The other night I drove house to house in my community leaving little surprise packages on doorsteps. I was wearing my bright red coat and snow lay in a white blanket on the ground. I felt just like a merry soul up to elf business, but the season for that wasn’t quite right.
So what was up? Well, here’s the back story:
A few weeks ago a piano teacher said on an online group that she was delivering little care packages to her students. She explained that the packages contained little things they could use during their online lessons — little supplies that would normally be within reach in regular in-studio lessons. I loved the idea!
I can’t remember her name, but this teacher inspired me to do the same! In case you missed her comment on the forum, I’ve prepared this blog post to show how you can create a student care package.
On a personal note, I spent my spare time over several days puttering on this project. With so many unanswered questions about the state of the world, I found it therapeutic and peaceful to work on a quiet project that could bring my students a measure of joy. But you may feel you don’t have the energy, and that’s okay! Online lessons can be exhausting. It’s enough to simply get used to a new way of teaching without putting undue pressure on yourself to do more. Only do what you can!
If you want your students to have fun and useful things at their pianos during your online lessons, think about adding some of these things:
You don’t even need to buy new stickers. Just use the sheets and booklets of stickers you have already, and cut out a variety for each student.
In my students’ packages I tucked in several sizes of stickers:
- medium-sized stickers for when they play or finish a piece
- small animal and emoji stickers for when they complete technical work (I use Joy Morin’s printable technique sheets)
- small happy face and star stickers for reaching their five weekly goals (found on our lesson sheets, which you can print)
I won’t mislead you…it took a chunk of time for me to cut out the stickers, but I enjoyed doing it.
2. Sticky notes
In your baggies you could also add colourful sticky notes. I added probably 10-12 per student, plus some music-themed ones just for fun. We typically use and re-use stickies while they can still stick, so I felt that was enough.
These help children find their book pages and can even help mark off a section of music to read or practice when placed directly on the staff like book ends.
3. Ditto Drops
Ditto drops are little glass beads that help keep track of repeats while practicing. They make repeating feel like a game. If you don’t have glass beads, you could use anything tiny — pennies, Kinder Surprise toys, little Japanese erasers. Anything! I blogged about the glass drops and how to use them in ‘Ditto Drops’ glass melts keep piano practice repeats focused and fun [Printables]. There’s a FREE printable to go with them!
I already had the drops and the little drawstring bags, and simply put them together. I gave each student more than I normally would because I thought they might want to choose different drops each time they practiced with them. The novelty might make it fun!
You’ll notice a theme to this blog post: I simply included what I already had on hand. Since I’m voluntarily staying at home these days, shopping isn’t an option.
4. Red maps pin markers
You may want to include a couple of these handy little red maps markers. They look like the pins that mark a location when you search for an address on a map app. In music, they can be taped on the music as a reminder for a student to work on a detail, and then removed when the goal is reached, leaving no mark behind.
For my students, I cut out enough for each child to have two markers. Each week or two they can be put in a new spot! I blogged about them in Red ‘maps’ pin involves piano students in feedback process [Printables]. And you can print them for FREE!
5. Extra books from your library
For some students, I added YOYO books (You’re on Your Own)* or supplemental books I thought they’d enjoy, on loan from my library. One family requested duets they could play together.
*A note on You’re on Your Own books: these are a few levels easier than the music the student is currently learning, a level of music they can teach to themselves. I used to call this music “Quick Studies” but YOYO is more fun!
It was still safe to do this in my location and I was following my government’s directions. I took precautions like wearing gloves as I put the packets together. You may or may not be able to do this for safety reasons, or may opt to mail your packets with instructions for your students to leave them unopened for three days. Another option is to email virtual stickers and worksheets!
6. A next level
If you have a student who is on the cusp of a new level of books or technique, include what they’ll need next. Not only for method books, but for technique sheets like the ones on Joy Morin’s Printables page.
I also included upcoming flash cards for some students. I took time to assess what kinds of materials they’d need in the upcoming weeks (and maybe months, depending on how long we have our lessons online).
7. Special incentives
You might have something ongoing in your studio that you’ll want to include.
For the students in my studio who do the weekly challenge with stickers and small candies, I included both. I asked parents ahead of time, and they gave the go-ahead for me to include them. I blogged about this in Fun and effective weekly piano lesson challenge [Printables].
8. Art and worksheets, new and returns
You might include work your students have already handed in.
I still had “Because of Piano I get to…” art and Valentine Secret Picture Music Tiles. Because I’m unsure whether I’ll see my students again this lesson year, I wanted to be sure to return their work to them. I blogged about gratitude in ‘Because of piano I get to…’ activity shines light on gratitude [Printables].
If you want to include new worksheets, I recommend:
- Jennifer Foxx’s Music Educators Resources shop page. She has some fun new spring-themed worksheets!
- Start Piano Studio’s shop. Right now they’re featuring several fun ones for spring and Easter.
9. Pencils and erasers
Sometimes piano teachers have extra pencils and cute erasers on hand for students. If you’re lucky enough to have them on hand now, tuck some in. This might give your students some extra joy!
10. “Special Delivery” letter
To explain the special delivery, you may want to print a letter to your students. In my Printables I’ve included a version you can edit and personalize for your studio. Feel free to add or take away from the items on mine to suit your needs.
I tucked everything into medium-sized freezer bags. I would have liked a prettier presentation, but because shopping wasn’t an option, I opted to keep it simple with bags I already had. You might have gift bags on hand or something fancier.
Contact-free delivery: Prior to delivering, you’ll want to make sure you have your students’ civic addresses and numbers to text. Write each student’s information on a sticky note and stick it on their package. This allows you to search for addresses on your maps app on your phone as you drive house to house and then text following the delivery. You don’t need to have contact with the families. Simply leave the packages at their doors. (I got to wave to a few through windows and I almost laughed with a hearty, “Ho-ho-ho!”) Sometimes, like the song says, we just need a little Christmas now.
After the packages were delivered, it certainly enhanced our lessons for students (and for some, their parent helpers) to have stickers, sticky notes and other things nearby!
One of the things that’s pulled me through the transition from Private-Piano-Teacher to Online-Teacher over the past several weeks has been the support of so many individuals who have taken the time to share ideas online. I’d like to say a thank-you to the teacher who shared this idea! I had fun doing this and my students have loved receiving their packages! ❤
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I appreciate shares, comments and likes. Happy teaching!
Video of the week
Rock this Town (Elementary, Prep B), a piano solo with a fun beach-rock sound and chromatic passages! From the newly released 2020 print and eBook Rock this Town, 11 Elementary piano works, solos and duets. Or, check out the studio-licensed eSheet for Rock this Town!