At our brick and mortar school in Portland, Oregon, we like to keep a collection of educational tools and ideas to use in our piano lessons. Having a variety of different learning activities available keeps our teaching fresh and engaging for students. We’re excited to share these resources with you so you can use them in your home, studio, or classroom. Here are some tips for printing, assembling, and organizing your very own resource library.
First, it’s important to understand why we do all this extra work! Students deeply appreciate variety to replenish their well of enthusiasm. Let’s face it- learning a music instrument is hard work! We have found that students who engage different parts of their brains, bodies and personalities get so much more enjoyment out of their music studies. Learning sessions feel more natural when interspersed with moments of simpler learning activities away from the bench.
Identify Problem Areas
Rather than printing every resource, focus on areas of learning that you know a student needs to improve upon. These resources can be used like spices in your kitchen- just a dash can go a long way, and you only use the ones you need.
Once the resources are introduced, you’ll find that students look forward to using them. It’s like a recess or a break that makes it mentally easier for them to focus during their work period. Schedule the resources in at predictable times, and make them a priority as much as other parts of the lesson or practice session.
You should also schedule a time to build your home resource collection. Choose a block of time weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or even seasonally to sit down and prepare resources for the next learning period. Then organize the materials so that they’ll be easy for you to find and use as they are needed.
Organizing Your Resources
A huge part of learning success is to have materials well-organized and ready to use. Store them near the piano or keyboard. Of course your home studio may be be much smaller than ours, but with a little time and effort you can still create a fun “learning zone” in whatever space you have.
In our studios in Portland, we have our resources more or less organized in three categories:
- A small station near the piano for materials that need to be used almost every day.
It’s helpful to have a little place to put a stash of pencils and colored highlighters, a nice lamp, some sticky notes, and a place for current music that is hot and ready to play. Put up a small piece of art, a goal chart, or a recent certificate, and now you have a learning station charged with encouraging energy.
- A device with easy-to-find supplementary resources, including special sheets that can be printed on-demand.
We save files such as special fun worksheets and special sheet music in categorized folders on a device to make them readily printable.
The same device is ready to go with audio files, fun learning apps, and of course quick access to our video library.
We also love to have the device handy to watch videos of inspiring performers. There can never be enough listening to the artists who paved the way before us.
- A shelf and/or drawers to store manipulatives (physical materials other than sheet music) to be used for off-bench activities, such as dictation, alphabet cards, and games.
Again, your music learning area at home may be smaller than ours, but this is what we use. You can adapt it for your own needs.
For small manipulatives, we have a slim, stackable set of drawers labeled with categories.
For rhythm dictation cards, we use an accordion file labeled with tabs for each of the symbols.
We also keep a bookshelf for storing books, with an attached section of cupboards or drawers for storing larger items such as small instruments and the laminated heartbeat and staff mats.
A Few Purchases That Can Go a Long Way
A few small purchases, made on an as-needed basis, can make all the difference in creating an inspiring home learning library that motivates students for years.
This is for printing manipulatives that you plan to re-use, such as rhythm dictation and alphabet cards.
- Game Markers and Dice
There are countless ways to turn almost any learning problem into a game. As soon as students are rolling dice, piano lessons take on a new, fun dynamic.
Many of your resources will be used so often, it’s worth it to make them extra nice. Print those same resources in color for a special touch, and laminate them for extra durability.
- Dry Erase Markers (With Skinny Tips) and Erasers
A nice feature of laminated material is that it can be used with dry-erase markers for endless reusability. Think worksheets! But please remember, only active premium students have a license to use premium materials. If you create a re-usable version of our premium materials, please only use with students who have active premium accounts.
Some games such as Bingo are also fun to play with dry-erase. It’s also handy to use dry-erase for things that need to be tracked such as daily practice charts and long-term goal charts. Plus, kids love using dry-erase, so there’s a little extra motivation.
- Clear colored 8 ½ X 11 storage envelopes for games that have multiple pieces
- Scissors, glue stick, sticky notes, highlighters or colored pencils
Our music learning resources are the culmination of many years of creative teaching at Hoffman Academy. We hope you and your students will enjoy them. With just a bit of consistent effort, you can organize and use these resources to be an effective part of your music learning experience.