In this episode, I’ll give you a taste of my Mini Musicians program and how I’ve structured it to include improvisation, games and fun patterning activities.
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This is episode 46 of the vibrant music teaching podcast. I’m Nicola Cantan and this week I’m sharing the structure for all my pre-school group lessons with you.
Hey beautiful teachers from time to time. I like to release things from the vault of my vibrant music teaching membership so that you can benefit from them. Here on the podcast as you may realize I just released a new course inside my membership called the many musicians one and many musicians one is a group pre-school program for the first year or more than a year for some studios 40 weeks of lessons with a group of pre-school students to introduce them to music and the piano. Now when I released my piano power booster program I actually put the first lesson up here on the podcast for you guys to benefit from. But this time I’ve decided the first lesson wouldn’t be all that useful because there’s too much visual reference and what I thought would be much more useful and give you a better insight into what the program is like is to put the introduction here where I talk through the different elements that are included in this program because it’s quite a different approach than you might see elsewhere. I have these core elements and then these optional elements so that the time is adaptable for the teacher so you can change it from being 30 minutes to being forty five minutes being an hour if you want.
Using these sort of optional modules that are included as part of the program. So I thought the most useful thing for you would be if you listened in to the introduction where I explained these different modules and that this could also give you some ideas. If you do want to if you’re not interested in many musicians but you want to design your own preschool program then maybe this can give you some food for thought and to build up your own program. If that’s what you want to do of course if you want to get access to the full many musicians program all you need to do is be a vibrant music teaching member so you can go to VMT.ninja to find out more about what’s included in the membership. There’s a lot more than just this pre-school program there’s tons of games and courses and things to feast your eyes on. So if you go to VMT.ninja you’ll get the full details of everything that’s included and you can sign up there on that page and get instant access to everything. But for now though let me share with you that introduction to many musicians one so that you can get a flavor for what I do in my preschool group lessons.
Hello there and welcome welcome welcome too many musicians. This is a preschool group a program designed for 3 to 5 year old to get an introduction to music and patterns that we need for music and a little bit of piano along the way. So this is a piano readiness program. It’s not designed to teach students to play off the page straight away. It’s designed as an exploration which incorporates the piano as well as other musical components. Listening rhythm and other elements that students need to be really successful once they start formal music lessons. So many musicians is for three to five year old students and most teachers will want to do this in groups of four to eight. Anything larger than that and it can become a little bit unmanageable at this age group for just one teacher. But if you want to have two teachers in the room then make your group bigger to suit the number of teachers as well. So many musicians is designed to be flexible for you. It’s not a complete prescription. It provides everything you need so that you can set up a class that you want to run. If you want your classes to be only 30 minutes a week then this will fit in just fine. If you want them to be an hour that will be fine too. If you want to run them from 20 weeks out of the year that’s OK. If you want to do all 40 weeks in the one year then you can the full program is 40 weeks long but you can take breaks in there as you need. Many musicians is only available as part of vibrant music teaching membership so this isn’t available anywhere else. And as a member of my music teaching you’ll get full access to everything you need for this program as well as everything else in the library.
Let’s dive in and take a look at each element of the many musicians program so that you can understand how it’s all structured. Every many musician lesson is structured in exactly the same way. It has four core components three optional components and then a quick little cooldown at the end where we can get everyone back down and get them ready to go back to their parents before core components are oral technique. Rhythm and theory and they go in that order every week. I recommend that you don’t switch the order around because three to five year old students really need to be able to predict what’s going to happen. They need to be able to follow the structure so that they get used to the routine and it helps them to track the time. Otherwise you’re going to get a lot of those questions of Is it almost time to go yet. Are we finished yet. Is it time for this is the time for that the more predictable you can make it the better it will be as an experience for your students because they’ll be able to follow where you are at all times and. Feel secure and comfortable in this environment. So we start every week with oral work and this consists of some kind of vocal expiration and then a song.
So the first vocal exploration we do funny animals ends and we also explore solfa. So there’s a mixture in there. It only takes a couple of minutes at the start of every lesson but it means that students especially the ones who can’t really find their singing voice yet. Not all students at this age can. So this will help them to find their singing voice explore pitch and learn about itself. Along the way just by rote so they’re not actually reading any side singing exercises or anything like that I will come much later down the track. But for now it’s great for them to experience self and sing along with you and learn about the different pitches of the scale after or a warmup. We do a song which is always a folk song inspired by a Kodály approach to folk song singing using the pentatonic scale mostly for most of the year after our aural component. We go to technique now the approach I’ve taken to technique here in many musicians is to only ask students to play the piano with finger 2 for the entire year.
