Teaching Theory Through Games
I was reminded this morning of how wonderful it is to teach through games!
Group teaching can be so rewarding and so beneficial. I’ve never had much success teaching group piano. I know teachers who do it brilliantly, but for me it slows the whole learning process down. I find it difficult to be spontaneous, as to follow one child’s idea can be irrelevant/boring/confronting to another child. I find rivalry can lead to shutting down of other children who quickly decide they don’t want to compete or it isn’t their thing. Could lead to a whole new article, but suffice to say that I love teaching group theory for all of the above reasons. Throw out all the boring, dry book theory – I’m talking real living theory where children learn through exploring and playing. This morning I used Music Mind Games by Michiko Yurko, but any well-designed resources are fine – or make your own.
Learning through games means children are focused and alert. As they are working with others in participation they are totally focused and alert. They need to know the rules and learn the skills, so they quickly pick it up. Works like magic!
In these enjoyable groups all are spontaneous. We joke and have fun, and because they don’t realise they are learning they do, each child taking out what they are ready for and learning from one another. But the weakly competitive environment means they readily hone up their own skills. Nothing is irrelevant. Children help one another so the rivalry is friendly, not confronting. Concepts start to be understood. There are plenty of ah-ha moments when things they have struggled with suddenly make sense. Signs can be taught through games, so children really feel the meaning eg. p – make self into small ball to f – star jump. Patterns of note groupings can be taught through games; intervals taught on small and giant staves; the recurring pattern EGBDFACE; counting backwards through the musical alphabet; building triads; circle of 5ths… and ear training through dictation and bingo. There is no limit to what can be taught through games. Theory can be taught in this manner from early childhood right through primary school.
I urge all instrumental teachers, certainly piano teachers, who have the responsibility of providing theory and musicianship training to hold regular theory games lessons. Once a month is fine – make it a Saturday special… Once a fortnight is better… But teach it with love, and enthusiasm will soar!