Ornament Moves

Ornament Moves Steps and Skips

Ornament Moves Steps and Skips

Today’s post is a Christmas worksheet to review steps and skips. In addition to printing this, it works well downloaded on a tablet because all the student has to do is check the correct answer.

If you print this, I suggest you make one copy and either laminate it or put it in a page protector. That way you can use a dry erase pen and re-use the worksheet with each student.

If you are a teacher who laminates worksheets, here is a great hint I learned from another piano teacher recently!

If the ink stays on the worksheet very long, it becomes hard to erase.  All you need to do is wipe it with a cleaning pad such as the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser or a similar product. You do not need to wet the cleaning pad. This works great for all those hard to erase laminated worksheets and labels.

However, please do not try this on your  white boards, because I’m sure it will ruin them. Limit using the pad to your homemade material that can be reprinted if there is any damage.

[Disclosure: I am not affiliated with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser in any way, and only recommend it because it is a handy tip.]



Filed under Christmas, Steps and Skips, Worksheets

Autumn Acorns A C E



Autumn Acorn ACE

The popular composer and piano pedagogy teacher Elizabeth Gutierrez suggested in her Piano Camp for Piano Teachers  workshop a few years ago that learning the notes A C E on the staff is one of the easier ways for beginners to learn note names. So I don’t want to take credit for this idea, although it is a good one! Instead of having to remember a lot of acronyms and guide notes, students just learn where ACE is located on the grand staff. As a bonus, they learn skips, too, and the student can play the ACE position on the piano as they learn the notes. After learning A C E, they can branch off and learn the notes above and below. Line notes are hard, but it is easier if you always know where A C and E are!

I just want to mention that in my experience, no matter how well a student knows the names of notes, that does not ensure he or she will be a good sight reader. I think we all have students who get A’s on theory tests and are very zippy with flash cards, but not so good sight reading music at the piano bench.  So many people don’t seem to realize that the two are very different skills that use different part of the brain. And everyone’s brain is wired differently. A student does not have to be a good sight reader to be a good musician, although it is a wonderful skill.

If learning the names of notes confidently doesn’t always mean the student is going to be able to read music well at the piano, why bother? Here are some reasons, and you probably have some you can add to the list!

  • It gives students confidence that they are musicians.
  • It helps students jump around to different notes on the piano.
  • Even if students can’t sight read that well, they can work through the music in their own comfort zone at home.
  • They can learn music theory, which is rather impossible if you don’t know what the notes are!
  • They can compose and write their music on staff paper.


Filed under Note Identification, Steps and Skips, Worksheets

Carol of the Bells – Easy Piano Trio

Carol of the Bells Piano Trio

Carol of the Bells Piano Trio $7.99

3 versions of the score, 18 pages including cover page

Every year I write a piano trio (3 students at one piano) for my students to practice in advance and then play together at our Christmas group lesson. It has to be very easy to learn and simple to put together because there is no rehearsal! I usually have more than 3 students in a group, so I drag in keyboards as necessary. If there are beginning students who are not able to learn a part, I give them a percussion instrument to play along, and we practice that in advance, too. I added finger cymbals to Carol of the Bells. I want every student to feel comfortable. Since I started this tradition, my students have told me how much they enjoy it and look forward to it each year!

Today I am adding my trio arrangement of Carol of the Bells (18 pages $7.99) to the store section of my website. For the next week it will be on sale for $5.99. This is a studio license, so a single teacher may print unlimited copies each year.

There are 3 different varieties of scores included because that is what I need when I teach a trio, and I thought it would help you, too. There is the typical piano trio score, a teacher’s (conductor’s) score, and individual parts for each player to take home and practice. It adds up to 18 pages.

This trio is for 5 hands! The bass part uses only the left hand. Of course, you might want to modify that, and feel free to do so. This is a good part to give to a parent or an older student who is happy to sight read it.

I wanted this piano ensemble to sound as close to the original choral music as possible, so I found the original, public domain, choral score in Russian, and transcribed it for piano. The original Russian lyrics are not about Christmas at all, but is a New Year’s song!

I had two age groups work on this last year, an elementary group and a middle school group. I assigned it about a month before the group lesson time, and practiced it at their lesson with me playing the other parts. They loved it so much that they wanted to play it over and over at the group lesson!  I have a diverse group of students, and this was music that all my students were comfortable playing.



Filed under Christmas, Late Elementary Music

Autumn Rhythm Tic Tac Toe

Autumn Rhythm Tic Tac Toe

Autumn Rhythms Tic Tac Toe

Today I am posting a seasonal game to review note values such as dotted quarter notes and eighth notes.  I included stems going up and down to help students become familiar with that.

This game is  played like Tic Tac Toe using bingo chips. It is for two players, but it is easily modified for more students and played like Bingo.

Regular readers will notice this is similar to the Bats and Cats Rhythm Game. However, I remade the small cards to include more patterns and I changed the levels some.  Now I need a year round theme so I’m taking suggestions!

There are two levels included. The second level  is a great game to reinforce dotted quarter notes. Some children don’t know how to add fractions, so adding 1  1/2  +  1/2 is too much for them.  Of course we all have those students who seem to understand anything related to math without the teacher having to explain it!  They like this game, too.

There are 5 pages in this PDF document: a game board, 2 levels of cards to cut out, and the backs for each level.

I advise printing the backs to the small cards to help you quickly distinguish the levels for fast set-up.


  • To quickly add beats in rhythm patterns


  • Bingo tokens, a different color for each player. [Suggestions for tokens include inexpensive colored erasers or pieces of cut out construction paper. Colored bingo chips are available online. ]
  • One game board for two players. If playing in groups, 1 card for each player.
  • Calling cards with the appropriate level for the student.


  • Print the game board on card stock or photo paper and laminate, if desired.
  • Print one page of the calling cards. Turn the page over and print the “back” of  the calling cards. Check out my FAQ for hints on how to do it.
  • Cut the calling cards along the dotted lines. Place in a stack face down.
  • The calling cards contain notes and/or rests worth 1, 2, 3, or 4 beats (in 4/4 time.) The game board has squares with one note or rest worth 1, 2, 3. or 4 beats.
  • Player one draws a calling cards and counts the notes/rest value. He places a bingo chip on a square with that note value.
  • This is repeated by the second player, with a different colored bingo chip.
  • Play continues in this manner until a player has a chip on 3 squares in a row in any direction, including diagonally, as if the players are playing Tic Tac Toe.
  • An alternate way to play is to give each player a game board. Players take turns drawing a card and putting a bingo chip on the correct square. The object is to be the first player with all their squares covered.
  • Note: If a player draws a card that has no note left with that rhythm value, he is not able to place a chip on the board and it becomes the next players turn.

Why I like it:

This is a simple game and it’s easy and fast to play. But it really works and you will see your students improve their ability to count rhythms and to quickly add them up. One teacher, Louise, who played the Halloween version, left this message a few years ago:

Thank you so much for this game, Susan. I have played it with my Grade 2 students and found that although they were hesitant at first, when adding up the dotted notes and the grouped semiquavers and quavers, after a couple of games they were seeing at a glance how many beats were in the groupings. Such a useful game. I may bring it out even when it isn’t Halloween!


Filed under Games, Holiday Activities and Worksheets, Rhythm