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Teaching piano and forte is really fun.
I know that may seem like a weird comment, but it is true. I have a lot of fun teaching piano and forte. I think this is because there are just so many different things that you can do with it– and it is so different from teaching rhythm and melody and styles of music.
This post has a few of my favorite activities for teaching piano and forte. It is not nearly everything that can be used for piano and forte, but it is a couple things that my students have enjoyed.
And make sure you read to the bottom, because I saved the best for last.
Also read: Creative Movement with Scarves
Songs with Animals
The first thing that I do with my students is relate piano and forte to animals. I ask them to come up with ideas of what is loud and what is soft. This year, we did a series of lessons based off of mice and bears. This was an easy segway into piano and forte, because we were able to talk about how loud they were. (Are bears loud or soft?)
You could use something else, of course, like lions and bunnies or whatever.
For these lessons, we did Hickory Dickory Dock (FREE on TPT), Mouse Mousie, Brown Bear Brown Bear, What Do You See, annnnnnd…..
No list of piano and forte activities could be complete without Grizzly Bear on it.
Grizzly Bear is a super fun song that has dynamic changes in it, plus there are at least three different games that go with it. You can read all about it in this post.
You can also get a PowerPoint for FREE in my resource library. If you haven’t signed up yet, you can do that here. I only send out one email every other week, and I add new free resources to the library once a month (and sometimes more, because I can’t help myself!). If you have already signed up, then you can click the tab at the top that says “free resource library” and enter in the password that was emailed to you.
Responding to a Drum
Is that really the best title to describe this activity, Becca? I guess so.
This is one of my favorite simple warm ups. Seriously. I use it the first week of school and for piano and forte and for any other day the kids just need to move. I play my djembe (I have this one and LOVE it!) piano, and students tip toe. Then I play forte and they jump or stomp. With the younger kids, I play piano for 4, 8, or 16 beats, then forte for 4 or 8 beats. If your students are doing a good job, then you can also change the tempo on them for an extra challenge.
With older students, I use this to get them thinking about groups of rhythms (often in preparation for the game Extra Beat, Take a Seat). I play the downbeat forte, and then play seven beats piano. After a few times, they can anticipate the downbeat.
Then we make it even more fun– we do statues. I still play the downbeat forte followed by seven piano beats, but when it is forte, the students strike a pose. They hold that statue until the next forte beat, when they switch to the next one.
Closet Key (or Lucy Locket)
Closet Key is a fun game for piano and forte. It is a song (check it out here). After learning the song, students sit in a circle. One person closes their eyes. While their eyes are closed, the “key” (or whatever object you have) gets hidden (I prefer to have it so that it is hidden in the circle, but you could have them hide it in the room.
Then the students sing while the person who had their eyes closed moves around. The students sing louder when they are close to it, and softer when they are far away. It’s like hot and cold with your voice.
I have also heard of people doing the same thing with the game Lucy Locket, so I included that in the heading. I personally do not play my game that way, but you certainly could. Check out how I play here.
Of course we are going to play instruments! I use these rhythm cards for piano and forte. Each one has either a bear or a mouse on them. If it has a bear, then the students play the rhythm forte. If it has a mouse, then they play the rhythm piano.
They also have an introduction to piano and forte. You can get them here.
This can go along with singing or playing instruments.
For the little people: Make a sign with “piano” and “forte” (I use the ones that are included in the Piano and Forte Rhythm Cards set). Have the students sing and hold up the cards. While they are singing, switch the cards so that the students have to change dynamic. You can change them at any time. Then have a student come to the front and change the cards.
For older students: They can conduct. Hand them a baton (or a pencil) and have them conduct while the students sing or play instruments. If you don’t want to teach them the conducting patterns, then you could just have them show the beat (so like in one) and get bigger when students should sing forte and smaller when they should sing piano.
Of course, there are all sorts of listening activities that can go with piano and forte. The piece Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks has a very distinct piano section. And–of course– the Surprise Symphony. I am going to play this for my first graders this week and I cannot wait to see their faces!
Students could hold up a card with a bear on it when the music is forte and a card with a mouse on it when the music is piano. And of course, you could always use scarves. Students can make large movements for forte and small movements for piano. You can read more about creative movement with scarves here.
Stuffed Animal Sort
To go along with our animal songs, I’ll often ask students what animals are forte and which ones are piano. For a quick review (or during centers), we will sort them. I will put piano and forte signs on bins or next to a pile, and students come and place their animal in either the piano or the forte pile. This is also great for centers, because it is pretty easy.
Don’t have stuffed animals? You can get them pretty cheap on Amazon. Check it out here.
The Monkey Game
I really did save the best for last. In The Monkey Game (which is really for crescendos and decrescendos, but I use it for piano and forte as well), one student hides a stuffed monkey. Another student has to find it. Then I have students at the tubanos who play forte when the person is close to the monkey and piano if they are far away.
You can read all about it here.
Well that was a bunch of ideas. I hope that some of them help you out in your teaching of piano and forte. What is your favorite activity for piano and forte? Let us know in the comments!