My favorite part of running our piano teaching community is being surrounded by the creativity of its members. Every time I hop on over to our Facebook group, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest… there’s always a piano teacher out there who has done something incredibly unique and massively memorable for their students. It makes me happy – piano lessons are more exciting and effective than they have ever been before!
I was cruising Instagram recently (hey… do you follow us?!) and came across a post that had me lunging for the private message button to ask, “Will you share this with our readers?!!”
Shalee Konojacki was kind enough to write back “Absolutely!”. And so, with her help, we’re sharing the activity she highlighted on Instagram, here today!
Picture this… your piano student enters your studio for her lesson. Immediately she knows “something is up”. There are small sticky notes with rhythms hidden around the room, the studio’s stuffed animals are missing from their regular spots, the Mission Impossible theme music floats through the air… and she’s been given a Secret Agent name.
Ummm… piano student heaven? I think so 😉 Read on for directions!
How To Play Rhythm Impossible In Your Studio
Rhythm impossible is a game you can play with your piano students to reinforce rhythmic concepts. The set up is simple… remove your studio mascots (stuffed animals) so they can be “rescued” and then hide sticky notes around your studio. Each sticky note should have either a single note value (for younger students) or two-measure rhythms with missing time signatures (for older students).
When your student enters your studio have her do the following
- Instruct her to find all of the sticky notes that are hidden around the studio.
- On a white board (or the floor) have her sort the sticky notes into provided categories (for example: sorting note values into 1, 2 or 4 beats or sorting two-measure rhythms with missing time signatures into 3/4 or 4/4).
- Once all cards have sorted, get your student to demonstrate her understanding of the note values or rhythms by playing them on the piano or a percussion instrument.
- When the above tasks have been completed, your student has completed her Secret Agent Mission. Stop the music and release the studio mascots to her safety 🙂
A Piano Teaching “Idea Share” Featuring Shalee!
Who created this bit of piano lesson awesomeness? Shalee Konojacki. Shalee lives in Edmonton, Alberta and owns Tempi Music School; a studio she established 12 years ago. Shalee came up with an off-the-bench game for her piano students that she calls “Rhythm Impossible”. In today’s post she’ll be sharing how to make it work in your own studio!
1. Tell us about Rhythm Impossible!
When students first come into the studio and see that the stuffies are not where they should be they are already suspicious! Then I say something Iike this: ‘Something has happened and we need your help! The stuffies are missing and they need you to help them escape! You are now Special Agent ____ and you are on an mission to save the stuffies!’.
I have previously hidden sticky notes around the studio with note values on them. There are categories written on my white board where the sticky notes are sorted as they are found.
I do a quick review of the musical concept, tell them that their first mission is to find all the stickies, tell them where to place the stickies after they’ve found them, and, after they have found all of the stickies, that they need to report back to me to find out their final step to save the stuffies!
I then give them 20 seconds to look around the studio and spot sticky notes. They start collecting them only when I start the music (I use a recording of the Mission Impossible theme music!). The searching continues until they find all the stickies and they report back to me for the final mission.
Their “final mission” incorporates all of the sticky note clues they have found. For example, if a student is searching for quarter notes and half notes, the student must then play the rhythm I make for them using the stickies on a percussion instrument. If they are searching for measures of rhythm, then they play those measures. Once this task is done then they have completed the impossible mission and saved all the stuffies!
I usually play Rhythm Impossible at the beginning of a lesson as a way to review a new concept that I have introduced in the previous lesson. This way, I can: 1) see if they have absorbed the concept (and practiced it!) and, 2) reinforce the concept
2. What materials do you need to set it up?
A great aspect of the Rhythm Impossible game is that it requires very little material — all you need is a pad of sticky notes and some practice buddies (stuffies). Game set up takes place before the student’s lesson and it takes approximately 5 minutes.
- Choose a note value that you would like to review (quarter vs. half notes for example)
- Draw the note value on a sticky note. It works well to have 4 of each (for a total of 8 cards).
- Hide the stickies (and try not to forget where they are!)
- Decide where you would like to have the student place the stickies in their categories and make the category headings (I use my studio wall and simply use a different colour sticky note as a heading). Categories can be the name of the note value, the number of beats etc.
- Hide the stuffies.
- Cue up the “Mission Impossible” theme music.
3. How did you get your students excited about participating in this activity?
It’s all about playing the part! You need to give students the feeling that something fun and exiting is about to happen. I play this game after about 3 or 4 lessons, this way they are already familiar with my studio and myself AND they have been choosing practice buddies for quite a few lessons!
When coming into the studio students see that the stuffies are not where they should be and they immediately ask about where they are. I then take on the role of ‘informant’ and go on to tell them, in a hushed voice, that they are now a special agent and their mission is to save the stuffies!
Throughout the activity I call them ‘Special Agent ____’ — they love taking on this role! When it is time for them to start the search, I play the Mission Impossible music as a cue to begin (not to mention it adds another layer of excitement!)
4. What is your learning objectives for the game?
My main objective whenever I play Rhythm Impossible is to solidify and reinforce new musical concepts in an engaging way. Also, when I play this game with my students, I can see immediately if they have grasped a specific concept, or if more time is needed.
The game is very versatile as it can be adapted to review almost any musical concept you would like a specific student to practice. For example, I have played this game using clefs, note values, finger numbers, rhythms, etc. Its preferable to choose a concept that can be divided into more than one category (have students search for not just bass clefs, but treble clefs too), this way you will gain some insight into whether they are really grasping the concept or just finding stickies!
5. What benefits have you observed from off-the-bench teaching?
I see off-the-bench activities as essential to my teaching style. They not only provide optimal retention but also improve concentration while at the keyboard. Further, I find that students are a lot more willing and motivated to learn when you engage them with something interesting, whether that be a game or an iPad app, rather than a repetitive worksheet.
Imaginative Teachers Unite!
Thank you to Shalee for sharing your creative game! Shalee Konojacki teaches piano at her studio, Tempi Music, in Edmonton, Alberta. You can follow her (she has so many great ideas!) on Instagram here.
Do you have a fabulous teaching idea you want to share with other teachers? Email me and you could be featured in a future blog post!