An “Undercover Valentine” Piano Lesson Idea

This blog post about a piano lesson valentine idea was written by Carmen Carpenter. Carmen has taught music in a school setting as well as in her home studio for almost 30 years. Teaching combines 2 of her favourite things: music and kids! Besides teaching music, Carmen loves spending time with family playing games, working puzzles and watching movies. She’s also an avid reader and loves taking long walks on her local, woodsy trails.

It can be hard to make Valentine’s Day truly special with all the holidays, seasons, and celebrations out there (Global Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day, anyone? What about International Talk-Like-a-Pirate Day? 🦜)

Have you ever seen Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown? Poor Charlie Brown laments that he never gets a Valentine from an admirer, specifically the ”‘little red-haired girl,” on Valentine’s Day. 

Nowadays teachers and schools from many parts of the world make sure that every student gets a Valentine’s Day card in their classrooms and studios. I am a huge believer in that. No one should feel left out.

Still, I imagine many of us harbour a latent wish for a secret admirer. And if we feel that, certainly some of our students do too.

But even if they don’t, doesn’t everyone like a little surprise sometimes?

Why not make your students’ Valentine’s Day wishes come true with this creative, super-secret, musical card-making activity?

The Undercover Valentine Project

This project is a little like the ‘ol Secret Santa gift exchange.

If you’re not familiar, Secret Santa is basically when a group of folks get together and draw names for whom they will buy a gift for Christmas. They keep the name drawn a secret until the gift exchange.

The Undercover Valentine project is similar. Your students will each draw the name of another student and keep that name under wraps until the card is delivered. That’s the student they’ll create a Valentine card for. 

The card creation will happen during their piano lesson using not only crafting materials but also musical elements – that’s what makes this valentine idea perfect for music studios.

Get ready… Get set…

This project doesn’t take loads of preparation, but it does take a little bit of planning.

Step 1: Delivery Method

The way cards will be delivered impacts how and when your students will create the cards for their Undercover Valentine.

In-Person Delivery

In my studio, we always have a large group piano party around Valentine’s Day. This event makes a great occasion for handing out these Valentines. Because the cards are hand-delivered, I needn’t worry about the costs of posting the cards. Nor do I have to be concerned that the card will get damaged in the mail.

If you don’t have a piano party or similar group lesson, you can hand out the cards yourself at the regular weekly lessons the week of Valentine’s Day. 

Deliver by Post

Kids love to get mail! It is novel for them in this digital age. Plus, if you’re teaching online lessons, it is a must. (See below for more tips for online teachers.)

For mail delivery, I would recommend purchasing pre-folded, blank cards and envelopes in a size that’s standard for where you live, so you don’t have to worry about additional postage costs. (Be sure to order them well in advance so they’re available when you need them.)

When putting this project on your studio calendar, be sure you allow enough time for the cards to be delivered by post. There’s no such thing as a belated Valentine’s Day card😏

Step 2: Set the Date

Now that you’ve decided how the cards will be delivered, put the project on the calendar and in your lesson plans.

Decide how much time you will devote to making the cards. Will you use an entire lesson so your student can craft the card all at once, or would you rather take 5 or 10 minutes of a few lessons? Perhaps you’ll be assigning part of it as homework?

Whatever time frame you decide on for card creation, be sure you have this activity written into your lesson plans with plenty of time to let your students’ imaginations run wild.

Step 3: Announce the Project

Now that you have a plan for pulling off the Undercover Valentine Project, you will need to get your students excited about the scheme. 

Talk about how nice it is to get a card in the mail. Tell them about a nice surprise you’ve received on Valentine’s Day. Discuss how good it feels to work hard making something for another person.

Getting buy-in from your students and hyping up the excitement will make the project a lot more fun and yield better results. 

Step 4: Collect Your Materials

Whether you’re using pre-made cards or homemade cards, gather supplies such as:

  • Papers of various types
  • Scraps of ribbon or lace
  • Glue or tape
  • Scissors
  • Markers, pencils, crayons
  • Some of that stuff you’ve been holding onto because you just knew you’d use it someday🤪

If you want to take your February lessons to the next level, you’ll love this Sweet Melodies composing project! VMT members can download the project from the Vibrant Music Teaching library. Not a member? Simply enter your info below and Nicola will send a copy directly to you. Learn more about becoming a Vibrant Music Teaching member at vibrantmusicteaching.com.

