Practical Strategies to Re-Enforce What We Teach

Away From the Piano

Teaching new concepts can be exciting, a little challenging, and highly rewarding for both the teacher and student. Often, a student will grasp the concept very quickly at first, but may become confused or forget the new concept without proper reinforcement. Below are some simple strategies to engage the student with activities away from the piano - use them to fuel the creativity to develop your own.Child learning to play the piano

1. Teach the student to accent the down beat in 3/4 signature

Have the student count out loud while box stepping to a waltz. This can be practiced with a parent or sibling through the week.

2. Teach Eighth Note Triplets

(To recording of "March" from The Nutcracker Suite by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky)

Show the student a group of triplets. Below, have him write two ways to count them. Examples: "trip-a-let" or "one trip-let." Have him repeat it out loud a few times. Then, play the recording to help him identify them in the music.

3. Introduce the eighth notes

Have the student clap or pat quarter notes in a 4/4 rhythm. The teacher will clap or tap the eighth note with a hand drum. The student and teacher should then switch rhythms.

4. For the student having problems keeping a steady beat

Have the student count out loud while walking around or marching in place. After a few repetitions, resume playing the piece.

5. Use a holiday theme to identify rhythms with words

Use a song the student is familiar with along with your holiday theme. For example: Valentine's Day. Using heart-shaped cut-outs, write a small section of the rhythm on each heart and the word match on another heart. Place the hearts on the floor and have the student match them.

6. Fun teaching method for the very young learner of finger patterns

Have the teacher trace the shape of the student's hand. Number the fingers. Once the student successfully identifies fingers with numbers, have her place her fingertips against the teacher's or another student's fingertips. The teacher should call out the five finger patterns randomly. Using the corresponding numbered fingers, the student should press gently against the other person's fingers.

Making music is always the ultimate goal. There are times, however, when a piece of music may need more prep work, so it never hurts to review. It's okay to simply to focus on one area, and reinforce that area whether it is an old or new concept.

My last suggestion can alter a student's mood in minutes. Before beginning a lesson, have the student take three to five deep breaths to calm him and clear his mind of the day's events. Sometimes that's all it takes to reinforce what we teach.

A version of this article by Clarissa P. Lewis originally appeared in Butler Pedagogy Review, Fall 2006.