One of my favorite activities to do with a beginner is teaching the white keys. While each method has a different pace and time for this, most students are so excited to be learning the key names and moving off the black keys! Today I wanted to share how I teach the key names in my piano studio. This idea was inspired during an undergraduate pedagogy class when I watched a colleague, Emily, do this first. She caught the attention of 7 busy 1st graders in the group class with this story. I have since made a simple keyboard printout with clip art pictures that I use with my students.
So pull out your props and get ready to tell the best story ever! Well maybe not the best ever but certainly one of the most fun piano lesson stories they’ll ever hear. One more side note: I change the names to boy or girls names depending on the student. Some students also like to help pick names if we have enough time in the lesson too.
“Once upon a time, there was a dog named Dorothy. She lived in a cute little dog house under the set of two black keys! Her friends lived next door: a cat named Cathy and an elephant named Ellie. One day they were very hungry so they walked over to the three story house (3 black keys). Outside the house, they saw father Fred. They asked him if he had any cookies to share but he didn’t so they went inside to Granny the Grandma. She didn’t have any cookies either so they went upstairs to see Auntie Ann. She was pulling fresh cookies out of the oven but before they had a cookie they went upstairs to see cute little Baby Bobby!”
We often take breaks to try finding all the “Dorothy” keys on the keyboard and so on throughout the story. The more animated your story telling, the more giggles you can get out of the students. At the end of the story, we often come down through the house as well to review the keys one more time. Then their assignment is to share the story with three people at home so they review the key names. Simple but one of my favorite activities for young students. Hope you enjoy trying it out sometime. And please share – what’s your favorite way to introduce key names?
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