Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Teachable Moments

A candy dish has been a long-standing tradition in my piano studio. I enjoy indulging students and they have come to “expect” a treat on the way out the door for no other reason than for Ms. Leila to spoil them. However, lately, I have enjoyed designing teachable moments before they exit with candy in hand.

A small picture frame stands by the candy dish and each week the frame features a new riddle or question of the week. In October, I enjoyed including jokes such as “What instrument does a skeleton play? A tromBONE”. During the holiday season as students were preparing solos and duets for the upcoming Christmas recital, students were required to name the composer, arranger, the key, the time signature, or the form of their pieces. These weekly questions helped all of us memorize essentials that are amazingly easy to forget when deadlines demand narrow-focused practice.

Since I offer a 30-minute lab with a 30-minute lesson, there is time for students to dedicate part of their lab time to learning the answer to the weekly question. Lately, I have asked students to read brief articles about the piano pedals, strings, it’s inventor, etc. The articles have been taken from Piano Explorer magazines. This is a wonderful resource for students around age 9 and older. The magazine has a website that features correlating videos of the composers, compositions or performers featured in each monthly issue.

Recently, students watched a clever and informative video providing details about the inventor of the piano. All students proudly earned a dip in the candy dish after correctly saying the name–Bartolemeo Cristofori –the designer of the pianoforte. In addition, the weekly question is included in the students’ lesson notes along with links to videos or websites providing information.

Ideas keep coming for future questions:

  1. Feature a composer with a birthday during the week and include a listening assignment from  iTunes or youtube of a famous composition
  2. Identify the time signature and clap and count aloud a given rhythm
  3. Name the Music style period of 1675-1750, or the music style period of…
  4. Name 4 composers of the Romantic Period (for Valentines day)
  5. View the resident pianos of past presidents (for Presidents day)

My goal is to continually provide tidbits of learning that would

  • not normally be part of the lesson plan
  • reinforce what has been learned during a lesson
  • transfer information in a way that helps students retain the information for a lifetime.

Even if you don’t have a lab with your lesson, most students have free time waiting for a lesson, or for a ride home–why not make that time a teachable moment? Would love to hear your ideas!

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  1. Yiyi Ku

    Love the idea! I have a candy basket, too. Will definitely incorporate this idea. Thanks!

  2. Ms Jean

    Love this idea. I have incentives and candy is one of them. It is always nice to find ways to “teach” the children in different ways!

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