You might have heard about all the benefits of teaching using games already. Students learn better, more thoroughly and more durably when the learning is fun.
However, if you’ve ever actually tried adding games into your lessons, you might have seen another side to this equation.
Music theory games also take time away from your lesson…and if you’re not careful, that won’t feel like time well spent.
This is where “fun” piano lessons can get a bad reputation. Because the word fun becomes synonymous with fluffy, light or unsubstantial.
But it doesn’t have to.
Being a teacher who uses music theory games effectively means taking FUN very seriously.
If you love using games, but have asked yourself these questions, then this process will be perfect for you.
You see, I used not to really plan my games at all. I would just use anything that fit my student.
And that’s beneficial in its own way…
But we can do better. I want to inspire you to make music theory games not just something you do to appease your students, to make the lesson run more smoothly, or to avoid using a theory workbook.
I want you to make games a core part of how you teach.
Do you need a hand when it comes to planning your piano lesson? Check out Tim’s 3 keys to an effective lesson plan.
Does that sound a bit silly? Let me clarify, because this is the biggest mistake I see teachers making: they don’t have a specific topic they want to cover, and a reason for covering that topic.
When I say specific, I really mean specific. For example:
Get the idea? Music theory games can do so much more for you than just keep your student engaged.
If you know what you want them to do – they can help you actually teach.
Not of the piano…that would be a tall order.
Rather, I want you to think about the mastery of that specific concept or skill that we decided on in Step 1. What are all the little micro-steps along the way to them truly ‘getting it’?
For Amy we probably want her to understand several different branches of the E major key signature, such as:
Knowing these bus stops on our journey will give us so much clarity when we go to plan Amy’s assignments and lesson activities.
Games are just one of the things that can benefit from this approach to planning. But I think they’re an important one – and one that teachers don’t often include in this type of thought process.
So, you have a path marked out. You know what your student needs to know and the different angles you need to take to bring them towards true understanding. What next?
Well, now it’s time to fill in the blanks.
You can take this path and use it as a framework. Start brainstorming activities you can use to guide your student towards the learning objectives.
When you evaluate an exercise or one of the many music theory games you can find online, you can easily ask yourself: “Does this move my student towards my goal for them? Will it bring them closer to understanding the concept that I’ve identified as a priority?”.
If the answer is no, move right along.
No matter how fun or interesting it looks – focus on moving the needle for your students. I promise you it will make you less overwhelmed with all the possibilities, and it will make for the best possible learning environment for each student.
If you have an ‘Amy’ in your studio right now – a student who needs some help with key signatures – then this is the perfect game for you.
How do you incoporate a bit of fun and games in your studio?
Let us know by leaving a comment below.
Nicola Cantan is a piano teacher, author, blogger and creator of imaginative and engaging teaching resources. Nicola's Vibrant Music Teaching Library is helping teachers all over the world to include more games and off-bench activities in their lessons, so that their students giggle their way through music theory and make faster progress. She also runs a popular blog, Colourful Keys, where she shares creative ideas and teaching strategies.