How to introduce the grand staff BEFORE you introduce the grand staff

Confused? Don’t worry, I’m not this isn’t some kind of quirky “meta” blog post. I’m talking about how to introduce the grand staff in a way that is fun, engaging and sets students up for speedy music success down the road.

Saying hello to the grand staff

You might be using a method book that starts staff reading from day 1, such as one of my favourites, Piano Pronto. I love this for older beginners but I take on a lot of very young piano students, and for them I prefer to save the staff for later.

I’ve been getting more and more into Piano Safari for these young kiddos. In the Piano Safari teaching resources, they talk about staff day.

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Staff Day

Piano Safari starts with a pre-reading unit, using finger numbers and directional reading. Then in Unit 2 the staff is introduced, and Julie & Katherine call this “staff day”. They hype it up, and the kids get excited for the big day when they get to start reading on the staff.

I love any opportunity to celebrate little wins with my students, so I have completely embraced this staff day idea. But I have also started to preempt staff day a little so that we can have even more fun when that day comes.

To do this, I use mixture of games and movement activities in the weeks before I introduce the grand staff formally. This way, when staff day rolls around my students are not only prepared – we have tons of fun stuff to review to celebrate. 🙂

The Floor Staff

Musical floor staff

This was one of the best time investments I ever put in. If you can either buy or make one I highly recommend you do it. It comes in so handy!

In the first few lessons:

  • We play stepping and skipping games, moving stuffed animals up and down the floor staff.
  • Practice naming the clefs, counting the lines and other observation.
  • Place foam circles (like these ones) in certain spots (e.g. “Put this red circle in space 2 in the bass clef.”).
  • Match landmark note flashcards to their place on the giant staff.

Doing these activities on the big floor grand staff means that my students become familiar with how it works – without having to also coordinate fine motor skills at the same time. That’s just too much for little fingers to handle.

For more ideas on floor staff activities try:

Step and Skip Games

step and skip musical dice

Besides the grand staff structure, and the landmark notes, I also want my students to understand steps vs skips.

This might seem like a concept that’s too obvious to even worry about. But you’d be surprised how many young students get tripped up by this little detail. And it will trip everything else up if they don’t get steps and skips.

My favourite step or skip games & worksheets:

Review and revise these as you move from off-staff to on-staff. If your students know landmark notes and steps vs skips – they can find their way to anywhere on the staff.

Landmark Notes

Landmark notes foam circles on grand floor staff

My recent Thinking Theory video comes in handy for this one. Ask the parents to play this for your students at home and then practice using the landmark notes in the lesson.

Landmark note games to play:

If you’re looking for a progressive theory plan that uses a landmark note approach, take a look at Thinking Theory here.

How do you introduce the grand staff?

Do you celebrate staff day? What are your favourite staff games and activities?

Tell me all about it in the comments below, or in the Vibrant Music Studio Teachers group on Facebook.

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