Hanukkah is a little under a month away and I have a fun little composing worksheet you can use in your lessons today!
"My Dreidel" was inspired by - you guessed it - one of my students. :)
Before I opened the academy, I was a traveling in-home piano teacher. Every year around this time I would say to my new students in hushed-excited tones "I have an exciting surprise, Today, we're going to pick your Christmas song! Then I'll bring it next week for you to start learning!"
And everybody cheered!
Until Jenna. (student's name has been changed for privacy)
Jenna put her head down and barely whispered, "I think Hanukkah is cooler."
My heart sank. I had no idea she didn't celebrate Christmas. I had taught Jewish children before, but they all celebrated Hanukkah AND Christmas, so I never thought twice about offering a Christmas piece. In hindsight, I should've checked with mom first, but you know what they say about hindsight.
I quickly recovered from my embarrassment and said, "You do? That's awesome, let's find you a Hanukkah piece to play! What's your favorite Hanukkah song?" At that her face lit up and her excitement returned. I later discovered that she always felt left out at school because they didn't do much for Hanukkah in any of her classes, so my offering her a Hanukkah piece was a special moment.
Since then, I've built up my Hanukkah song library and created this composing activity.
This activity will be FREE for a limited time on my newly opened TopMusicMarketplace Store!
Looking for more Hanukkah activities for your lessons or music classroom? I created a Pinterest Board with many other games, songs and activities!
I don't know about your students, but mine love composing, so I try to incorporate a composing activity as much as possible in my private lessons.
Today I'm sharing a new composing activity just in time for Thanksgiving!
"I am Thankful" gives your pre-reading students the opportunity to think about what they're grateful for and express it in song.
Usually for composing activities I write the lyrics and choose the rhythms for my students then they plug in the notes/finger numbers then play the song.
This composing activity is special because students get to write what they're thankful for and figure out the rhythms to go with it!
Note: There are guide notes in some measures - which can easily be changed - and others are left blank so your students can create their own rhythm to match their lyrics.
This activity will be FREE for a limited time on my TpT Store and my newly opened TopMusicMarketplace Store!
Looking for more Thanksgiving activities for your lessons or music classroom? I created a Pinterest Board with many other games, songs and activities!
Today I'm sharing one of my favorite slow cooker soup recipes. It was given to me by the mom of some former students who, very kindly, fed me one October evening when she heard my stomach growl over her daughter's piano playing. (that's not embarrassing at all!)
This recipe is my spin on the original based on our personal tastes. I've included the things I personally leave out at the end in case you do like mushrooms and cheese. :)
Slow Cooker Italian Sausage Soup
1 lb hot or mild Italian sausage, casings removed**
1 large onion, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
4 cups low sodium chicken stock or broth
1/2 tsp dried Italian herb seasoning
1/4 - 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
8oz homemade tomato sauce (or 1 can)
1 can (19 oz) diced tomatoes, drained - reserve juices
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Cook sausage in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, 8-10 minutes or until browned, stirring to break up the meat
Transfer to slow cooker with a slotted spoon
Add onion, carrots, broth, seasoning, salt, pepper, tomato sauce, tomatoes, and zucchini to slow cooker
Cover and cook on HIGH 3-4 hours or on LOW 6-10 hours, or until vegetables are tender
Add parsley to slow cooker and cook on HIGH for 15-20 minutes
Ladle into bowls and serve immediately
Optional, top with Parmesan and more fresh parsley
A couple of months ago I said, "You know you're a music teacher when you're thinking about Halloween in August."
Well, the sentiment holds true for today's post.
Here we are, dedicated piano teachers, preparing for Christmastime and singing all of those carols while watching jack-o-lanterns and ghosts go by as we drive to work.
I don't know about you, but I've been singing Christmas music for the last 2 weeks or so.
Today, I'll be sharing with you 6 Christmas songs that I've arranged for my students over the years. It is my hope that you and your students will get as much enjoyment out of them as my students and I have.
Up on the Housetop
This fun arrangement gives students the chance to explore the wide range of the piano and with a glissando for a flourishing end.
