September: First Week

While about 50% of students keep taking lessons during the summer to keep working on refining skills, building a musical foundation, and discovering different pieces, the other 50% take 2.5 months off for vacation, etc.

As music teachers, we can only hope that these students have practiced, ...or at least reviewed pieces before recommencing lessons! (and by review, this may only mean the night before, or even the day of. ........and be pieces, ANY piece would do!)

High expectations right off the bat are not necessary, I have found that when I did have high expectations of having pieces still intact, note reading fluency at the same level, and that musical part of the brain still active, .....I have only left lessons somewhat disappointed, and feel that the student also feels discouraged because they can feel my disappointment. THIS IS NOT A POSITIVE WAY TO START THE YEAR.

No matter how long lessons have been paused for since June, whether it be months, or merely 2 weeks, I have learned to treat the first week of September with more ease. To re-introduce piano to all students with a sense of fresh fun!

If students come back with surprises of having practiced pieces, or having self-studied new pieces, this is a wonderful bonus surprise! :)

Most though, will have forgotten a few basics, but the essentials will always be there, hidden away in a nook somewhere, it just needs to be brought to light for that 'oh yeah!' moment.

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image from:

To do this, I have found that reviewing everything using games, and playing together tends to jog their memory.

This year, after the exciting 'Welcome Back! How was your summer? How was school today?' conversation, I ease the student back into lessons by playing something together on the piano. Students (including myself!) particularly enjoy Forrest Kinney's Pattern Play series. This warms up their fingers, triggers that musical part in their brain, and allows them to freely play and be musical, without fear of making "mistakes".

Next, I like to do whiteboard activities. I have one specifically for music: it has visuals of clefs, note values, and other musical symbols and examples, including 3 blank staffs -more importantly, the lines and spaces are far apart enough for kids to actually draw their notes clearly! (there are many different music staff boards out there, but do be mindful of spacing. Little ones draw bigger, they need more space) I LOVE LOVE LOVE this thing. It makes teaching fun for me, and for my students. :)

I use this whiteboard to create what I like to call, 'Mystery Words' for my students to decipher, and then challenge them to create words for me. This acts as assessment to how much they remember for note reading in both clefs, if there is extra time, I would ask them to find those notes on the piano (note to piano connection review). Also good to review note values and rests for counting, and other music theory activities.

Then comes the part where we either review, or re-learn pieces. THIS IS OKAY. There is nothing wrong with this, I find that it's actually better in a sense because it eases students back in by playing something they've already previously learned. For those that have been using summer time musically efficiently, we polish pieces to be finished this month.

After wrapping up the lesson with stickers, etc., the student usually leaves with a smile. Our role as an extracurricular teacher, we need to remember our first day at school again. It's a bit nerve-wracking, could swing either way -exciting or disappointing, and full of new energy. They've just spent their entire day at school in a new classroom, new peers, mostly new everything. Give them a bit of a break. ;)

September is a month of review, and getting back into the swing of things. 

Have fun!