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.
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!
Pumpkin Music Math
Today I am posting two Thanksgiving rhythm worksheets that you can start using right away.
My students seemed to know instinctively how to do these worksheets. Students add the quarter note in the middle to the patterns in each group and write the answer as a note in the blank. Try to remind them to use a note instead of a number. This way it is not as difficult to learn 6/8 meter later on.
Dotted notes are tricky to explain, but if you remind them that a dotted quarter note equals 3 eights (and keep reminding them), it makes it a lot easier.
- “One and a half beats” is confusing to young students who may not have learned fractions in school.
- “A dotted quarter note equals 3 eight notes” is easier to understand.
That is why the Kodaly method uses 3 eighth notes tied together to teach a dotted quarter note.
Are you looking for more autumn activities? Try these.
Hide the Pumpkins – a worksheet to identify notes and piano keys in several levels.
The Pumpkin Patch – a fast board game.
Kandy Key Signatures – students construct key signatures with candy corn. They can also draw them.
Pumpkin Notes – write the names of notes on the staff.
It’s October – 2 composing activities – on-the-staff composing and pre-reading composing.
Pumpkin or Leaves – a fun, very fast game using the piano keys to review or learn the names of piano keys.
For Thanksgiving games and worksheets, check out this link.
I’ve finally completed some of my older pre-reading Halloween pieces in portrait format. When I did this last year with the on-the-staff Halloween and Christmas music, I thought it was going to be so easy to rotate them from landscape to portrait. Well, it was not as easy as I thought. I had to start all over from the beginning. The only things I didn’t have to re-do was my drawings. However, the benefit is that we can put the pages in a binder without having to take it out to play or awkwardly turning their binder sideways. My parents and students really appreciate the portrait orientation, and I hope you do too! At the bottom of this page there is a link to the same pieces on-the-staff.
[Edited: I’m sorry to say I made some mistakes when I remade some of the pieces. I’ve tried to fix them all. Thank you so much for letting me know!]
What Will I Say on Halloween
Halloween Is Almost Here
See The Scarecrow PR
Hey Mr. Mummy PR
Once A Year On Halloween PR
Five Little Pumpkins PR
Don’t forget most of these are also available as on-the-staff versions!
Updated Halloween Music