Years ago I got an idea from Jane Bastien, the noted composer and music educator, to have a One Minute Club with my piano students. In order to be a member, students have to “say and play” grand staff flash cards in one minute or less. In order to commemorate their success, I started making “membership” cards for them, a different one each year, with a spot to add how many years they have been a member. Then I put it in a clear plastic name tag holder and attach it to their music bags.
If you are using the calendar and binder cover I made in the fall, you will notice this is the same theme. Also, I have made a matching chart to list your students’ times, and you can download it as soon as I post it, hopefully this week!
Last year I wrote a question and answer blog post with the frequently asked questions that are emailed to me. Here is an edited re-post for those of you who may be interested.
With what age group do you use these cards?
They are made for elementary age children. 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.
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. A good sight reader does 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 don’t think a lot of time should be spent on this at a lesson. Just a couple of minutes each week can reap great rewards, if the student is prepared in the first place. If the student takes over 2 minutes, I usually need to prepare them better before I start. 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 and have the potential to be successful. Everyone in your studio does not have to participate. Sometimes I tell a reluctant (a capable, older) student 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.
These cards are not centered correctly when I print them out on my blank business cards.
I made them for pre-perforated 2″ x 3.5″ business cards, 10 to a page. 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.