Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Teaching With Colored Erasers

Let's face it. Lessons are more understood and are more interesting with color and interactive materials. It's much easier to remember purple-purple-green than W-W-H.

To teach or review half steps, whole steps, tetra-chords and the formula of a major scale, I had my students pick 5 erasers in one color and 2 erasers in a contrasting color (and I used a special flat eraser for the extra whole step in the middle) to help them visualize what is going on in the major scale, stepwise.

Buy a pack of colored erasers in an assortment of colors. Kids love being able to choose their favorite colors. Mine were actually leftover from college several years back and I bet there are neon colors out there now that are even "cooler" looking to adolescents. This little inexpensive pack will help your students learn (and remember) 4 important music theory concepts: whole steps, half steps, tetra-chords and the formula of major scales!

Whole Step/Half Step Lesson: Have the student pick out two erasers in two separate colors.
Assign one as "whole step" and the other "half step." Have a special item (like a penny) on the starting key (ex: C) and use one of the colors to land on the whole or half step up/down. If it was a half step up from C, put the (green) eraser on the C# black key. If a whole step, put the (purple) eraser on D.

Tetra-chord Lesson: Have them choose 2 erasers in one color (whole steps) and 1 eraser (half step) in a contrasting color. Starting on C (because it's easiest), put the erasers in the crack of the keys to show them that C-D is a whole step, D-E is a whole step and E-F is a half step.

One Tetrachord: W-W-H steps.

Major Scale Formula Lesson: This is similar to the "tetra-chord lesson." Start with C major, because they all fall in the cracks of the white keys, to demonstrate the W-W-H-W-W-W-H formula using the erasers. The special orange eraser is there to help the student see that it is not part of the tetra-chords surrounding it.

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