give each child a blue dot and repeat the exercise.
OPTIONAL NARRATIVE AT THIS POINT
Piano keys have names.
The name of that key with the pink dot is G.
Every key on the piano that looks like that key is also named G.
Can you find another G?
Write a pink G on both Gs. If students are not familiar with the alphabet yet, tell them that the shape you are drawing on the key is called G...describe what you are drawing....."to make a G you almost draw a circle and put that little line there.....you want to help me draw the other G?...."
The name of that key with the blue dot is C.
And...all the keys that look like that are named C.
Can you find another C?
Write a blue C on the C keys....again descibe if need be what you are drawing...."just like the G, only no little line"............
MORE EASY OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES AT THIS POINT:
Circle black key groups on paper keyboards. PDF: Circle Black Key Groups.
Line up 2 black key groups and 3 black key groups. Video: Gramma's Piano Lesson #1, Part 1.
Make 5 black key groups out of the 2 and 3 black key groups. PDF: Key Groups to cut out.
Let's go back to the computer.
Touch (or click) on that yellow "Continue"word at the top and the computer will go to the next screen.
Wow! The fingers on this pointer hand are getting a different colored dot on each finger. The pinkie finger has a pink dot on it.
Hmmmm. What do you think that means?....Yes!
We are supposed to play on that Tick Tock pink G with our finger that we pretend is pink.
And what about the blue? The thumb is blue, sooo.... Yes!
We are supposed to play on that Tick Tock blue C with our blue finger.
Let's listen to KK singing Tick Tock with and words and the colors.
Videos: Tick Tock
accompaniment with words.
sung by kk.
Move and sing with the song both with words and now the colors as well ....tap (or pretend to tap in the air) the pink and blue fingers while pretending to be a tiny clock while singing...
At this point most children will use straight fingers when they play this song. Gramma's Piano Lesson #5.
is a video about strengthening and curving those fingers. After playing the first few songs on the app, the children become interested in curved "piano fingers"....some actually right away.
Let's play Tick Tock with the app. Touch (or click) "Continue".
This song can be played directly on a touch screen, but I strongly recommend using a keyboard controller or keyboard that will connect to a computer. Have each child play the song with the app with the others looking on, checking for the use of correct fingers, helping them find a key, etc. Be very congratulatory!
If the children do NOT do this with ease and they need to re-do the activity, you could have them show the adults what they are doing. Sometimes it also works to have the adult play the song with the child explaining how to do it - what finger to use by looking at that little pointer hand at the top, which key to play, etc. I want the parents to be part of the learning process so if their child asks them a question, they won't just shrug and tell their child to ask their piano teacher at the next lesson!
If, however, the children already play Tick Tock with ease, then go to the piano and play Tick Tock on the piano one by one, showing them which G and C to use.
If they do this with ease, have them all sit on the piano bench and play Tick Tock one at a time in different places on the keyboard, explaining that songs sound the same - only higher or lower - if they are played on the same keys in the same order...switch places and do again...switch places and do again...
Gramma's Piano Lesson #1, Part 3
shows Mary Had A Little Lamb played middle, high and low. Watch if you think it is appropriate at this point. Not only Tick Tock can be played in different places, but other songs as well!
If they do this with ease, have them all sit on the bench and play Tick Tock in different places simultaneously. (1,2,ready,play) If they can do this really well, ask them to play and sing - both words and colors - while they play! Playing and singing simultaneously is another terrific skill!
Next step at this or next lesson is playing Tick Tock with the left hand. Point out that the colors are parallel. Gramma's Piano Lesson #2.
shows Tick Tock with both hands in parallel, explaining that the colors need to be all going in the same direction....(both hands....next step!)
Next step, playing both hands simultaneously (Level 2). Personify the hands if students are having difficulty. Right hand can help left hand....(or visa versa for a left handed student).
Encourage the children to play Tick Tock lots of times so it is super easy for them to play with the arrows and cartoon notes turned off - and also to look at other parts of the app - other songs - other levels - notation....
When Tick Tock is learned well (which means being able to play it without the arrows) move to the next song. In fact if the children did well in that first lesson, encourage them to work on the next song as they continue to work on getting Tick Tock super good.
Sometimes it is a good idea to learn several songs with each hand alone before playing in parallel. Some students are able to jump from one hand to both together quite soon.....just a judgement on the part of the teacher.
Next, have each child play Tick Tock right hand alone followed immediately by Tick Tock left hand alone followed immediately by Tick Tock hands together. Tell the children this is called a "theme and variations". Later they will be able to add another variation from Level 3!
Move through the songs on Level 1 (and Level 2 if appropriate to your students). As time goes on and the hands work really well in parallel, many students start with Level 2 and skip Level 1. Start Level 3 when the children seem ready to take on the challenge. Sometimes they surprise you!
And.....don't forget that Notes part of the app. Some of these children will be ready to play Silly Songs quite soon. They can be learning notation while still using colors for learning to play songs so will not feel pressured to be able to read the music for a song before they are allowed to learn to play it. The Silly Songs are sight reading exercises, so the notes really have to be learned in order to play them. Some children REALLY enjoy the Silly Songs. I think, mainly, because they can stay on the level where they are comfortable as long as they wish without feeling they are not progressing since the Silly Songs keep re-arranging the notes so every song is new!
And, as I keep saying over and over:
FEEL and EXPRESS the JOY with your students for every tiny step learned!