Having a summer practice goal is a wonderful way to keep kids motivated and growing as musicians. It also makes the most of their free time. If you’re interest in taking on this challenge here’s a list of things to consider.

 

Length of Vacation

The first thing you’ll need to figure out is how many days your child has for summer vacation. Then you can factor in family vacation time and a few full days at the water park. What’s left are the days for the practice challenge.

 

Practice Goal

There are a variety of goals your can set, including:

a) Practice every day. No set time limit. Just accomplish something.

b) Practice 20 minutes every day. Mark your practice record as students achieve their daily goal.

c) Set a a goal of 25 hours. Some kids might like this best, and have the goal completed in a few weeks.

 

Practice Charts

We have a collection of free printable practice charts if you’re interested.

Get Free Practice Charts

clown-with-balloons-practice-chart

 

Reward or No Reward

You’ll also need to decide if the reward of becoming a better musician and playing fun songs is reward enough, or should you provide a reward to work toward.

A research study conducted by Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive: The Suprising Truth About What Motivates Us, looked at a group of preschoolers who chose to spend their “free play” time drawing. The researchers divided the students into three groups. The first was the “expected-award” group. They knew they would get something for completing their assigned goal. The second group was the “unexpected-award” group. They would receive a “Good Player” certificate, though wouldn’t know it’s coming. The third group was the “no-award” group. There was no promise of a reward, and nothing was awarded.

Children in the “unexpected-award” and “no-award” groups drew just as much and enjoyed drawing just as much. However, the children who expected to receive an award showed much less interest in drawing spent much less drawing.

Extrinsic rewarded can be great. You’ll just have to decide if they are right for your kids.

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Finding the perfect words to express what you mean and make the concept understandable to young students can be a challenge. When we finally figure out how to express our ideas, we tend to repeat these phrases over and over again.

I have been enhancing my students perfomances with dynamics (p, mp, mf, f) for many years.  I have accomplished this with two strategies:

1) Define Terms – I teach students to pronounce the terms and defined them.

1) Demonstrate – I play examples and explain the terms. Mezzo Forte (mf) is easy. You don’t need to work hard to play soft or to play loud. Mezzo Piano (mp) and Forte (f) are more challenging because they require extra effort. Piano (p) requires the most effort.

Nothing special here. It has worked well enough, but it was difficult to achieve artistry-level performances with grade school students… until now.

For the past 5-6 years I’ve been taking art lessons, and decided to see if a connection between art and music might help my music students play their music in a much more expressive way.

I introduced value.

Value refers to the visible lightness or darkness of a color, and is one of the most important design elements in a work of art.

So, how does this relate to music?

The following chart shows the four most common dynamic levels and assigns a value to each of them.

teaching-musical-dynamics-drawing-values.jpg

I found that drawing a box above a section of the music, and shading it with the appropriate value, gave students a visual indication of how loud or soft the phrase should be played. A light turned on for my students and it transformed their performances.

In some instances, you might draw a box above a four measure phrase and that will be enough. Other pieces are so well written, and your students so capable, that you might want to dig a little deeper -adding value boxes above individual notes.

dynamics-music-lessons-piano

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Most kids won’t grow up to be music composers. However, the opportunity to compose or arrange music shouldn’t be overlooked as it will bring a richness of understanding to their musical experience that you just can’t get any other way.

I started writing and arranging music is high school, and my band director had the jazz and concert band read every single thing I wrote. I learned how to building chords, writing counterpoint, and orchestration. All these experiences made me a better listener and helped me to appreciate the music I played.

If you’d like to try composing with your students, but don’t know where to start, you can print this book – Composing with Kids | Fives “Recipes” for Success. Each “recipe” includes ingredients (like “use this ostinato”, “this form”, or “these rhythms”) and directions on how to combine them. If it sounds a lot like baking cookies… it is!

Composing with Kids | Fives “Recipes” for Success

composing-with-kids-book

Music Notation Apps

Seeing your music printed from a professional notation tool is an amazingly satisfying thing. I recently asked one of my students to give Finale Print Music a try, so she download the 30-day free trial. She loved it! One of the big advantages of writing things out with a notation program is that students get to hear a digital performance. Finale’s Human Playback feature is pretty nice. It still sounds like an electronic piano, but sounds very much like a real person is playing.

Noteflight
Noteflight is a web-based app that can be used on you iPad or Desktop. They offer a “try before you buy” account, so you can check things out first.  Noteflight is supportive to teachers and students and includes many materials and lesson plans for download.

Finale Print Music
Finale Print Music is a basic version of Make Music’s Finale software. They also offer a “try before you buy” account, so you can check things out first. I began writing arrangements with Print Music and liked it. It’s a wonderful tool that allows you to write simple piano arrangements, or music for full band or orchestra. The only reason I upgraded was so I could switch clefs mid-measure.

virtual-music-conference

The good folks at Fun Music Co. are hosting the Virtual Music Education Conference again this year, and the line up of speakers looks pretty interesting.

You get to hear from one of the world’s top education speakers, Todd Whitaker, who will be presenting, “What Great Teachers Do Differently”, and Janice from Fun Music Co. will share a few tips on applying these ideas to the general music classroom. The conference will also feature a top neuroscientist researching music education, Dr. Nina Kraus, and include music education experts like Artie Almeida, John Jacobson and ‘Standard of Excellence’ band book series author, Bruce Pearson. The conference will also offer hands-on implementation sessions for Garage Band for teaching composition, Ukulele in the classroom, and teaching with Boomwhackers.

Interested in a program guide?
Virtual Music Education Conference 2016 | Program Guide

I’ve known about listening maps for many years, but listening glyphs were a new and wonderful discovery for me. Glyphs have been used for years in homeroom classrooms, but have only recently found their way into the music classroom.

So What’s a Listening Glyph?
Glyphs are images that communicate facts. Listening glyphs give primary grade music students a way to express the “facts” about the music they hear – even if they can’t read yet.

Not only do listening glyphs get kids thinking about the music they’re listening to, they also provide a great way for teachers to quickly assess a group of students.

St. Patrick’s Day Music Listening Gylph
Since St. Patrick’s Day is on the way I’ll kick this listening glyph thing off with the following glyph that’s available on TeachersPayTeachers.com.

st-patricks-day-music-listening-glyph

This listening glyph encourages students to listen for steady beat, tempo, timbre (color), amplitude (volume), if it’s a little or big music ensemble, if they hear repeated sections of music, and staccato or legato.

The teacher pack contains 3 pages of listening glyphs and a helpful stuff page:

  1. General Use – One for all musical selections
  2. Celtic Woman – A listening glyph for a specific selection
  3. Blank Glyph – A glyph with blanks is also provided so you can choose your own music and assess whatever you want to.
  4. Helpful Stuff  – The final page includes instructions and a list of 12 popular Celtic music soloists and groups.

 

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Piano Apps for Kids
Four apps that actually help kids to learn to play the piano.

MMF! Piano Primer App | Download on Apple App Store
Treble Clef Kids | Download on Apple App Store
Music for Little Mozarts | Download on Apple App Store
Meet Beethoven iPad App (Includes sheet music with interactive tools for practicing)

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