I find that a lot of programs Rush students to use all five fingers and it’s not really developmentally appropriate at this age especially in this context where students are not doing a lot or any practice at home. It’s not that traditional structure weekly lessons and daily practice. It’s an experience that they have every week and want them to feel successful and comfortable doing that. It’s best to just stick to finger 2. They can get to the other ones later. What we do in the technique component though is we explore. Our other fingers and develop dexterity through finger plays and rhymes so we’ll explore different finger plays throughout the program and learn about the finger numbers through those as well as moving the fingers independently. These finger plays also help students to develop a sense of the steady beat as we chant them rhythmically so it’s like a little finger dance and it’s great for developing lots of different important skills that they need to be successful in music and life right. So in that technique permanent we explore away from the piano all of our fingers and then at the piano we only ever do what I call key flux. That’s where we’re falling into the key with regard to so they get the full year to practice using their whole arm to play which is so important for them. Developing great technique down the track after technique component we have rhythm and we explore rhythm in several different ways.
So we do lots of marching to the beat moving including moving with scarves passing beanbag stuff like that to feel the beat and move along with it. The other thing we do in the rhythm component is we do gradually introduced rhythm notation. This isn’t they’re not reading this on staff or anything like that. It’s just independent rhythm notation but they do learn about quartets and quavers or that quarter and eighth notes to those of you in the US and they learn what those look like so that they get that little bit of a head start when it comes to reading notation later on after our rhythm component we have theory and this develops from mostly learning the piano keys. It can take students at this age a long time to actually learn where all the piano keys are and be able to find them quickly and confidently and through exploring this for the whole year through games and through a technique warmups. You’ll have students who know their bass and piano keys backwards and forwards as well as being able to apply the alphabet forwards and backwards as well which helps them with on the staff reading later on. So students in the theory component will learn about the piano keys.
They’ll learn to recognize patterns in the alphabet and we’ll also explore some important concepts like same and different through listening exercises loud and soft high and low and associating those with the piano as well. So where does high live and merges low live. Those are our four core components.
Now we’ll look at the individual choice components that you could choose from as a teacher to either expand or contract your lesson time First Optional component is called improvisation explorations. So each of these optional components will take 10 to 15 minutes of lesson time depending on how fast you move and also how many students you have smaller groups tend to move faster through things. Bigger groups tend to take longer especially if you only have the one piano or even two. So in improvisation explorations what you’ll be doing is using images and patterns to explore different landscapes or scenery. There are four different scenes that we explore in improvisation explorations. Each one takes 10 weeks to make up for the full 40 weeks of the year. So the first scenes we explore are in the forest. Then we journey into the ocean. Then we go to the desert and then we go up into the sky and the cards I have right here are actually my sky cards from the last 10 week portion of the improvisation explorations. So each card has a picture on the front to help the students to recognize what it is assuming they’re not reading it. So this one is the eclipse. And then on the back it has a note to tell you or a parent if they’re participating or helping at home with what to play. And it gives you an example on the staff and a description of exactly what they need to do with each one of these you will explore them away from the piano and discuss what you’re going to do and then take students one or two at a time to the piano to try it out with you with all the other students participating by saying words or miming in the air to practice at the same time so you don’t need multiple pianos to do this.
And in fact even if you have multiple I would only ever really use two of them because if you tried to have a whole keyboard lab full of pre-school students playing at the same time they won’t be playing at the same time. OK so. I actually recommend this approach of grouping around a piano and having a lot of students playing air piano or saying the words or singing along or talking about things and helping each other rather than trying to get everyone to play at the same time. So improvisation explorations is a great component to choose if you want to have this sense of exploration at the piano and help your students to find low sounds high sounds Black Keys white keys eventually specific patterns but in the beginning exploring all of the white keys or all of the Black Keys and specifying different patterns within a comfortable range for this age group.
This is a great way for them to explore with just a a no wrong answer approach to making music as long as they stay within those parameters which are clearly laid out for them. They will sound great and they will have success. The next optional component is the star songs star songs are a pre reading type of music notation. And in this component you do taking students through these star songs and helping them to read short folk songs on a sort of pre reading staff star songs use colors rainbow colors to represent the keys and each one is shown with a one or two line stage so that they can start to absorb the way music is written but the notes are stars and not actual notes so they won’t be confusing the things or wanting to have the letter names those labels or the colors when they go to read on the staff later on.
It’s not something that that will hold them back but it gives them that readiness for reading on the staff when they do want to get there. When you want to take them there. So the star songs use these rainbow colors and we put little tokens on the keys for them to be able to easily find a follow the music and through this they’re learning to read from left to right and learning to associate one symbol with one sound and all of these beginning concepts that do take a while to develop in pre-school lessons and of course they’re singing along and exploring different folk songs at the same time. The last great option I have for you is called Listening and color and this is as you might have guessed a listening portion of the lesson that you would spend exploring two different pieces of music in this first year. So we explore for most of the year the Carnival of the animals and then after that we do Peter and the Wolf. This section comes with these great workbooks that you can use to walk through. So this is the kind of full of the animals one and called Listening in color because there’s lots of coloring. One of the key standout details about a child that I found can tell me how they’re going to be successful when they first start lessons with me is how confident they are picking up a crayon for me and coloring with it. If they look like they’ve done that a billion times before and spend all day coloring they generally have better control of their hand and better understanding of patterns and all of these important things.
