November Piano Teaching Ideas
November piano teaching is a strange thing, isn’t it? It’s fall outside, it might even be before Halloween and Thanksgiving, and yet we are busy preparing our students for holiday music. And by holiday music of course, we mean mostly Christmas music!
But though I am one to listen to Christmas music in August, it’s still true that having a holiday theme too early in the studio can be counter productive. So we need some November piano teaching ideas! We need something that keeps us celebrating the fall season so that it matches the temperatures and weather outside!
Here are are a number of November Piano Teaching ideas that will help you celebrate the season that it is (at least here in the Norther hemisphere): fall and Thanksgiving (for U.S. teachers of course).
November Performance Classes
It’s always a great idea to have performance classes, especially close to recital time. This gives students the opportunity to practice performing their piece in front of an audience. You can do this in your studio with all ages and levels and can even use it as a “makeup lesson” if you have a policy that allows for this to replace the private lesson. In my policy, it states that “though I don’t give makeup lessons, performance classes may be viewed as a makeup lesson as they are extra lessons for which I do not charge.”
But what do you do with the students who are listening to their peers? If they are young, it’s really hard to make them sit still and pay attention for an extended period.
We must engage every person in a performance class, not just the performer.
Engage Everyone Listening with Holiday Performance Charts!
Students can evaluate all the performances they hear based on rhythm, articulation, dynamics, etc. You can even use the blank charts provided to decide what you want them to evaluate.
All you have to do is download these charts and laminate them (or put them in a protective cover on which they can use an erasable marker). Then, students can color in the appropriate number of pumpkin pies to tell Emily how well she performed The Bold Escape!
Fall Lesson Book Bash
Maybe you’re worried that your students will only practice their holiday pieces and neglect their lesson books. If you are, you are probably right! It may be necessary and it’s perfectly fine to do that if you choose. However, if you want them to keep working in their lesson books, you might start a Fall Lesson Book Bash.
I’m always surprised to remember that winter doesn’t actually start until December 21st! So, it’s perfectly appropriate to start this now.
- Artistic performance
- Creative flair – I liked to encourage students to embellish their method book pieces
But you can adjust that as needed and give your students 1 leaf for every piece they play accurately from their lesson book. This could help encourage them to continue practicing in their method books during November and December.
Feel free to reward them with something when they complete the entire card!
Modern Thanksgiving Music
Is there really such a thing? Yes! Thanksgiving is actually my favorite holiday and I decided a few years ago that it should have it’s own music. Of course, since so much of Thanksgiving is centered around family, I wanted to compose a piece that could be performed as a family unit if possible, but could also just be learned and enjoyed as a piano student.
A Thanksgiving Prayer takes a traditional poem about giving thanks and adds a contemporary, but prayerful setting. It comes with a late elementary piano score as well as a score with easy and a score with more advanced guitar chords. Several teachers have told me that their students have performed this around Thanksgiving with their families and loved it!
Holiday Sight-reading Challenge
Like I said before, it’s hard to keep students moving through their method books or through other pieces during the holiday season. And we want them to continue sight-reading through new music because this helps them:
- Helps them advance
- Helps improve their reading abilities
- Exposes them to new music and new styles of music
So a few years ago, I issued a Holiday Sight Reading Challenge. This one one of the best ideas I ever had for my studio and like most creative ideas, it was based on another idea I got from Patricia Powell in an MTNA ejournal article where we did sight-reading for sight-saving during the month of May which is National Sight-saving Month.
There’s an entire post about the holiday sight-reading challenge that you can read, but the long and short of it is this:
- Each student filled in 1 little ornament on the ornament chart for every day that they sight read (download the ornaments below).
- For every 5 days, they decorated a larger ornament which I hung in the studio.
- If their combined studio ornaments reached from one corner of the wall to the other by December 12th, I gave each of my group lessons an extra 15 minutes of games during their holiday party! They LOVE the holiday party and this was very motivating to them.
By hanging the ornaments on the wall, the students were very motivated to sight-read since they knew their peers were depending on them. When you start and how long you do this is up to you, but it’s especially helpful to start before or around Thanksgiving!
Editable Fall Recital Templates
It’s important to look professional for all your recitals. So we now have editable recital templates for whatever size of fall recital you could possible have! This template is studio licensed, so you can use it every few years and never have to buy it again! You get all of these things in the Fall Recital Templates Package:
- Compliment Cards
- Vertical Recital Program (front and back design)
- Horizontal Recital Program (front and back design with extra pages in case you need an entire book!)
- Color and black and white versions of all of these
- Three different formats: PDF, Mac Pages, and Microsoft Word
Fall Pumpkin Cup Tapping
And last, but certainly not least, how about some ideas for cup tapping with pumpkins?
Barbara from Skylinepiano.com decorated pumpkins with her students at her fall group lesson using notes for eyes, accents and fermatas for noses, etc. Obviously, students can use their imagination and come up with all sorts of things.
Then she had her students use the pumpkins instead of cups to tap rhythms from Rhythm Cup Explorations 1 and Rhythm Cup Explorations 2. In her group lessons, she also mixed it up by having 2 groups of students tap different lines of rhythms, one with pumpkins, the other with cups. Mixing timbre like that makes a lovely variation to cup-tapping.
Since that time, I’ve had several teachers tell me that they play to use the black and orange cups for cup-tapping on Halloween. Decorating cups is also a fun thing to do at this time of year!
What are your November piano teaching ideas?
I’d love to know! Please leave a comment to share your idea with others!
- Holiday Rhythm Cup Explorations – Don’t miss the chance to wow your audience at the holiday recital or just have fun in group lessons and your holiday party!
- Fall Cup News – Fun Fall Festive Things to do with Cups
- Stinky Stockings – a great group game for all ages!