• Michael

Thoughts from the (piano)bench: an easy way to increase student engagement in piano lessons.

Updated: Jul 20

So, this morning I had an interesting experience with a student that I want to share. #relevant #pianoteacher #pianolessons #lakewoodWA #pugetsound #253life

If you're an educator, you may read this post and think to yourself, "Uh, duh?"

I'm talking about the value of incorporating physical movement into your kids' lessons. I did it this morning with a simple little activity, and I couldn't believe how well it improved the focus and learning of this particular student.

The activity is simple, and I actually learned it from a colleague of mine who teaches in Seattle.

I have a set of flashcards I made which each feature a picture of an animal. The student picks a flashcard, shows his/her teacher, and waits while the teacher begins to improvise music on the piano which evokes whichever animal the student chose.

So , for example, if Quinn (pictured above) chooses an ELEPHANT card, I might play really SLOW, LOUD, MEANDERING music on the low-end of the piano.

Now here's the kicker. The student then has to act out and mime the type of behavior associated with the animal. The kids LOVE it, and there is almost always a ton of giggling involved.

And, from a teacher's perspective, the activity rocks because it presents many opportunities to teach musical concepts.

For example, this morning, I had Quinn march around to the BEAT that I was playing. After he had completed his "elephant dance", I took the opportunity to probe further.

I asked him,

"Would an elephant make loud music? Or soft music?

"If loud, what is the musical symbol for loud? Whatever about the word?"


"How about I play music for a sad elephant. How does the music change when I want it to sound sad?"

(for a student at a piano lesson in Lakewood, where it's perennially gray, this question might me extra relevant lololol)

The opportunities are endless, and if the studies on physical learning are to be trusted, this type of activity increases retention drastically, because students are able to form a FUN MEMORY to associate with the content they learned. Yes, even in piano lessons.

Last thing, and maybe the most important thing. After the game finished, and Quinn and I went back to his music, his focus, coordination, and engagement with his music was DRAMATICALLY improved. Something about that dopamine rush improved Quinn's ability to engage with tough material.

Quinn was over the moon, and so was I.

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