So bringing a coloring element into our lessons is a great way to develop those skills and through listening to this music the Carnival of the animals. And then Peter and the wolf we’re exploring things like different music instruments timbre loud and soft sounds and just really really listening properly to music. So these component comes with different suggestions of what you do each week while you’re listening and the workbook helps you to explore that on paper as well. Many musicians is designed to be a low to no practice curriculum. If you are expecting students to practice daily I suggest you go with a more traditional structure partner lessons in group lessons in a sort of keyboard lab setting but if you want to explore music in a way that takes the pressure off parents that is a little bit less traditional. And that gives them this fantastic musical experience each and every week and maybe some small component of at home practice. This is the curriculum for you so you can encourage parents to do some element at home. You might assign some of the listening in color for example at home or the finger plays or if they do all have pianos you can assign star songs and things like that but I really recommend you use this time to let students just experience music explored at home as they want to without building it into a routine just yet.
I’m a big believer in strong practice routines but taking that completely out of the picture for the first year or two of a young child’s development and music can be a fantastic thing and it can be just what particular families need. Some families will do very well with more traditional lessons with daily practice and parents will be so up for that. But not all parents are not all parents are clear on what their different options are. So if you make it clear that this is for them if they can’t imagine being a full time practice Coach which is what they’re going to be if they have their three to five year old in lessons and need to do daily practice they have to have a huge responsibility in that at home even if it’s just a few minutes. It can be pretty overwhelming for them. So this is great for parents as a first introduction to music and it can be a much better fit for a lot of families as I said you can structure the lesson any way you like so it can be 30 minutes it can be 40 it could be forty five it can be an hour I’ve given you enough stuff there to explore for that amount of time every week you don’t have to make it that long either. I have done group lessons with three to five year olds of just 30 minutes a week and we do get a lot done. You just have to adjust your expectations based on the time you have available.
But having a low to no practice approach is really helpful for this because you can just focus on being in the moment enjoying music together exploring and learning along the way. It’s not about achieving these particular milestones or passing off method book songs or anything like that. It’s just about exploring and enjoying together what you’ll need for this curriculum is one piano or keyboard. We do use the piano a fair bit so it’s not something you’re going to want to do without that available but it doesn’t even have to be a proper piano. It could you could easily get by with a keyboard since we’re not exploring in depth technique at this stage. A keyboard would be just fine. You definitely don’t need to. I have to in my studio anyway. We do use them both but you don’t need them. You can definitely use just one. And I’ve structured everything with that in mind. You will also need some scarves just lightweight scarves those if we’re playing and moving in time with the music and dancing together you’ll need some rhythm instruments of some sort. I recommend just getting a pack of these you can get a pack of educational instruments that comes at a really good price and has egg shakers and tambourines and whatever. Just a mixture of things is great to have on hand. If you’re going to do the Star songs component you will also need either desk bells boom whackers or xylophone. It’s up to you which one of those you go forward if you have one already and that comes to mind.
Good that were desk bells in the same colors as the boom workers are great because those were the colors that I used in the Star songs book. You could also use xylophone or glockenspiel and just put little stickers on the keys to match the colors as well. That’s great for the first portion of the star songs. So it’s about weeks 1 to 8. We use those bells a lot and they’re great as a fallback option as well. Later on if your students are having trouble following music at the piano you will also need beanbags or stuffed toys to pass around whatever you have on hand is just fine. And also some form of puppets or toy. So if you don’t have puppets that’s fine. I have low finger puppets actually but you can also do these exercises that need the puppets with just little toys like Steve here. So you just have to those that that’ll be great little stuffed animals you probably have something on hand but you can use there and that’s it. Everything else is printable in your pack. You should have gotten a full download with the many musicians and those folders in there to organize everything for you and everything is ready to print and go and setup as well as your full booklet so make sure you have this because we’re gonna be walking through this week by week in the rest of the videos. That’s it for our setup.
I’m so looking forward to taking this journey with you. Let’s get started.
I really hope you enjoyed that taste of the many musicians program and that it gave you a sense of what my preschool group classes are like and what kind of activities we get up to and what the program is like if you’re interested in checking it out. You can find out more about how I teach preschoolers in groups at an upcoming webinar actually which you can sign up for at vibrant music teaching.
Dot com slash small vibrantmusicteaching.com/small to sign up for the webinar. Hopefully I’ll see some of you there. And in the meantime happy teaching and I’ll chat you soon. Bye for now.
You can get access to the full many musicians program as well as tons of other courses and resources inside the vibrant music teaching membership by going to VMT.ninja to sign up today.
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