This is by far the most requested piece in my studio.
Seriously, everyone wants to learn Jingle Bells. This pre-reading arrangement is easily accessible to young beginners.
O Christmas Tree
The second most popular piece that my students request? O Christmas Tree.
This approachable arrangement will help your elementary piano students learn eighth notes in a familiar and comfortable way.
O Holy Night
Requested by an adult student, this lyrical arrangement is simple & beautiful.
We Wish You A Merry Christmas
Three things that make this early elementary arrangement awesome:
Deck the Hall
With or without the "s" at the end of the title, this is a piece that your elementary piano students will adore!
Just like We Wish You a Merry Christmas, there are no eighth notes, but the RH position changes and the LH intervals add a little sugar and spice to this piece.
Let's talk planners!
I have had almost every kind of planner out there.
No, really, I have.
I call my planner my Brain Book because everything that's in my brain goes into that book.
Before I started using planners, I used $0.99 notebooks to keep my life in order. When I realized I needed more, I explored as many options as I could before spending any money.
I decided to start with a basic $4 dot-grid notebook from Walmart and I was very proud of the fact that I didn't spend a lot of money on it. Then I went with an Erin Condren dot-grid notebook (wow expensive) and have since tried every notebook/journal in between, except for the the Leuchtturm1917. One thing I knew was that a bound notebook wasn't going to work for me.
So I continued with my dot-grid pseudo-bullet journaling and my Brain Book became a creative outlet.
But then I got tired of having to draw out everything every week and wasting tons of Post-It Notes waiting for the right pages on the right week to put my notes into my Brain Book and completely messing up my lines and having to start all over again and problem and problem and time-consuming problem.
My Brain Book was becoming a project. Instead of serving me, I was serving it.
I was at my breaking point. I had spent 4+ years using a dot-grid notebook for my Brain Book and now it was time for something different.
So as 2019 started wrapping up, I did some more research. I decided a notebook wasn't going to cut it anymore and I had to upgrade to an actual planner. This time I was more careful about determining my requirements before researching options.
Here are my planner requirements:
I get all these things with the Classic Happy Planner from Me and My Big Ideas.
I purchased it for $14 on a Black Friday sale event. I tell you the price so you know that using a mainstream planner doesn't have to be expensive. Something I wish I had known sooner!
Yes, I now spend money on stickers to make my planner pretty as well as functional, but that is completely optional. The planner works just as well without them.
This 7 x 9.25 inch book (#1) is a disc-bound planner (#2 & #5). I chose one that has a little color, that isn't intrusive (#4) and the vertical layout has 3 boxes per day (#3).
This year has been the first year that I've liked my planner for more than 3 months. It's not perfect, and my planner works well, yet I still feel like it could be more functional.
So, there will be changes for my coming 2021 planner and I can't wait to show you everything!
Yes, Wonderful Wednesday is back!
I needed some time to focus on other aspects of life for the last few months, but we're back and ready for the wonderfulness of Wednesdays.
If you follow me on Instagram, you've seen my planner. I have a full post about my planner that will come later, but today I wanted to share this week's before the pen spread.
I did it back in September because I plan out a few weeks in advance. Well, over those last few weeks, I haven't been able to stop myself from flipping to this one because I love it so much. And now I finally get to use it!
All of the stickers come from Happy Planner's Squad Goals sticker book, which I got on clearance. Yay!
Please let me know if you'd like to see more of my planner spreads. You can also follow me on Instagram @misschristiemusic
It's barely October as I sit here putting the final touches on this post about Thanksgiving - a post which I started in August - and frankly, it feels surreal to be thinking about resources for a holiday that is still 8 weeks away, but that's what we music teachers do right? We plan Halloween recitals in July and sing Christmas carols in September all in the name spreading the joys of each season through the gift of music.
Christmas is starting to pop up everywhere this time of year. Walk into any store and you're bombarded with a combination of ghoulish and adorable Halloween decorations along with red and green lights, cinnamon brooms, and gigantic blowup Santas.
