Category Archives: Teaching Business

Pumpkin Patch File Folder Game

Pumpkin Patch Games

Pumpkin Patch Matching Game

I love pumpkins and so do students. Today’s activity has a pumpkin theme so you can use it now and all the way up to Thanksgiving.

This activity is a file folder note matching game. The hardest part is cutting out the pumpkin cards. If  you have trouble cutting small items, I also added some cutting lines so that you can cut out squares instead of  cutting around the tiny pumpkin stem. If you decide to cut out the individual pumpkins like I did, and you plan to laminate them,  cut the pumpkins first, and then laminate them. When you cut them out again, leave  as much  laminated margin around the pumpkins as you can.

There are 5 pages, including a page for the bass clef notes, a page for the treble clef notes, 2 pages of pumpkin flash cards, and a page of keyboard cards.

There are no hard and fast rules for this game. I tried it out with students, and I changed it around for each ability level.

I made this game so my students would have another seasonal way to practice identifying the treble and bass clef, as well as learning the names of notes. I like to keep my elementary  students  enthused about piano lessons by having different activities. And they often learn something new. In this set, there is a high treble G and the bass clef D, something that was new to some of my early level students. However, you can pull the cards you don’t want to use.


  • To quickly recognize the treble and bass clef
  • To reinforce names of notes on the treble and bass staves
  • To play a seasonal activity


  • Print out the treble and bass game boards.
  • Print the pumpkin flash cards and the optional keyboard cards, and cut out either around each pumpkin or on the dotted lines.
  • Glue or tape each game board to the inside of a file folder. Tape an envelope on the front of the file folder to hold the pumpkin cards.
  • Students match the cards with the names of the notes on the game board, paying special attention to identify the clef first

Other ways to play

  • Use a timer to see how long it takes to complete each clef
  • With two students, have a race to see who can match the notes first
  • If students don’t know their notes very well, use guided practice and help them figure out the notes
  • Play with certain notes only, such as ACE
  • At a group lesson, put students on two teams and let them play against each other. Be sure to laminate the cards if you do this because they will get excited. 

Leave a comment here if you can think of another way to play!



Filed under Group lesson ideas, Halloween, Note Identification, Teaching Business, Thanksgiving

Wednesday Question: Halloween Games and Music Roundup

Dear Susan,

I was wondering if you can list all the Halloween material on your website.

Over the years I have made many games and posted some original Halloween and fall music. I am going to try to list it here, and I hope I don’t leave anything out! I am in the process of making new games, music, and activities, as well as updating a few things, so check back frequently. Some of the printables may look a little different from the image here. I am trying to change my landscape music to portrait orientation. If you have any trouble printing things, please check my FAQ and download the latest version of Adobe Reader.

Bats and Cats

Bats and Cats   -  This is a very simple board game to learn beginning note values.


Bat Facts, a Note Story -This is a note story about bats. It has some science in it, too!

Kandy Keys

Kandy Keys – Not too many students like candy corn, so why not use it to place key signatures on the staff. No, we don’t eat it after we’ve mauled it around!


Pumpkin Keyboard Race – This game has been a staple in my studio for years and years. It is gratifying to see this game used so much by teachers all over the world.  It is a good game for older beginners to quickly learn the keys of the piano.


Halloween Notes On the Staff – I use this staff for students who have to learn all their notes quickly in order to take the Texas theory test.

Pumpkin Notes

Pumpkin Notes, Mixed Up on the Staff – When they need a little challenge, I use this one.


Hide the Pumpkin Fun Sheet – This is a printable to identify piano keys.  There are two fun sheets to a page for this printable, so it saves paper.

Free Halloween Music

I wrote most of these easy pieces in both pre-reading and on-the-staff notation so they are perfect for beginning students. Most of these are not in middle C position, so they help with interval reading. The last one is 2 pages and a little more difficult.

What Will I Say On Halloween?  Finger numbers only. This is very easy easy for the first week of lessons.

It’s October - Finger numbers only. This is very easy for the first week of lessons. It does not mention Halloween.