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Here’s where the rubber hits the road, and the project kicks off.

Step 5: The Name Exchange

You’ll want to consider a few things regarding the drawing of names for the project.

  • Do you want to put all the names on slips of paper, put them into a bag and have students draw a slip? 
  • Will you put similarly-aged student names in a bag and only have that age group draw from each others’ names?
  • If you do group lessons, will you mix and match different groups or keep it within one group?

No matter how you decide to draw names, be sure to keep a list of who drew whose name. 

Remind your students to keep the name of the person they drew secret from other students. This is especially true for any siblings you teach together.

(Note: Depending on your studio families, you may want to tell parents the name of the person their child drew, just to keep things transparent.)

If your student doesn’t know the person they are making the card for, help them out by giving a short description of that student. You could even show them a picture or a quick video snippet so they have the person in mind while creating the card.

Step 6: Add a Dash of Valentine’s Day Music

Since this is a music teaching blog, there must be some music and education involved. 😉

What better way than to have them incorporate note names, lyrics or even terms and symbols into the card?

Letter Substitution

Yes, there is plenty of general fodder out there for Valentine’s Day messages: Be Mine… I❤️U… BFF… (You get the idea.)

But in a piano lesson, you can take that valentine message idea a step further.

With 7 letters in the music alphabet, it would be fun to substitute some of the letters in that traditional valentine message with notes on the staff. If your students are younger, they could use pictures of piano keys.

Wendy Stevens of Compose Create has a great example of how that might work in this Musical Valentines freebie.

Lyric Substitution

For those budding songwriters in your studio, what about personalising the card’s message with song lyrics?

Changing the lyrics of a well-known, public domain song is a simple yet creative way to make the card especially special.

Songs like Camptown Races and Mary Had a Little Lamb are relatively easy to work with since they are short and have repeating lyrics. Simply add, “Sung to the tune of…” at the top of the message so the card recipient can sing their unique song.

Older students can write the lyrics in the card themselves, but younger students may need you to write it down for them. Alternatively, you could type and print the lyrics for them and they could glue them into the card.

Picture Substitution

For the visual artists in your studio, allow them to draw and colour on the card by hand but insist they use musical symbols in their scribblings. Show them how to make a heart by drawing two bass clefs mirroring each other. Suggest they make a moustache for a face with a crotchet rest (quarter rest).

The possibilities for using musical symbols artistically are endless.

and they’re off!

Whether your students will be hand-delivering the cards or sending them in the post, manage expectations. 

I suggest you front-load the card delivery time with a couple of simple reminders:

  • Discuss how everyone has varying levels of ability when it comes to arts and crafts projects
  • Remind students that someone worked hard on their card, even if it doesn’t look as good as the ones they might buy in a store
  • Emphasise that the important part is how music was used in some way, and help them focus on that

If cards will be hand-delivered by the card-maker, remind recipients to pleasantly and respectfully say “thank you” – even if they don’t think the card looks very good. Piano lessons are always offering those little opportunities for life lessons, after all! 

Psst…Want to do the Undercover Valentine’s Day Piano Project online?

Have you read this whole article and thought, “But I teach online!”? Don’t worry – we’ve got you! Here are some tips to help you pull off the Undercover Valentine idea in an online piano lesson:

  • Involve parents.
    • Email your piano families ahead of time to explain the project 
    • Get permission to share their child’s address with the person who drew their name
    • Ask parents for help gathering supplies for the card-making
    • Remind them to send the card in time for a Valentine’s Day arrival
  • Use an app like Decide Now for the name drawing.
  • Well in advance of the lesson when they’ll need it, send each student a blank, pre-made card and envelope, already addressed and stamped – ready to post.

What do you think of this piano lesson valentine idea?

We’d love to hear how you will use this fun project to make Valentine’s Day extra special for your students.

For more ideas on Valentine’s Day and other holidays, check out the Occasions section of Nicola’s Music Theory page. New things are added all the time!

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