Now before you think me a Scrooge, I LOVE Christmas with every fiber of my being. But Christmas is at the end of December and there's another holiday between then and now that I also love.
Oh yes, I love Thanksgiving.
One of the main things I love about Thanksgiving is that it hasn't been commercialized to death...granted Black Friday has been creeping it's way in the last few years...but it is still all about family, friends, and above all thankfulness for all the many blessings we have.
Today I'd share a few of my favorite Thanksgiving piano activities, music, and of course recipes.
Piano Activities & Worksheets
Susan Paradis (SusanParadis.com) has a plethora of Thanksgiving themed games, activities, and worksheets. My personal favorite is Color Mr. Turkey
Andrea and Trevor over at TeachPianoToday.com have a great Save the Turkey practice tool.
Piano Sheet Music
Wendy Stevens of ComposeCreate.com has composed a beautiful elementary piano piece called A Thanksgiving Prayer. It's available for purchase as a single use or studio license for this digital download.
Kristin over at EarTrainingAndImprov.com has a cute composition activity that gets kids thinking about what they're thankful for.
Pineapple Lime Cranberry Sauce
I came across this recipe several years ago in an old Country Home magazine and it has been a perennial hit. It also bakes nicely into cupcakes. Yum!
Honey Garlic Chicken Thighs
Not everyone is a turkey person. This slow cooker recipe can be made as written to create a beautiful standalone meal or you can eliminate the veggies, add a few more chicken thighs and you have a non-turkey meat option for your guests.
Looking for more Thanksgiving activities for your lessons or music classroom? I recently created a Thanksgiving Pinterest board with many games, songs, and activities that I will be trying this year and in the future.
What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving Resources? Let's keep the conversation going in the comments!
This October we will be having our 7th annual Candy Corn Challenge! I know candy corn is a hotly debated candy, but I promise this is a challenge that works!
A little while back I wrote about how I use sticker cards as an ongoing incentive program.
This program had worked splendidly for 5+ years of my teaching, but I was noticing that several of my older students were getting frustrated at how long it took for them to complete 25 pages of music...especially compared to the little ones.
Then, something I've known for a long time finally hit me. If I'm to reach my students where they are, I must acknowledge the importance of instant gratification in addition to delayed gratification in their lives.
Every generation experiences a faster paced and more stimulating world than the one before it. It's only natural that this generation needs immediate feedback more than I did growing up. Now I run a studio-wide incentive program every few months that provides them with instant feedback.
For the first Candy Corn Challenge, I put together personalized theory packets for each student. At the time, it seemed like a good idea, but putting them together took ages and keeping track of those packets turned out to be a nightmare.
Last year, I overcompensated for my mistake and played Halloween themed games. It was fun and the planning was easy, but in addition to taking up a lot of lesson time; the older one's were bored with some of the games and the little one's hadn't learned many of the concepts yet.
This year's version of the Candy Corn Challenge is a hybrid of the last two. I've laminated some of the theory sheets I created that first year and added some letter name and interval cards. Starting next week, all students of the academy will start their lessons with a level-appropriate theory task. Every correct answer and every wrong answer that they fix on their own earns them a piece of candy corn!
Still wondering why candy corn?
1. You get a lot of candy for a little money. 4.5 pounds for under $10 at BJ's. Score!
2. They're small candies, so I don't feel badly giving even the little ones a few pieces.
3. I don't like it, so I won't be tempted to eat it. :)
Head over to my Teachers Pay Teachers store on October 1st to get your own copy of these Halloween themed worksheets & games.
If you had told me a year ago that I would be preparing for my second virtual recital this year, I probably would've laughed at the idea. And really, I never thought I'd be writing a post like this!
My first virtual recital was held back in June. As I began to prepare for our next recital in October, I started reflecting on the lessons I learned from that first experience. Hopefully, these tips will make your next recital a little easier!
Lesson 1: Prerecorded Performances Make It Flow!
I know for many people, the primary purpose of a recital is to perform live, but the reality of a live virtual recital has so many unnecessary complications — unpredictable interruptions (aka noisy siblings or pets), unreliable internet connections, poor audio quality, etc — that I decided to have all of my students prerecord their videos and boy was it the right decision for us.
