Let’s be honest, whose piano students normally jump at the chance to sight read? Or clap a rhythm?
Engaged students learn more. Students who want to participate advance further. Our biggest job as piano teachers is to grab our students’ attention and hook them long enough so they will want to learn more and improve and advance.
Rhythm is the basis for all music. Students from beginners to advanced must constantly be working to develop their ability to understand and read rhythms. So, how can we devise a rhythm activity that will engage our students?
You can turn sight-clapping from ‘yawn’ to ‘yay!’ with this fun lesson warm-up activity. It’s free to print, fast to prep and very popular with all levels of piano students.
There’s nothing better in the spring than a good old-fashioned egg hunt. So, I found a way to combine an egg hunt with sight clapping.
Have you ever wondered why it’s so exciting to hunt for eggs? I wondered until my family got hens. Then it all became clear: birds stop laying in the dark months of winter. Not just wild birds, but domestic hens, as well. Today to encourage laying through the winter farmers keep the lights on in their barns (to imitate the longer daylight hours), but that’s only since electricity. For most of human history, people have been unable to eat eggs through the winter. Can you imagine how exciting it would have been when the time was right to start gathering eggs?
That excitement seems ingrained in us. If you want to motivate your students, an egg hunt is the perfect activity. Find out how you can include an egg hunt in your private (or group) lessons to get your students excited about clapping rhythms with accuracy and counting out loud. Keep reading!
Step 1: Ask parents for permission
Send a quick email to parents letting them know your idea for an egg hunt and ask if their child can have chocolate eggs. It’s always best to check.
Step 2: Print the rhythms and shop for eggs
This is so easy to set up! I’ve created two-measure rhythms for sight clapping which can be cut out for the activity. This is a FREE printable resource. All you have to do is press print, and print as many as you need for the size of your studio. It’s extra fun if you can print on brightly-coloured paper.
Next, shop for foil-wrapped eggs. They don’t need to be big or expensive. I bought mine at a bulk food store. The foil wrap makes the eggs pretty and keeps everything clean and sanitary.
Note: When my students pay a registration fee for materials at the beginning of our lesson year, I always collect a little for consumables. I pay for such activities out of that fund and save receipts for tax time.
Step 3: Organize rhythms for your students by level
Cut the rhythms into separate slips of paper. Choose three (3) for each student that coordinate with their individual reading level. You’ll want it to be within their grasp to clap their rhythms and win their eggs. I tried selecting a variety of rhythms (and/or time signatures) to challenge them at their level.
This isn’t the time to introduce a new rhythm. Rather, use this as a chance to assess how much your students have learned.
- Quarter, half, dotted-half and whole notes for your youngest beginners. 2/4, 3/4 and 4/4 time signatures.
- The above plus eighths.
- The above plus the dotted-quarter-eighth combo rhythm. Perhaps 5/4 time signatures, as well.
- The above plus sixteenths and eighths in various combinations. Perhaps the 6/8 compound time signature, as well.
If none of the rhythms on my Printable sheet seem exactly right for your student, create your own and write them on slips of paper by hand.
Step 4: Prepare rhythms and eggs for the hunt
Fold each paper in half and write the student’s name on the top/blank side of the rhythm slips. On the same side, stick on an egg with a bit of tape.
I tried to make mine look pretty, making sure my students got three different coloured eggs, and colours I thought they would like based on what I know about them.
The prep time for this activity is about an hour if you are using my free Printables.
Once you’ve assembled the rhythm slips and eggs, choose a place in your studio where you can store them.
I grouped three eggs per student on a cookie sheet, and kept them behind my laptop and a bouquet of tulips. They weren’t completely hidden because I wanted easy access to them for the rest of my egg hunts. While my students figured out where they were, at least they were out of the way and not a distraction.
Step 5: Pick good hiding spots
Have the eggs in place for your first student before the start of their lesson. I planned to use the same three hiding spots for all of my students, resetting the game for each one.
This approach kept it simple. Rather than hiding all of my eggs at once and students finding eggs that were not intended for them (and using up valuable lesson time), I simply hid only three eggs at a time. To find out how I did this seamlessly lesson after lesson, read step 6.
Step 6: It’s time for the egg hunt!
The moment each student arrives, let them know you’re having an egg hunt in the studio and that there are three chocolate eggs hidden, ready for them to find. All they have to do is clap the egg’s rhythm to keep it.
In my studio, students were completely awe-struck. An egg hunt? Now? “Yes,” I’d reply. “Better start looking!” Big smiles. (Kudos to all the parents for keeping it a secret.)
We played hot and cold (the closer they got to a hidden egg, I’d say warm, hot, hotter, burning hot, etc., and if they moved further away, cold, colder, freezing, etc.). It was so much fun that afterwords my family wondered what had been going on. Even my teenaged boy students were totally sold on the activity.
Resetting for the next student. Each time my student found an egg and began hunting for the next one, I’d inconspicuously pick up an egg from the cookie sheet for my following student and slip it into the newly vacant hiding spot. The student wouldn’t notice what I was doing because they were now looking elsewhere and I was answering ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ for the new place.
Because of this seamless strategy, the eggs would all be in place for my next student even before the current student had clapped all of their rhythms. This meant I wasn’t using valuable lesson time to reset the game, and there was no awkward moment between lessons for me to prepare it anew.
To adapt this activity for group lessons, simply follow the same guidelines, hiding all the eggs at once. Students would keep and clap the rhythms only for the eggs that have their name on them.
Step 7: Sight-clapping the rhythms
Some students may want to clap each rhythm as they find the eggs. Others may want to find them all and then clap.
Either way, my students were eager to clap the rhythms. According to their reading level, each one said rhythm words or counted out loud. For most of my students, I clapped along, slightly out of sight (standing behind them) to make sure they weren’t just copying my gestures but were reading the rhythms and clapping for themselves.
The main goal was to give my students a fun, motivating experience with sight clapping. Every student earned all three eggs. For some, if they needed an extra chance, I’d say, “Let’s give that another try,” and clap it two or three times, to make it a truly educational and successful activity.
Three eggs turned out to be the perfect number. With the hot and cold game my students found the eggs fairly quickly. They all did well to keep the eggs to the side until their lessons were over, waiting to eat them later.
The biggest win was that each student was very keen on clapping their rhythms accurately. With chocolate on the line, they were more motivated than ever to get them right.
So, if you want a fun, motivating, seasonal lesson warm-up, go to my Printable section and print off my FREE rhythm sheet to get started. Put chocolate eggs on your grocery list and you’ll be on your way!
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