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5 Ways to Include Books in Lessons

music books

By Robin Steinweg

Books can be effective learning tools in our studios. February brings a couple of library observances: the 6th is “Take your child to the Library” day, and the 14th is “Library Lovers” day.

Here are 5 ways to include books in February (or anytime) lessons:

1. For a beginner learning piano keys or notes on the staff, every time sleep or bedtime is suggested in a book, the student places erasers or other tokens on the B-E-D keys, plays those notes on their instrument, places tokens on the correct lines/spaces of the staff, or draws them on a staff (Goodnight Already -Jory John & Benji Davies or Snoozefest -Samantha Berger). This would also work with a drawn guitar fingerboard.

The same thing can be done with other books and notes: D-A-D (The Daddy Book -Todd Parr; Oh, Daddy! –Bob Shea)

C-A-B-B-A-G-E (Cabbage Moon –Tim Chadwick; The Giant Cabbage –Cherie Stihler)

B-E-E-F (Cows in the Kitchen –June Crebbin; When Pigasso Met Mootisse –Nina Laden

E-G-G (Green Eggs & Ham –Dr. Seuss; An Egg is Quiet –Dianna Hutts Aston)

2. What books can be used to drill rests? Stop Snoring Grandpa –Kally Mayer (a rest whenever Grandpa snores); Last Stop on Market Street -Matt de la Pena (a rest whenever the bus stops)

Again, choose spots in the book ahead of time, and whenever you come to them, students find a particular rest in a piece of sheet music for their tokens, or draw rests.

3. Students learning the interval of a 5th could drill the circle of 5ths notes or keys along with Around the Clock -Roz Chast or Croc Around the Clock –Andrea Pollock

4. If your student is far enough along, perhaps they’d like to create sound effects on their instrument to go with a book: Whoops! -Suzi Moore & Russell Ayto, What the Ladybird Heard -Julia Donaldson, or Listen to My Trumpet! –Mo Willems. Really ambitious? Let them make up one or more themes for the characters in Peter and the Wolf. Afterward, let them hear Prokofiev’s version. What might they do with I Know an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly -Nikki Smith? This activity can be done with a group!

5. Also for a group, you might create (or help your students create) a “Stomp-type” score for a book. Try The Phlunk’s Worldwide Symphony –Lou Rhodes.

Since Library Lovers Day is also Valentine’s Day, your tokens might be conversation hearts or red-pink-white M&Ms.

If your library doesn’t carry these books, try the inter-library loan, purchase them for your own library, or download them on your Kindle.

There are far more than 5 ways to include books in lessons, but these should get your thinker going. MTH readers would love to hear if you incorporate books in lessons!

About the Author

Robin Steinweg
I'm Robin Steinweg, happy to join the team of bloggers at Music Teachers Helper. I teach students of every age piano, guitar and voice (sometimes clarinet & recorder); perform; direct choirs; compose for students, choirs and worship; love to learn and improve. I'm wife of one and mother of two recently-launched musicians. Presently I am caregiver for my mother, a vocalist, drummer and pianist ... [Read more]

2 Comments

  1. Edward Motter-Vlahakos

    Sometimes, for me, getting students the music they want entails me transcribing a particular pop song for them, that involves a lot of decisions for me about trying to be true to the original melody so the students can play along with the track (key, rhythm, register, etc) or transpose the piece to an easier key and with a simplified rhythm which will enable them to play it more easily. Sometimes giving them a very difficult transcription which is clearly beyond their current abilities is an excellent motivator, and sometimes it isnt, every student is a unique individual who responds to a wide range of positive or negative reinforcements- some will rise to the challenge and work their butts off to be able to conquer the piece and some will curl up in a little tearful ball and quit. One parent came up with an excellent motivator for her daughter (who was a very commercially minded girl), she paid her $5 for every day that she practiced on her own for 30 minutes or more- but at the end of the week the child had to pay for her lesson herself. Pretty quickly the student realized that if she practiced 7 days a week she would be turning a $10 profit weekly, and promptly doubled her efforts at home. Everyone is different, and part of our job as teachers is learning what makes each pupil tick, and helping them develop good discipline which will reward them with a wealth of achievements, both in music and life. This is the way we do it at my studio, http://www.nassaubaymusiclessons.com

  2. Robin Steinweg

    Edward, It’s great when parents come up with a reward system that helps their child along.
    I transcribe pop songs for my students, too.
    And… once in awhile I find ways to use books in the studio! 😉