Monthly Archives: January 2013

2013 One Minute Club Cards

One Minute Club2013One Minute Club Cards

Here are the updated One Minute Club cards for this year. I made mine using pre-perforated 2″ x 3.5″ business cards, 10 to a page, which you can find at any business supply store.  However, for those of you who want to use plain card stock, I also added cutting lines. I let the yellow background bleed a little past the cutting lines in case your paper shifts as you print.

If you are a new reader or maybe a parent who wants to help, here are some answers to questions you may have.

What is the One Minute Challenge?

This is a way for students to learn to say and play notes on the grand staff. If they can do it in 60 seconds or less, then they get this membership card. Once a student is the fastest in my studio, they win a gift card (my students like iTunes or restaurant cards) and “retire.”  I don’t run contests as motivation, but this is something that has really worked in my studio. I got the idea of a One Minute Club years ago from an article by Jane Bastien, the noted piano composer and teacher. I thought up the idea of a different card each year when I noticed my elementary students liked to collect cards or put things in scrapbooks. You can watch a video here.

How many flash cards do you use?

I use 21 cards, the entire grand staff from bass G to treble F.

What do they do with the cards?

I give my elementary age students a plastic badge holder with a ball chain and attach it to their music bag. I ask middle and high school students if they want one.

With what age group do you use these cards?

I made the cards for elementary age children about age 8 to 11, but all my older students participate in the contest, unless they were the overall fastest in a previous year.  In my studio, it usually takes several years of lessons before a student can do this in less than one minute. Only a few students in grades 2-3  can do it, and I usually don’t even try it with younger students. They do not have the coordination. Older students are more interested in the gift card I give to the overall fastest student and don’t really want the “membership card.” Use your judgement as a teacher.

Why do they have to play the note as well as say the note name? Isn’t it enough to know the name of the note? 

Piano students need to know where to quickly move their hands when they see a note that is not in a five-finger position. The faster they can do this, the better they are at sight-reading. You will see sight-reading improve as well as the student’s self-confidence when they can find notes quickly. However, while it will help, it is not the cure to sight-reading problems if the student has difficulty tracking the notes on the staff. Good sight readers do  not think of individual notes as they play, but in patterns of intervals. This is just one part of the difficult skill of sight-reading.

How much time do you spend on this at a lesson?

I run the challenge for about 2 months. I don’t think a lot of time should be spent on this. Just a couple of minutes each week can reap great rewards if the student is prepared in the first place. If students take over 2 minutes, I usually need to prepare them better before I start timing. Often the problem is simply developmental. Students need to learn gradually and in a child-centered manner. That takes time and patience on the teacher’s part. Before you start flash cards, use a lot of activities and games to learn the note names. There are many on my website and other sites in the links on this blog. Don’t let this turn into drudgery!

I gave up on this because my students don’t like flash cards.  Do you have any suggestions?

Well, make sure they are old enough, know all their notes, and have the potential to be successful. Everyone in your studio does not have to participate. Sometimes I tell reluctant but capable, older students that they don’t have to win or even be able to do it in a minute. But parents are paying a lot for lessons and the least they expect is for students to learn notes and where they are located on the piano.  I have noticed that the ones who need it the most are the most reluctant. That’s natural, because kids like to do things they are good at. Once they start getting faster it becomes so much more fun. If your student has a learning disability, tread very carefully.

These cards are not  centered correctly when I print them out on my blank business cards. 

When you print the PDF file, under “size options” select “actual size.” You have to have the latest update to Adobe Reader for it to print correctly. This is a free download you can get at the Adobe Reader website.

What is the time of your fastest student?

Usually the fastest student in any given year is about 21 seconds. My fastest student did it in 17 seconds several years ago. The order of the cards when you flip them for students will determine how fast they can perform, so I try very hard to keep the cards in the same order for the entire contest period. Also, the teacher flipping the cards has to be fast, too!

