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.

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14 thoughts to “One Minute Club

  • Karlyn Lundqusit

    Hey Susan! Thank you for all of your great ideas! My students love to compete so I took your idea a little further. I copied your cards onto stock card of different colors. I then have many categories for them to achieve: Treble Clef, Bass clef, Grand staff, 5 finger position, Major scales( right hand, one octave going up), Major scales( right hand, one octave going down), Major scales (left hand, one octave going up), Majors scales( left hand, one octave going down) and arpeggios (one hand,one octave) etc. I bought clear plastic badge holders on Oriental Trading. Whenever they pass one category they get a different colored card. They love seeing how many cards each other have on their piano bags.

    • susanparadis

      I love your idea! I’ve never thought of that. They don’t have to wait so long for their reward. Thanks for sharing!

  • Joyce

    Since getting my iTouch, I have found
    several good note identification games.
    The only drawback is that only one clef
    is shown at a time because of the small
    screen, and many don’t give scores.
    However I continue looking for good ones
    because the kids are so accustomed to
    using technology. I recommend “fun with
    notes” and “Note Goal” ( although the latter
    has another name in the app store.

  • Pingback: The One-Minute Club | LaDona's Music Studio

  • LaDona's Music Studio

    Would it work to print this out as a certificate?

  • Tami

    I have loved this idea. Since all of my students are early elementary to intermediate, I’ve modified this to make is a monthly club. Each month before my group theory classes, I have my students tested. Entry can be earned each month and they recieve $10 of music money at that month’s theory group class when they hand in their card. That means they have to try again the next month to get in to the club. This way it is an ongoing motivation to stay on top of their note identification.

    Each month that my students earn their place in the club, I list it on their card. :o)

    • susanparadis

      Thanks for the idea, Tami! Monthly theory classes would probably help my students a lot!

  • Luba

    Hi Susan,
    Oh the memories! I studied with Jane Bastien as a kid, and was a proud member of the one minute club! I do Flashcards under a minute with my students as well, and I have had success even with young kids (age 6 or so). My strategy is to start them with just a few cards (usually treble clef spaces) which they can easily name and play in a minute, and then add more (treble lines, followed by bass spaces and bass lines). I ask them to practice daily (with their parents) in the following way: Every day, time yourself for 1 minute and name and play as many cards as you can. After one minute you are done! Write down how many cards you had left over after a minute. The next day, try to have fewer left over.
    I find that doing 1 minute a day is less draining and discouraging than taking a long time to go through the whole stack for the kids who are struggling. Also, just practicing a subset (ie: treble spaces, or bass lines) and doing repetitive drilling on just those notes really seems to work for me. Thanks for sharing the cool certificate!

    • susanparadis

      Luba, How fun to hear from an “original”. Thank you so much for your comment and suggestions.

      I agree with you that it is very important not to overwhelm them when they are young, or they will have bad feelings about the entire thing. I think in one of my old blog posts I mentioned that there has to be a lot of different preparation activities before actually timing them with the entire grand staff.

      What I often do with beginners or students with learning problems is start with the easy notes that I know they know, and forget the timer. We learn middle C, and then gradually branch out from there. I keep a record in their assignment sheet of the notes we can say and play and we gradually add more over the entire semester. And once we have learned them all, I still use subsets as you do with the ones who have trouble. The thing is, all our students are individuals with different tracking skills, eye-hand coordination, and physical speed. So there may be a 1st grader as fast or faster than a 5th grader who has been in lessons for years.

      As long as I keep it a fun game with lots of praise and laughs, it is a big success in many ways.

  • Donna McLain

    For younger students, I did a Music Olympics. As they learn their notes on the staff, I did the 5 finger C position (middle C position and bass C position), 5 finger G position and we track how fast they can say them. If they make it in one minute they get a “bronze” star, 30 seconds or less they receive a “silver” star and 10 seconds are less they get a “gold” star. I also write on their chart the actual seconds so we can see if we can beat our last time. Great for the years the Olympics are held!

    • susanparadis

      That’s a very good idea for the younger students who can’t do them all. Did they have to play them, too?

      • Donna McLain

        No,I didn’t think in this activity to have them play them but I like that idea!

  • Claire Westlake

    I too have had my students do the “One Minute Club” for many years. I have a plaque on my wall where names can be a added as they achieve this honor.

    • susanparadis

      A plaque on the wall!! I love it. Thanks for the idea. How expensive is it?

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