Hey Mr. Mummy  This is an on-the-staff piece with a flat and a teacher duet.

See the Scarecrow

See the Scarecrow  - This is a very easy on-the- staff piece for students just learning to read notes. It is a fall piece that does not mention Halloween.

Halloween is Almost Here_PreR

Halloween is Almost Here - This is an easy pre-reading Halloween song.

Halloween is Almost Here

Halloween is Almost Here - This is the same as above, but on-the-staff.

Halloween, Halloween

Halloween, Halloween (pre-reading)

Halloween, Halloween_on_staff

Halloween Halloween (on the staff)


Once A year On Halloween (pre-reading)


Once a Year On Halloween (on the staff)


Five Little PumpkinsPR

Five Little Pumpkins (This is a pre-reading folk song, but to be honest, I found it to be too long for a preschool beginner. Maybe if you learn it in sections it will work. Otherwise, it is better with an elementary age child.  This is the well-known folk song children sing in school.

Five Little Pumpkins

Five Little Pumpkins The on-the-staff version works better for me!

Sneaky Sneakers

Sneaky Sneakers  This is a level 1 piece. There are two pages, and it sounds like Halloween music, but it has no words.



Filed under Halloween, Holiday Activities and Worksheets, Teaching Business

It’s October – An On-the-Staff Composing Activity and a Pre-Reading Song!

Its OctoberOnStaff

It’s October-On the Staff

This version of It’s October is a composing activity for students who can read music. The rhythm is written above the staff. The student can choose which notes he/she would like to use. Students can write a melody divided between the hands or a melody with chords, depending on their age. Usually when students try to write music down, they become frustrated, so this gives the student some structure. The only rules are to chose the key for the piece, and use the tonic as the last note. If you are not a musician, the tonic is the first note of the scale, sometimes called the “key note.”

Of course, some of your students will come to their lesson with elaborate music they play for memory. That is great, but the music is often too difficult for them to write down, and time-consuming for you as the teacher to transcribe! It is, however, a wonderful thing to do, and often these are your students who will be your best composers!

One of the great joys of being self-published is the ability to change things around, and in this case, borrow from myself.  I first used this poem in a pre-reading song I posted a few years ago. It is suitable for their first piano lesson.

It's October

Pre-reading It’s October

Then, I used the same poem for the beginning composing activity I posted last week,  and the one today. So now you have an October activity for all your elementary students!


Filed under Teaching Business

B is for the Baseball Bear

Baseball Bear

The Baseball Bear

Poor little baseball bear! I thought I posted his song back when I was posting all the animal alphabet pieces!  As a matter of fact, this one is great for teaching the location of B on the staff. All I have to say is the bear hit the ball and it landed on the top of the staff. Most preschool children can remember B for ball and bear.

It is very hard for young eyes to identify notes on the staff. They get the lines mixed up because they are so close together. Third line, fourth line, it’s all the same to many preschool eyes. Of course, some children have no trouble, which can cause us even more frustration when we get students who can’t remember from week to week what the notes are. But a baseball sitting on top, well, it’s not nearly as hard.

Actually,  I teach reading by intervals, so be sure and check out the  Notey Notes flashcards. But students need to learn the names of notes, also. 

Notice I put boxes in the place of finger numbers. This is so you can write in the finger numbers you want to use.  My students put their thumbs on B and E. But if you’re a teacher who loves middle C position or nearly C position, this song will work for that, too.

Be sure to have them sing along. Remember, children learn music through singing.

If you missed the other songs in this series, click on the links to read about E is for Elephant, The Doughnut MysteryPat the Cat’s Patting Song, G is For GiraffeAlligator, Alligator, All You Play is A, and Frogs in Flip Flops.

The baseball bear is a character you can discuss with your student. How does he find time to play piano and baseball? When does he practice? Does he use a “bear paw” to have a good hand position? Can your student tell a story about the Baseball Bear? 

I’ve had a lot of fun with the Baseball Bear. I hope you have a young student who will enjoy him, too!


Filed under Teaching Business

Wednesday Question: Why Don’t Parents Support Piano Lessons?