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Filed under Note Identification, Teaching Aids, Theory

Chart to Record One Minute Club Times

OneMinuteChallenge2013Chart for One Minute Club

Every year I challenge my students to say and play flash cards on the piano in one minute or less. Over the years I’ve posted how I do this, so if you’re curious, read some of my old blog posts. Click here to watch a very short video of my students saying and playing flash cards and you will get the idea.

Today I am posting a chart to get you started. Notice that this chart uses the “varsity” theme that matches the calendar I posted back in the fall.

Remember, you cannot expect younger children to have the fine motor skills to do this under a minute, but it is a goal. By 5th grade, most students can do this, unless they have special problems.

To be honest, I don’t think this helps sight-reading all that much, because music reading uses a different skill set. But it does give students confidence and helps when they have to move quickly from one position to another. I’ve found that if I have a fun, light-hearted approach, students will, too. With little ones I start with just a few notes at a time and over the years work up to the entire grand staff.

I will post the membership cards and a new certificate for 2013 soon!


Filed under Note Identification, Teaching Aids

A Snail’s Gotta Do What a Snail’s Gotta Do

Snail SnailSnail, Snail

Recently I sang this with a preschool student to help him find his singing voice. After numerous questions that only a 4-year-old can ask, such as, “Why did the snail want to go around the water pail?” and “What is a water pail?” he started giggling and told me he “liked this song.” Trying hard not to get distracted, I told him that was just what snails like to do. Then he asked me to teach him how to play it on the piano.

So, always ready to please my students (preschool children are so more easier to please than high school students!), I wrote it out for the piano. I have to admit I get a little thrilled when a student asks to play something. This time his questions were about my drawings. (“Why is the snail smiling? Why is he green and orange? Why is the water blue? What does a snail eat? What if he falls in the water pail?”). I hope you have a sense of humor because you need it with children.

Getting back to piano, notice that Snail, Snail is played with the third finger of each hand. This is my sneaky way to help little students learn to brace their third finger and drop into the keys. If you have a beginner who is having trouble developing a rounded hand shape, maybe this piece will help. If you are a parent helping your child, be sure to drop into the keys, not lift individual fingers. Try to help them keep all their fingers rounded and not poking out this way and that. Suggest that their hand is holding a cute green snail and we don’t want to crush it!

You can learn about the braced finger from Nancy and Randall Faber’s Piano Adventures and My First Piano Adventures. If you’re not sure how to teach the concept, check out their videos. [On their homepage click Teacher Guides, > My First PA Tour and Videos, > Video Lesson Guide, and watch Hangin’ on a Fence Post.]


Filed under Pre-reading, Preschool Music Resources

An Old Game for the New Year

New Year's GameNew Year’s Game for Beginning Students

Happy New Year to all my readers. Thank you so much for all your comments, emails, and support! Without you, I don’t think I would have been able to keep this up for so long. It’s hard to believe, but I have been posting piano teaching resources for 6 years now!

Some teachers have sent me hand written notes and cards, and I just want you to know how much it means to me to keep them and read them over, knowing that we all share the common goal of passing down our musical heritage. Every child is born loving music and I hear from readers all over the globe how much we love teaching and how we want to reach every child. And that is why we do what we do, knowing that it is not just a job, but a calling.

There is so much on my website that even I forget about some of the games I’ve made, like the New Year’s game I posted in 2008. This is a good game to play with your first year students when they come back after the holidays. It will review many of the symbols in their primer method book.

Also, you might be interested in an article I wrote for the blog of Clavier Companion magazine. In it, I describe how to create some fun games using simple milk carton lids. There is nothing to print out so it is very affordable. My younger students and I have had so much fun collecting lids and playing different games with them. If you like music games and activities, I think you will enjoy this article. Click to read Do It Yourself! 4 Music Games on a Shoe String Budget.

Do you have any New Year’s resolutions? I want to practice more and improve my ability to play by ear. Leave a comment if you would like to share your resolutions.


Filed under Holiday Activities and Worksheets, Preschool Music Resources, Theory