Dollar Store Summer Music Activities, Part 1

We’re teaming up with Heather Nanney at Fun Key Music to bring you a 3-part series of fun summer activities using items you can find at the dollar store!  We met Heather at the MTNA National Conference in Baltimore this past March (read about that conference here and here) and we are excited to collaborate with her on this project.  We’ll post parts 1 and 2 here on 4D and she’ll post her ideas in part 3 on her blog! See Part 2 with ideas from Whitney, and Part 3 on Heather’s blog, Fun Key Music!

Today, I’m sharing 3 ways you can use pool noodles in piano lessons this summer.

Pool Noodles in Piano Lessons:

1.  Reinforce rhythmic relationships  

This is similar to what I’ve done with legos, but I’m always up for trying as many ways as possible to make a concept clear to a student.  Plus it’s fun!  I cut my noodles with the quarter notes being 4 inches long.  That means sixteenth notes were an inch, eighth notes were two inches, half notes were 8 inches, etc.  Then I wrote the note values on them with a sharpie.  Here’s what they ended up looking like:

You can use these as a manipulative in a private lesson.  Help a student see how many sixteenth notes fit in a quarter note.  Or how many eighth notes fit in a whole note.  Being able to see the physical differences in length may help this concept really click for a student.

2.  Reinforce meter  

You can use the same noodles that you cut and labeled from above, but transfer this idea into building measures.  With a noodle labeled for each meter, students can determine how to make the notes fill each measure completely.  Here’s a few examples of how this could work:

I think this could especially be helpful with the compound meters, such as 6/8, since this is often a hard concept for our students!

  3.  Build Chords  

Something totally different you can do with pool noodles is to use them to help your students practice building chords.  Simply cut a lot of sections of noodles the same size and then label them with the music alphabet including sharps and flats.  Then you can call out a chord and have your student build it with the noodles.  You could even practice chord qualities – major, minor, diminished, and augmented.  I think this would be great for a group class or camp, have a large pile of noodles with note names across the room, call out a chord and have students race to build that chord first.  Just make sure you have enough of each letter that the teams would each be able to build the chord.  The chords could be stacked up to look like this:

I found pool noodles at our local Dollar Tree for $1 a piece and it only took 3 noodles total to make all 3 of these ideas!  You can buy them in a variety of colors and use the colors to help yourself sort out which noodles go with each game/activity.

Be sure to check out Part 2 and Part 3 for more affordable summer music fun! 

Author: Spring

Spring Seals, NCTM, teaches 60 piano students ranging from age 3 to 70 in Fort Worth, Texas. She also serves as the Director of Certification for TMTA. She is passionate about helping teachers become more effective in their studios through professional development, new resources, and fresh ideas.