Dear Susan. I am so frustrated. Why do parents put students in piano lessons but do not support me as a teacher? They don’t practice, miss lessons, and even come to lessons without their books.

To answer that question, you have to realize the various reasons parents put their children in piano lessons.

  1. They want their child to learn a little bit about music. If they also learn to play a pretty piece, that’s a happy bonus.
  2. They inherit or buy a piano, and need to justify the space it takes in the room.
  3. They have read it will help their child get better grades in school.
  4. They think it will help them get a head start on another instrument the child wants to play.
  5. They were not able to take piano as a child, so they want to give their child that opportunity.
  6. They want their child to show off flashy pieces for family or friends.
  7. They took piano and enjoyed it, so they want their child to do the same.
  8. They value a music education.

Do you see the pattern here? Parents often have different desires and expectations for their children than we as piano teachers have. So when our expectations as teachers conflict with the expectations of parents, conflict arises and teachers become frustrated and disillusioned. They blame parents for not being serious about music; for not being supportive.

Once you realize that parents often do not have the time, desire, ability,  or even the relationship with the child to require daily, quality piano practice, your entire attitude changes and you are a happier teacher.

Here are a few situations where changing your way of reacting makes a big difference.

They don’t bring their books.

Fine, let’s work on Pattern Play by Forrest Kenney.  Let’s work on ear training, improvise, or sight read. Don’t fuss, nag, or complain. For sight reading, I love the old duet book by Dennis Alexander, Alfred’s Basic Piano Library Duet Book 1B. It has easy positions that doesn’t scare the students.

They never practice.

Ok, let’s practice at the lesson. Choose a piece with patterns that can be taught by rote, and sounds harder than it is such as Sun Chaser by Timothy Brown, Thumper by Robert Vandall, Spirit of the Stallion by Elizabeth Gutierrez, or  Gypsy Earrings by Glover. (There are many more.) Soon your student will be playing that one piece they love everywhere there is a piano, and it will be a great recital piece.

They miss lessons and always want a makeup.

At the parent interview and in your policy sheet, stress that you can’t make up lessons the children miss unless they are able to swap with another student. When a student doesn’t show up, play a Chopin Nocturne to relax, or clean up your studio. Don’t fret about it.

They don’t even come to the recital.

That’s fine, we will miss you.  Parents (and I went to a lot of my children’s recitals) don’t like long recitals, and if someone doesn’t show up, the recital is shorter, which is a good thing, actually. Don’t take it personally. It has nothing to do with you.

They always choose sports over music.

If they choose sports over music, it’s because children like team sports more than they like piano lessons. That is human nature. The majority of children love running around on a field more than they love sitting at a piano bench. Think of a puppy. Life is not fair and we can’t change childhood development. All we can do is make the most of what we have. It has nothing to do with sports being more important than music, because what athlete doesn’t have a music playlist a mile long? It has to do with the nature of piano lessons themselves. Give some reasons for them to like piano, but don’t be disappointed if they don’t like it as much as their team sport. I don’t mind music being second, third, or fourth place in a student’s life. One student told me he liked 8 things and piano was the 8th on the list. I think that is one of the funnest things a child has ever said to me. (He even listed the other 7 things.) Some years later his Mom told me that he was first chair in band and loved it.

The great music pedagogy teacher Elissa Milne posted these wise words on her blog, speaking as a parent:

The piano teacher wants your child to have practiced this week? It’s a feat of extraordinary proportions that the child got fed, for goodness sake, that they’ve turned up to their lesson in clean clothes. But you know that your child loves this 30 or 45 minutes each week, or at least you’re pretty sure they do, and you know that your child is getting quality one-on-one attention from a teacher who is invested in building a long-term learning relationship. AND you know that music is super-fantastic for the brain. Whatever is happening in the lesson is absolutely worth it, because it’s more than you can provide on your own.

As you start to teach this year, have high expectations, but be realistic. Teach the way you would want to be taught, but don’t expect students to love piano the way you love it. Have high standards, but be flexible! I hope you have a great year!



Filed under Teaching Business