Update: My first post about this activity came about 5 years ago but I’m getting bags ready for our first composition activity again this week. It’s such an easy one for any age beginner and fun to see what students bring back when I ask them to get creative at home! I love opening their minds up to creating music from the very beginning. Hope you’re using it in your private lessons or group classes too!
I love composing – from the very first lesson, my students have a “You the Composer” assignment pretty much every week. I love hearing their ideas and creations each week. In fact, it’s the highlight of a lesson for me! So for one of their first weeks of piano lessons, I like to use the following idea for our composition activity.
Before you bring out this activity, make sure the student has covered high/middle/low sounds, short/long sounds, and loud/soft sounds. Then prepare a sheet of paper with three sections – high, middle, low. Fill a ziploc bag full of anything from smarties and M&M’s to cut up pipe cleaners and pasta noodles! Then create a song with the student! Usually we make the smaller round candies be short notes and the longer pipe cleaner pieces or pasta noodles be long notes. Bigger circle candies mean loud notes (like my chocolate M&M’s in the picture) and smaller circle candies mean quiet notes (like my smarties).
Students love taking this activity home and making a new piece to play everyday. Sometimes, they’ll even add other stickers or things to the bag to create pieces with. When they have a favorite piece, I ask them to glue the pieces on so they can play it for me next week – their first “notated” music composition! I hope you enjoy using this idea in your own studio. What other ideas do you like to use for first composition activities?
Whitney Hawker, NCTM, teaches group and private piano at Weber State University, Utah. She loves surprising students with the perfect piece or a new exciting game! After graduate school, she missed sharing ideas and resources daily with colleagues so she and her friend, Spring, began blogging together at 4DPianoTeaching.com