Have you heard of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid?”, or “Big Nate”? If not, hit the bookstore and get reading… because they’re a total hoot.
But they are also part of a growing trend towards the use of Graphic Novels in early childhood literacy.
What are Graphic Novels and Why Do Piano Teachers Care?
Graphic Novels are books that have a very strong visual component built around the text.
Graphic Novels have been shown to increase motivation, engage reluctant readers and help struggling readers who need cues while reading (they can look to the pictures for assistance).
These are all very good things if you are an elementary teacher!… And all very good things if you can capitalize on this trend as a piano teacher too!
So, let’s see how we can make this happen…
How To Bring the Graphic Novel Craze Into Piano Lessons?
1. Use the pictures already in your method book, but expand upon them. Most (good) method books for young students also have pictures. Get your student engaged in the piece by first talking about the picture. But, let’s face it… these pictures aren’t always the most exciting thing to look at. So, allow her to expand upon the picture. Add speech bubbles, new stick-man characters etc.
Let her imagination run wild, but direct her with some musical ideas… ask “What do you think the tempo of this piece will be?”, “Do you think this piece will be major or minor”, “What are some descriptive words you would use to describe how this music may sound?”. Her answers can help her to elaborate on the picture and also serve to make some connections before she even starts playing.
2. Have your student create a “comic strip” above their music. Does his music sound as though something is running, or jumping, or… sleeping? Help him draw a mini-comic above to encourage expressive playing, as a reminder of dynamics, and to engage his busy mind while playing.
3. Give the notes a voice. One student of mine gave me this idea and I’ve used it for years. When an F# just kept coming out as a natural, he got fed up and drew a speech bubble coming out of the note head. He scrawled “Hey… I’m an F# Dude!” in the speech bubble. We had a good laugh and it was fixed… forever. Note heads in my students’ music often are given “a voice” with speech bubbles… cranking up the fun graphic-factor in their music.
4. Check out The Adventures of Fearless Fortissimo. A teacher wrote to us recently after giving her student this comic-based piano book and said “This week, as I walked up the sidewalk to his home, I was met by the most amazing performance I have ever heard from him! Both hands were excellent, and he concluded the piece with a ritardando and diminuendo that wasn’t written in, and made it sound great! I helped him understand the accents and the cresc-dim signs and accent marks, which we didn’t cover last week, and he applied them for one more performance. What a difference.”
If you’re interested in The Adventures of Fearless Fortissimo click to learn more. Each book comes with a full-color comic and 3 levels of each of the pieces within the book; enabling your Early Elementary, Elementary and Intermediate students to all get involved in the graphic piano book excitement! Already use Episode 1 and have students begging for Episode 2? Find it here.