Gung hay fat choy! In case you don’t know what that means, we just wished you a Happy New Year. Chinese New Year is here and celebrations were taking place this weekend all over the world.
We live close to the city of Victoria, BC and so we braved the biting cold and wind to watch the Chinese New Year Lion Dance in Victoria’s Chinatown. Here’s a video below so you can see what we’re talking about. The Lion Dance is colorful, loud, rhythmic… and spectacular! And at no other time are you actually happy to have firecrackers thrown at your feet.
As we were watching the percussionists follow the lion and dragon dancers from storefront to storefront, my mind drifted to piano teaching ideas… and wouldn’t you know it… today’s piano teaching activity was born! It’s a fun, off-the-bench, DIY game to reinforce knowledge of note values for your young beginners.
Lettuce For Lions: Fun With Note Values
When young beginners first learn note values it’s always a good idea to reinforce this concept over and over in as many creative and different ways as you can. Today’s activity is one more tool that you can add to your repertoire of teaching ideas. If you loved our Marshamallow Measures game, you’ll love Lettuce For Lions.
But… before we describe the game you may be wondering what lettuce has to do with anything! During Chinese New Year celebrations store owners hang heads of lettuce and red envelopes filled with money from their storefronts. The Lion Dancers travel from store to store to tear down the lettuce, rip it apart and fling it into the appreciative crowd. With a few firecrackers thrown in for good measure, the store is then given a blessing for a year of good fortune. When they’re finished… the streets look like a salad bar after a hurricane.
How to Play Lettuce For Lions
To make your very own Chinese Lion you’ll need an empty parmesan cheese container and two googly eyes. Lift the flap of the container lid to make a mouth and glue the eyes to the lid so it looks like the picture below (I added extra pompoms for a decorative flair). Gather 16 green pompoms (the lettuce) and two chopsticks (or small tongs if you prefer). Using chopsticks or tongs allows you to add coordination to the learning outcomes for this game but young kids often struggle with chopsticks so have some small tongs on hand.
Playing The Game:
- Explain the tradition of the Chinese Lion Dance to your student. You can show the video above so that he can see the lettuce-eating action!
- Using your student’s current piece, point to any note value.
- Instruct your student to name the note value and how many beats it receives in the given time signature. Then, using the chopsticks, have your student pick up a corresponding number of lettuce heads (pompoms) and place them in the lion’s mouth. For example, If you pointed to a half note, your student would use the chopsticks to place two pompoms in the lion’s mouth to represent two beats.
- Repeat the activity until all of the pompoms have been fed to the lion.
- You and your student will now be blessed with great fortune when it comes to rhythmic accuracy 😉
Note: The Inspiration for the craft part of this activity came from a preschool education blog, The Preschool Experiment.
Off-The-Bench Theory Is Theory That Lasts
One of the most common comments we receive from teachers who begin using game-based learning to teach ear training and theory is… Why didn’t I start this sooner?! When concepts are presented in a game format your students are more motivated, more focused and more prepared to retain information. So let us help you get started! A membership to PianoGameClub is just $8 per month for 4 theory and ear training games your students will love!