Saturday, October 29, 2011

MyTeachingAide Giveaway

I have been keeping busy but very excited that I'm finally ready to post about my new adventure with MyTeachingAide. Many of you may know about my profound interest in designing and crafts particularly anything to do with  paper! Beautiful cards and artwork excite me and for many years, I've toyed with the idea of creating my own teaching aids and studio materials. My combined interest in music and designing has provided a unique opportunity to work on special projects and today, I'm thankful that I've been able to realize this dream of establishing my very own website! I am SO excited to be able to embark on creative projects, teach AND share my love for music all at the same time. It's been a very interesting journey planning and designing teaching aids and then coming up with the end product while learning new tricks at my computer :)

And NOW....on to something that I hope you find exciting, I'm extremely delighted to announce MyTeachingAide's first giveaway to celebrate the launch of the new web store .
This rhythm spinner features 2 rhythm templates on the board with a detachable plastic arrow. It also comes with 2 sheets of rhythm cards for a variety of activities with your students.
Use this for composing activities, rhythm exercises, counting beats and a memory game, see ideas here

Here are details to enter the draw:
  1. Leave a comment about a favourite teaching aid in your studio
  2. Follow MyTeachingAide on Facebook to receive another entry to the draw. If you like the materials from MyTeachingAide, I would be so thrilled to receive your support by clicking the "like" button below:.
    I'll be posting updates on new products as well as promotions and specials on Facebook as they become available.  
  3. For an extra entry, mention this post on Facebook or your blog (if you have one) and be sure to add a comment to let me know about it.
To celebrate the launch of, I am glad to provide a special discount of 10% off all items from the store. Just enter the coupon code "GRAND" at check out to receive 10% off your entire order (offer valid till Wednesday Nov 9th)

I look forward to adding lots of fun ideas and inventing new materials for the music studio. I'm tremendously motivated by tools that engage and inspire students that also serve to teach and deliver each concept well. There will also be a special section on the website for free resources that I'd love to continue sharing in an endeavour to carry on the friendly support within the piano teacher blogging community. Hope you like my creations :)

The deadline for the draw is Tuesday, 8th November and I'll be announcing the name of the winner on Wednesday morning (9th November) at 10am PST. Good luck everyone and look forward to hearing from you!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Major Minor Faces

I've been having so much fun capturing videos and just want to share this short Major Minor Faces video clip from one of my classes. I'm so looking forward to creating short instructional videos by these students themselves. I'm sure they would be much more excited watching themselves in the videos instead of plain ole Ms Wendy. For me, it's so fulfilling to switch places and watch these young musicians take their role as teachers and demonstrating their understanding of concepts learned.

Hope you enjoy this short video :)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Guest Post on "The Neuroscience of Practicing"

If you have seen my recent post about the MYC West conference that I attended in Princeton, you may have noted that I had the wonderful opportunity of learning something about the "Musical Brain" through a presentation by Tara Gaertner, a fabulous MYC teacher in Vancouver whom I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know. I'm so excited about this post today which was inspired by one reader's request to share more about the "Musical Brain" (Thank you BusyB!). I decided to check in with the source and so thrilled that Tara has graciously agreed to provide a guest post that summarizes her points on the topic "The Neuroscience of practicing" she discussed at the conference.

Here's a little bit about Tara. Tara leads a double life. As "Dr. Tara", she is an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia (UBC), teaching Neuroanatomy in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. She holds a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Texas in Houston. As "Ms. Tara" she is a piano teacher to young children, offering Music for Young Children classes to young beginners and private lessons in her studio. She has two school aged children of her own.

Without further ado, I am pleased to introduce Tara as the guest contributor for today's post on the topic "The Neuroscience of Practicing" featured below. I'm sure you will all find this an interesting read with her points validating the optimum conditions for effective practicing that we all know and discussing how memory is formed and retained in the brain.

By Dr. Tara Gaertner

I recently gave a talk at the MYC West Fall Conference, in Princeton BC.  The topic was “The Neuroscience of Practicing”.  Here’s a summary of what I wanted to convey to people:

1.         There are two main types of memory systems:  explicit memory, for facts and events, and implicit (motor) memory, for skills and habits.  We use a lot of implicit memory in playing the piano.  We don’t have to think about every single note every time we play it.  However, we should not let the performance of a piece get too automatic.  We can do this by forming explicit memories of the piece alongside the implicit memories. 

2.         Automatic processes play a part in performing, but practicing should always be conscious and deliberate.  The reason for this is that attention is required in order to learn anything.  Studies have shown that if our attention is distracted while trying to learn a motor task, we learn much more slowly, if at all.  This definitely applies to learning the piano.  If your mind is not on your practicing, you are almost wasting your time.

3.         A number of recent studies have shown the role of sleep in memory consolidation, both for explicit and implicit memories.  Consolidation is an important stage of memory formation, in which recently formed memory traces are strengthened, made resistant to interference, and transferred to widespread areas of the cerebral cortex.  Studies have shown that memory consolidation is disrupted by sleep deprivation.  Getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis is probably the best thing you can do to improve your ability to learn.

4.         It is well-known that people learn better if learning sessions are distributed across time, compared to learning in one big massed session.  This is called the Spacing Effect.  For instance, it’s better to practice once a day rather than one big practice session once a week.  But what is the optimal spacing of our practice sessions?  It seems to me that the optimal length and spacing of practice sessions will be determined by the material that needs to be practiced.  A beginner student might benefit by practicing her short pieces in one-minute sessions, while an advanced student needs to spend more time at each practice session in order to really “get into” the practice and make some improvements.

5.         Did you know that random organization of practice material leads to better learning, even though performance during the practice session is worse?  Researchers believe that this is because mixing up the material during learning makes the learning harder, and so we have to use alternate strategies.  This idea leads to some interesting conclusions about how we might structure our piano practice sessions.  For maximal learning, we should mix up our practice material.  The downside is that it might not be as satisfying to practice this way, because our performance during the practice session would be worse. 

There is still much research to be done to understand the best way to retain what we practice, but these keys points are a good start for maximizing our practice time!

My sincere thanks to Tara for a wonderful insight to the "Musical Brain". I'm delighted to introduce Tara's new blog "Training The Musical Brain" that is dedicated to sharing a neuroscience perspective on teaching and learning music. Tara has written her first blog post that delves deeper into the first point about explicit and implicit memory and will be writing a series of posts that expands further on each of the points above. I think there is so much we can all learn from Tara's knowledge and expertise in this subject. Hop on over to say hello and be sure to follow her blog..

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Halloween Composing Game

I've been enjoying some of the Halloween resources from a few wonderful blogs and thought I'd join in the fun to create a game for Halloween. As I was thinking about a concept for the game, I thought it would be fun for students to improvise and compose with some fun rhythms and Halloween verses. So here's a little game I am experimenting with and look forward to playing in a few of my classes.
  1. To begin, students place their markers on"Start"
  2. Use a regular or rhythm dice and follow the black dots to move along the notes. When students land on a note, they pick a card and improvise a melody beginning with the note they land on, creating a tune using only notes from the C minor pentascale and in the rhythm printed on the card. It would be interesting for students to also notate their little composition on a staff board as they advance through the game ...and even come up with funny lyrics!! :)
  3. Game continues until a student wins when he/she is first to reach "Fine"
I've created 8 game cards and included a blank template for additional rhythms and different time signatures to customize and add to the game. Feel free to print this Halloween resource for your studio use.
For iPad users, I've also created 2 backgrounds in a Halloween theme (blank and another with staff lines) for a variety of activities and concepts you may be presenting this spooky season, enjoy!
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