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Grandfather Clauze said, “HO HO HO!!”

This is part two of my series about interesting ways I use Music Teacher Helper in my studio, not always per the software itself.

Excuse my pun on Grandfather Clauze vs grandfather clause – seemed fitting  this time of the year.  As you know, a Grandfather Clause is when an old rule applies to some existing situations, while a new rule will apply to all future cases for those that are “grandfathered in”.

Studio development = Inevitable change

As studios develop, economy and personal preference generate change.

I find that financial changes are scrutinized so I handle those changes with utmost care. Contrarily, changes that I know will take place each year (such as tuition increases) are clearly defined in my guidelines so there will be no surprise and I have not had issues with this thus far.pic of Grandfather Clause [···]

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The “I Spy” Music Mat       

By Robin Steinweg

Combine fun & instruction

Combine fun & instruction

I Spy, Where’s Waldo, Hide ’n Seek… I’ve yet to meet a kid who doesn’t like them. Why not take advantage of that in my studio? I’m always looking for fun ways to help my students retain music facts.

Here’s how I made “I Spy” music mats that will work for every age and every level of student:

Materials          1009073247_______

*vinyl placemats—I found mine at a big box store for fifty cents. The backs are white or clear (or use cardstock/tagboard, if you’d rather laminate).

*photos—from my camera, magazines (I had a few extra Piano Explorer magazines ), catalogs and copyright-free clip art. I included notes and symbols for the earliest beginner as well as for advanced students and every level between. They’ll enjoy saying hemidemisemiquaver even if they’ve never played one. Humor helps, whether music-themed or not (a tiny keychain rubber chicken, a worried Chihuahua playing piano, and a light-saber-toting Yoda saying, “Much to learn, you still have!”). Glittery or dimensional music stickers add pizzazz.   1009082825

*glue stick—to lightly hold the pictures in place. I shifted them around until I was happy with them. The tighter-packed they are, the better.

*laminate or use clear contact paper, cut large enough to overlap about an inch. Instead of bringing the sticky side down on the mat, I laid out the contact paper and positioned the mat over it. If the contact paper won’t hold, add packing tape.

When to Use

*During a lesson for off-seat time.

*While waiting for a sibling’s lesson to end.

*During group lessons (break into smaller groups or buddy-up with an older student.


Scavenger hunt. Give a list of level-appropriate items to find on the mat.

Time it (or not). For fun, add a couple of purely silly pictures and a few bits beyond the students’ level—they might surprise you with what they know!

Review. Incorporate terms or symbols from the latest unit completed. Team effort. Mix students of various levels on a team. The younger ones will learn things from the older ones. Time the search. Award prizes.


Wipe-off pens. Instruct students to write note names, insert notes on a blank staff, identify finger numbers on a clip art hand, etc.

Customize mats for your students’ particular instruments.

Use photos of your students demonstrating good/poor hand shape or posture. (ladybug idea from Diane Hidy )

Ladybug hand shape (from Diane Hidy)

Ladybug hand shape

great demo!

great demo!

Make a mat with deliberate errors. Have students find “what’s wrong in this picture.” Be sure to include funny mistakes! This trains them to see and analyze something they might otherwise have ignored.

Note: The same mats can be used over and over, since you create a personalized list for whatever their level at the time.

Mats can be made for all sorts of categories:


*periods of music history

*orchestra or folk instruments


*genres of music

*contemporary musicians



How might you use an “I Spy” Music Mat?

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Sandy Blog Photo_1Teaching piano lessons is a delicate balance of planning ahead and being flexible enough to work with whatever the student brings to his or her lesson that week.

One thing a child brings to every lesson is his or her own individuality. Over time, we come to know that Deanna loves the classics, but Johnny likes movie themes. Lorraine is shy and worried she will make a mistake, but Chris is a natural show-off and not too worried about the details.

A good teacher will also take about 10 seconds to judge the mood of a student when they walk in the door. A few questions about how her day has gone might reveal a child more in need of some fun, one-on-one time with a caring adult than an aggressive piano lesson.

A child who has practiced all week on the assigned material will have a far different lesson from the one who forgot to open his assignment book. Or, heaven forbid, forgot to bring his books to the lesson!

In many ways it is easier to just plan each student’s course of study week by week with complete flexibility—take whatever the student brought to the lesson, work on it, and make the next assignment. When using a method series, this is a pretty easy pattern to fall in to. After all, didn’t the author of the method already do all the work of laying out a high quality plan of study?

Another item that can drive lesson content is  [···]

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