Hands up if you had a sticker book as a child – did you trade, sort, scratch and sniff…?
Stickers are one of the few things in this world that have kept their appeal for kids of all ages; my teens still snoop in my sticker basket searching for cool additions to their water bottles and iPad cases, and my adult students will giggle… but still choose one on occasion.
It occurred to me while teaching last week that I wasn’t using these little pieces of sticky addictiveness to their full potential. Surely there must be some other way to capitalize on their appeal instead of simply placing one at the top of a completed piece or collecting them on piano binders.
And it was a 7 year old student (taking an eyebrow-raising amount of time to be sure her newest flamingo sticker coordinated with her other animal stickers… and also had some “greenery to make him happy”) who inspired me to delve further into Alternative Sticker Use… hereby known as ASU 😉
Using Stickers As A Piano Teaching Aid
During the week I experimented with using stickers, not as a reward or as a fun little extra, but as a true teaching aid. Here are the 4 ways that had the most impact (and were the most fun).
1. Stickers as “your voice” for home practice: There are so many times when I wish I could clone myself to be by my piano students’ side for those first few practice sessions… just to be there in those little teensy spots where they need that same old reminder in that same old place. But who knew that “my voice” could easily be replicated by a speech bubble coming from the lips of a purple rhino… or a monkey… or a peace sign?
You can clone yourself too! If your student has one of “those places” where she needs a reminder to change fingers, or watch for the accidental, or lift the pedal, select a sticker with personality and place it next to the measure on her music. Draw a speech bubble and insert your small bit of wisdom. It’s particularly funny if your wisdom takes on the persona of the sticker (… from the monkey “This fingering drives me bananas!”… from the peace sign “Hey dude… chill out and hold this for 2 beats.” etc.)
2. Stickers as “expression assistants”. We all want our students to play with expression. It can be very effective to create stories that go along with the music to highlight why certain musical ideas are happening. But these suggestions for expression can be easily forgotten in the rush of home practice life.
Using stickers, you can create the story directly on your students’ music. Do the dynamics suggest a cat sneaking up on a mouse? Why is that particular articulation marking on the page? Could it be a disgruntled porcupine? Is the “forte” sign there because a race car is revving its engine? Use your imagination and bring the story behind the music to life with visual characters.
Teaching kids to play with expression is so much easier within the context of a story. This is why we developed a story-based technical exercise book that will have your students not only playing with musicality… but BEGGING to play their warm-ups!
3. Stickers as practice aids. For those piano students who need some assistance in knowing how to effectively practice, stickers can greatly assist. Placing stickers at varying places on the music to indicate “practice starting points” (other than the beginning), placing stickers where you’d like your student to spend the most time practicing, placing stickers where you’d like your student to stop playing… these are all easy visual aids that will be noticed more than any lesson notes you may write.
4. Stickers as note-reading assistance. One of my beginning piano students was having difficulty noticing a switch between treble and bass clef… until the “interrupting Gerbara Daisy” showed up. A small daisy sticker in the first few measures of her piece was all it took to remind her that the G in the bass clef “interrupted” the right hand melody repeatedly . A small sticker reminder creates a strong visual image – she’s never forgotten “Gerbara Daisy G” in her future pieces either.
Adopt A.S.U. in Your Studio and Have Some Fun!
Changing up even small parts of your teaching can be as effective for you as it is your students. We can all fall into the trap of “same old, same old” day in and day out. But trying something new (and simple!) can really energize your teaching. Sometimes it’s the smallest changes we make that have the biggest impact. And when it comes to alternative sticker use… you can’t get much smaller than stickers!