Good King Wenceslas
I don’t think too many of my students know this carol before I teach it to them. While I was doing research, I discovered it wasn’t in any of the many denominations of hymn books I have around my studio. I remember singing it in school and I always liked it. But in today’s world, children are not exposed to Chrismas carols as I was growing up, so I like to teach them to my students.
Even though your students may not know it, they love to hear about the good, kindly king who helped the poor man stay warm during the cold days of winter. It reminds us that not everyone is as fortunate as most of us are.
This is a song with not very many skips, so you always find it in beginning level Christmas books. I shaded the left hand for the beginning students who have trouble knowing which hand to use. Notice that the left hand thumb is on B in my version, but the fingering can easily be changed.
Twelve Days of Christmas
This one took some time. It was hard for me to figure out how to write this so that an older first year student could play it. (Young children don’t have the attention span for this version. Give them the two-verse pre-reading version I posted several years ago.) I didn’t want eighth notes, so I settled on the rhythm you can see above. When played at a fast clip, it sounds correct. All twelve verses are included. It took forever to draw a partridge in a pear tree, but I managed to finally muster up something to add a little color to the page. My daughter drew the turtledoves on the last page.
I have included some finger numbers that are useful for such a long piece as this. The right hand thumb is on middle D, and the left hand thumb is on middle C. I realize many beginning students are not comfortable with this hand position, so change it around if you need to. However, more and more teachers are using method books that do not keep both thumbs on middle C, and finding it is a lot more comfortable and easier to keep a rounded hand shape.
When my students play The Twelve Days of Christmas, I tell them to play only 6 verses, not the entire song if they plan to play it for family or friends. I’ve never listened to all 12 verses at a piano lesson, either. Let’s face it, this is a singing song, not really piano playing music! But I’m posting it here because I could not find an easy version for a student who asked for it, and I thought I would share it with you!
Several years ago I posted these cute fish as a motivation for my younger students to learn scales. Another teacher gave me the idea, and it has proved to be lots of fun and very motivating for my elementary students. The graphic above is a make-over of the original, and I think they look better, so I replaced the old graphic on my website. Also, these new fish have more scales, so all the scales can be written on one fish.
There are two colors of fish, one for major and one for minor. Some students are working on 5-finger scales, and others are playing full scales. When my pre-school and elementary age students learn a scale, we write the name on one of the scales of the fish. When I have put these all the wall, I am amazed at how much it motivates the students to practice their scales, especially the 5-finger scales!
I print them on card stock, laminate them, and use a dry erase marker so I can use them over and over. They are attached to the wall with removable clear mounting squares. You can either cut them out along the black outline of the fish, or do what I do, cut on the dotted line.
I found a set of four inexpensive dry erase markers at Wal-Mart that have built-in magnets as well as erasers. Coincidentally, they stick to my fireplace screen so one is always easily available.
This is a big thank you to Arlene Steffen, the generous teacher who gave me the idea. It has been a big hit in my studio and really motivates students to learn their fishy scales!
Hurray, Thanksgiving Day
There aren’t too many Thanksgiving carols and hymns, and trying to find a pre-reading one is even harder. With this in mind, I started writing some this summer, but time being in short supply, this is the only one I’ve been able to post.
As I wrote it I thought about all the fun I had when I was a little girl in South Carolina getting together with all my relatives on Thanksgiving on the farm. I had many cousins, and we all played together outside and had a great time. When I asked one of my beginning students what is the most fun about Thanksgiving, she said it was playing with her cousins, so I guess things have not changed that much after all!
This beginning piece is not in middle C position, so follow the fingering on the tiny keyboard. There is a skip on the first line in the left hand as well as a fourth. That will be a problem, especially the skip, so practice your “skipping fingers” on the piano cover. I highlighted the left and right hand parts to make it easier for one of my students. I also made an on-the-staff version, and I hope I get it posted before Thanksgiving!