Are you looking for fun ways to teach music history to piano students? Trying to integrate music history into games or activities so that your students get a rich well-rounded music education? I’ve got you covered.
There are so many different aspects of music that we need to teach. Music history tends to be one that falls by the wayside when we run out of time in lessons. (Which let’s face it, we always do!)
I have 9 great ways to bring music history into your piano lessons to share with you here, whether you want to do it in little sprinklings or fully immerse your students.
Let’s dive in.
These are the ones that are easiest to bring into your lessons. They only take a few minutes but (if you do them regularly) they can make a massive difference in how much your students learn over the course of a year.
1. Look up 1 fact
Make a habit of assigning your students a task of looking up 1 music history fact during the week.
This works especially well with older students who can look it up themselves, but can also be done by younger students with a parent’s help.
Always give a specific assignment related to what they’re working on. For example:
- Look up 1 fact about the baroque period
- Find out 1 fact about Debussy
- Tell me 1 thing about the harpsichord next week
Now here’s the most important part: Make sure you check on it next week!
This means nothing if you don’t follow-up.
Asking for a password to get into your room is a fun way to teach music history to piano students.
You could put a question on the door such as “What year was Beethoven born?” or “What came before the Classical period?” and ask your students to answer it before they enter. Just make sure to tell them in advance so they can come prepared.
3. A Piece of Piece Context
This is my favourite type of micro-assignment because this is the only way I enjoy learning about history: by putting it in context.
Learning a little detail like the fact that all men wore wigs when their piece was written, or how much they would have gotten at the time from their publisher can really make things stick for a student.
It’s the small things that make history come alive in my opinion.
Maybe the way to teach music history to piano students in your studio is not regular small assignments but actually a focused effort at certain times of the year.
This can be a relief for some teachers because they don’t have to think about covering music history week-to-week. They can relax knowing it’ll be covered in March (or whenever).
4. Composer of the Month
Perhaps you could try having a composer of the month in your piano studio.
Set up a calendar and pick a different composer for each month that you teach. This way you can teach a little bit about 9-12 composers over the course of a year.
Here are some of the ways this might be implemented:
- A display board with the composer and a few key facts about them. Make sure to prepare all of the sets at the start of the year if you’re doing this so all you have to do is switch them out. Otherwise, it’s too easy to let them go stale.
- Every student learns 1 piece by that composer during the month. These could be quick studies way below the student’s level so that it doesn’t distract from other repertoire goals.
- Plan micro-assignments (see above) around the composer of the month.
There are numerous ways to work this. If you think this is the way to go for you, find what fits your piano studio and stick to it.
5. Music History Camps
If you just know that you’re not going to find the time to teach music history to piano students in your weekly lessons, maybe the best way in your studio is to focus on it in a dedicated camp.
These composer lapbooks from Color in My Piano could be a great starting point if you’re planning a music history camp. If you’re a Vibrant Music Teaching member you could also include composer themed games from the library.
6. Music History Workshops
Putting on a music history workshops is another super way to take the pressure off during regular lessons.
I do 4 group workshops a year as part of my studio calendar and I’ve done composer themed ones in the past with great success. You can see more about what we did at the “Debussy Do” piano party here.
7. Themed Recital
Why not shed a spotlight on a particular composer or period of music history with a themed recital?
You can read about one teacher’s experience with putting on a Baroque recital on the 88 Piano Keys blog here. I think this could be an awesome way to really go in-depth with one composer or period and give your students an experience they won’t forget in a hurry.
Music History Games
Of course, my own favourite way to teach music history to piano students is using games!
When you use games to explore topics instead of giving some dry explanation or lecture (which students will be partially sleeping through anyway) you allow them to engage with the topic in a much more kid-friendly way.
8. Moments with Mozart
A recent release in the Vibrant Music Teaching library is called ‘Moments with Mozart’. (VMT members: click here to view this game and download.)
In this game, students work their way along the timeline of Mozart’s life by answering questions about him. All questions are multiple choice so they can still guess even if they’ve no idea, and one student acts as the questioner to the other, so everyone has to pay attention as they work through the game.
9. Composer Clash
I created this epic game in May. In it students battle with each other using the composers’ skill points and they learn about a broad range of composers and musical periods as they try to vanquish their opponent. (VMT members: click here to access this game.)
Watch the Video Workshop
I recorded a workshop on this same topic as part of my 7 Days for 7 Ways to Gamify series to celebrate Vibrant Music Teaching’s first birthday.
The rest of these workshops are now available to Vibrant Music Teaching members here.
Not a member yet? Find out more and sign up here.