X Marks the Spot!

Today I am releasing the first of my X Marks the Spot (Tunes for Young Beginners) Series. I begun creating these resources earlier in the year when I started working with pre-school aged students for the first time. Needless to say this was a giant learning curve for me! My biggest challenge was finding resources that checked all the boxes for  students this age. I was looking for something black-key centred that featured well-known tunes. I also wanted to rely on a combination of rote-learning and aural-training with the tactful use of a visual component. With all this in mind, X Marks the Spot was born.   

Because my students were still learning to read I steered clear of text heavy methods. In fact, the resources I am sharing are only intended to act as a visual supplement to a combination of rote and aural teaching. The visual stimulus is also intended to help students and parents recall tunes learned in lessons when practicing at home without the help of the teacher.

Hot Cross Buns

Each song-sheet has a diagram of a keyboard with a blue ‘x’ over any key used in the tune. A ‘sleeping ladybug’ can be found on the starting note. To determine the order and length of pitches students will have to rely on their aural skills and imitation as needed.

How to use it:

There are many ways to incorporate ‘X Marks the Spot’ resources into your piano lessons, here are some ideas to get you started. You will find some students will require more/less scaffolding than others, be aware this is not a definitive list.

  1. Sing the song –  The first thing I get students to do is learn to sing the song, this is also a great time to incorporate dance and movement! If they don’t know the tune already you can replace it with one they are familiar with or encourage family to sing it with them at home.
  2. Clap & sing the song – fairly straight forward! Add clapping to singing (or use percussion instruments) to emphasise the rhythm of the tune.
  3. Clap &  sing the rhythm syllables – I favour “ta-ka-di-mi” rhythm syllables in my teaching.
  4. Examine the song-sheet: At this point students look at the diagram and identify which keys are used in a particular song (e.g. “a group of three”) and then find the corresponding keys on the piano. Repeat the process for the sleeping ladybug key.
  5. Copy-cat: Break the song into pieces and model for the student, getting them to copy/imitate what you are playing. Ensure you are singing the tune while you play! Alternatively….
  6. Sing short excerpts and ask the student to try play the excerpt on the piano. I am genuinely surprised how easily some young beginners are able to do this!
  7. Move to notation – once the student can competently play the tune by themselves I pull out my notation games (looking forward to sharing these with you too!). Once students complete these games it is a great idea to get them to try and copy it into a manuscript book (large size of course!).

I’ve also found that these resources work are suitable for primary-aged students. I would love to hear if you’ve used these resources with your students and how! I will be these one at a time whenever I find the time, let me know of any tunes you would like to see in song-sheets and games in the future. 🎹

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