Lesson 2: Send Very Specific Instructions For Recordings
Send families an email at least 3 weeks before the recital with specific instructions for how to record their performances. Here's mine. Feel free to us any and all of it in your studio.
Over the next 3 weeks you will be receiving several emails from us. Please take the time to read them all so you have the most up-to-date info on the recital as well as the summer schedule.
Below are tips and requirements for creating your recital video!
Experiment over the next week or two to practice performance and work out any kinks. Send Miss Christie your "rough cuts" for feedback. Remember, videos are due BY DATE YOU'VE PRESELECTED. If you get an awesome recording before then we'll take it early!
Remember these three words: “Lights, Camera, Sound!”
We want to see every performer clearly throughout the entire program, so when you’re setting up your lights make sure that there are no shadows over the performer and that the background is not washed out.
The easiest way to accomplish this is to set up lights behind & slightly above the camera.
If that’s not working, play around moving some lamps until you find the right setup for your space.
Camera angles will vary by instrument.
Pianists should have a side shot that leans a little toward the front of the pianist’s body.
Vocalists should use a 3/4 shot which means you’re far enough away from the camera that the bottom edge of the frame bisects the upper thigh.
Guitar & Ukulele players should have their stand off to the side so their entire instrument and face are visible to the camera.
The important thing with audio is to make sure that the performer is picked up by the microphone without any distortion or background noise. This means the microphone needs to be in the sweet spot, not too close and not too far away.
A Note for Pianists: If you are using a phone to record a pianist please DO NOT put the phone on the piano. This will cause major distortion ruining your recording.
A Note for Vocalists: Make sure that your backing track is balanced with your voice. You will need two devices to record yourself – one to play the track, and the other to record the video / sound. Explore sound balance with your teacher.
This might be one of the most important parts of your recording. Noise will disrupt any performance, so please make sure that any pets, young children, or young at heart adults are in a place where they can make as much noise as they want without disturbing your recording session.
This may be more information than your families need, so feel free to reduce the wording to suit your needs. I know I will be this time around.
Lesson 3: Google Slides Is Amazing
I spent weeks and weeks researching the best (and easiest) way to share students’ videos. I finally settled on Google Slides after my pastor included a video in the service.
We hold Zoom worship on Sunday and she uses Google Slides in place of the bulletin and hymnal. So, I played around with it and found out that you can embed videos from Google Drive, set them to auto-start, and then you just share you screen and start the slideshow!
Lesson 4: Allow Only ONE Method Of Entry For Videos
I allowed parents to use email, Dropbox or Google Drive to submit their videos. This made things WAY too complicated for me. Next time around, I'm going to require parents to email all videos so I can put it on my own Google Drive.
Lesson 5: Do A Complete Dress Rehearsal
This piggybacks on the last lesson learned. I allowed parents to share videos on Google Drive. I thought this would save me space on my drive and would make it easier for the parents as well. What I didn’t know was that if they delete it from their drive, I lost access to the file. The picture stayed on the slide, but the video wouldn’t play. If I had done a full dress rehearsal — making sure all of the videos played through completely — I would have seen that the video wasn’t available and could have reached out to the parents before the recital started.
Lesson 6: Send A Formal Invitation
So many students and parents missed the recital because they forgot to sign on. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around how that can happen, but one mom who missed it said that a formal invitation would’ve been a good prompt, so I’m going to give it a try.
Lesson 7: Do Your Welcome Live
I prerecorded my welcome schpiel so that it would match the students' prerecorded videos and even though it went well, I know it would've gone better if I had done it live.
Lesson 8: Take A Screenshot At The End
I found the biggest downside to a virtual recital (aside from not having a reception) is that I wasn’t able to take a group shot of everyone.
A few weeks after my spring recital I saw someone post screenshots they took of their students in gallery view and kicked myself for not thinking of that myself. I will not be making that mistake again.
Are you considering having a virtual recital? Have you already done one this year? Do you have tips or ideas that were not included in this list? Let's keep the conversation going in the comments!