This blog post about how to teach music form effectively and efficiently was written by Carmen Carpenter. Carmen has taught music in a school setting as well as in her home studio for over 30 years. Teaching combines two of her favourite things: music and kids! Besides teaching music, Carmen loves spending time with family playing games, working puzzles and watching movies. She is also an avid reader and loves taking long walks on her local, woodsy trails.
For most of us, it’s quick and easy to simply point out the form of a student’s piece and assume they understand the information we’re sharing. We hope that, eventually, they’ll just automatically be able to spot the structure in their music.
But does that really work? Do they actually start to recognise form on their own, through osmosis?
Frankly, that has not been my experience.
When I use dry explanations to teach form to music students, it usually just goes in one ear and out the other.
Getting students fully engaged with their music, however, helps them see the puzzle pieces in a whole new way.
Instead of relying on the old “sit and get” method for our students, let’s facilitate learning the anatomy of music through movement, discovery, creativity, colour and games.
Approach 1: Movement
While piano and instrument learning is a kinesthetic experience, it’s also fairly cerebral and tends to focus on aural and/or visual learners.
Form lends itself to active learning. With movement activities, we can occupy our ants-in-the-pants students while also engaging our calmer ones.
Adding movement to a piece can be as simple as clapping the beat during the A section and patsching (tapping your lap) during the B section. Or it can be more elaborate by adding complex choreography or even props.
When I taught elementary (primary) school music, one of my favourite ways to teach form was with a parachute.
Now, of course using a parachute in a 1-on-1 lesson, or even a buddy lesson, would be a challenge. But you could certainly use one in a group lesson setting.
Even better, teach a group lesson or piano party about music form and use a parachute then.
Use the parachute to emphasise the various sections of a piece by doing simple actions. For example, have students make side-to-side, swishy motions for the A part and slow, up-down movements for B. If there’s a C section, students could hold the parachute in one hand and walk in a circle. You could even get really fancy and switch directions halfway through the section.
If you do a parachute activity, you’ll definitely make a memory that you can point to later when discussing form in your regular lessons.
Scarves are another great prop to have on hand when teaching form. For example, have your student wave high when they hear the A section and wave down low when they hear the B section.
Better still, let your student create their own movements for the different sections. (You can just watch them go with it, if you want to, but I’m the kind who likes to join the fun 🥳
🙂 😛 ➡ 😍🤗 😎
Approach 2: Discovery 🥳
When students are allowed to uncover information for themselves, their learning sticks so much better. Try some of these ideas to give your students that “aha” feeling about learning form.