The MTNA Convention in San Antonio was a wonderful experience! Although I think I am still recovering, catching up, and getting adjusted back to regular life. The days are packed full of wonderful events and….we didn’t get any posts written up the last couple days. Sorry! But, as promised, we will be posting some more detailed session summaries over the next couple of weeks. I’m going to start out by summarizing a session that was a part of the RMM track of Pedagogy Saturday. This session was called “RMM ‘Best Ideas'” and was a speed session with 10 teachers each taking 4 minutes to share one idea. Teachers were actually timed and limited to the four minutes, and to make it even more fun the attendees were able to cast a vote for their favorite idea and real prizes were awarded! I gained a lot of new ideas from this session, so I wanted to share them with you all. Small disclaimer – many of the ideas were not really RMM specific, but can actually be useful in a variety of teaching situations.
- Rhythm Cup Concerti presented by Eden Esters Brown: Eden’s idea was to use the rhythm cup activities by Wendy Stevens (at composecreate.com) combined with students’ prepared performance pieces. While a student performs their piece the rest of the students tap along using one of the cup rhythms that matches the meter of the performance piece. This sounded like a lot of fun and a great way to help students keep a steady beat while playing. The limitations are that this will only work with pieces in 3/4 or 4/4, and wouldn’t work well in pieces that require some flex in the tempo.
- This Ain’t Your Momma’s Heart and Soul by David Easley: David’s idea was to use the familiar chord structure of Heart and Soul to create opportunities for students to improvise. He demonstrated how you can use the chords that many students already know and vary the sound by arpeggiating the chords, adding an open 10th, or adding seconds.
- Take a Trip by Melissa Falb: Melissa’s idea was to help students gain a kinesthetic awareness at the keyboard through interval dictation. You began by having student start with a specific finger and then tell them “up a second, up a third, down a fourth” etc. Students can also do this with eyes closed, hands together, and even away from the piano. I’ve included interval dictation like this in my lessons for awhile, but I love the idea of telling students we are going to “take a trip” just to make it sound a little more exciting.
- Permission Granted by Melanie Mallard: Melanie demonstrated how you can use a lead sheet to provide a “Creativity Exercise” for group students. She suggested including this in the first 10 minutes of the lesson, giving students a chance to explore and create. I appreciated the reminder that even our adult students might enjoy the opportunity to improvise when given some parameters to help guide them.
- Sharp Pencils, Cold Water, Lots of Praise by Andrew McCormick: Andrew shared that he gives adults students a survey at the end of class to see what they like and dislike about the class. The title of his idea came from one student’s praise of the class who said she liked the “sharp pencils, cold water, and lots of praise.” He translated this over to broader categories saying that the most important things for an adult group class are that you are prepared, welcoming, and affirming.
- Anything YouTube Can Do, I Can Do Better by Christine Meng: Christine showed us how she creates a lead sheet from pop tunes with her students. She found that students are going to YouTube to learn popular songs and believes that we as teachers can do better than YouTube. When a student is interested in learning a popular tune Christine uses this as an opportunity to practice their ear training skills. Students first write out the lyrics of the song, then add in the melody notes, and finally the chord structure. I think its a great idea for us as teachers to take advantage of things that our students are motivated to learn instead of leaving them on their own to learn it from YouTube.
- If you can sing it, you can play it! by Kosumo Morishita: Kosumo shared how to improve sight-reading skills by having students sing the melody first, then play the accompaniment part, then sing the melody while playing the accompaniment. She believes that internalizing the melody through singing helps students to then sight-read that melody more accurately.
- Piano Date by Chi Nguyen: This was my favorite idea out of the 10. Chi shared how she had been planning “Piano Date Nights” for adult students. She took the idea from painting classes that are often offered on weekends where friends can sign up together and are guided through the completion of a painting that they then take home. Her piano date nights began as a free trial class to attract students to her adult group classes, but she is looking into charging for the classes in the near future. Her piano date nights are usually centered around a holiday theme, include improvisation, some music history, and rote teaching. I’d love to give this idea a try, especially since the painting classes seem so popular right now!
- The 4 P’s to Keep Teens Engaged by Amy Pardew: For Amy, the 4 P’s are Piano Guys, Postmodern Jukebox, Pentatonix, and Pitch Perfect. Amy shared how she incorporates popular music into her teen group classes. I especially like her idea to introduce a pop song and a classical piece in the same key at the same time. This way they can explore the theory of the pieces and see how they relate to each other.
- Fuzzies by Elle Tyler: The final idea presented by Elle was to use small manipulative she calls fuzzies in many different ways in the studio. She mentioned that you can use them to find black key groups on the piano, practice finger numbers, find low and high on the piano, and more. It turns out that Julia Knerr of Piano Safari is also a big “advocate” of fuzzies and she gave out the following information cards about how to use fuzzies. The fuzzies are handmade from pom poms and googley eyes. I think they’re pretty adorable, and also cheap!
Stay tuned for more summary posts from the MTNA Conference! If you were there, what was your favorite session?
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.