Davis and I love doing creative projects for our students. (You’ve probably figured that out by now.) And when we work together, we’re able to do larger-scale projects than we could complete on our own.
A few summers ago, we set aside a few weeks in the summer for our most ambitious project yet: the Piano House Challenge. This was inspired by the popularity of Harry Potter houses. (For those of you not familiar with this, students in the Harry Potter books are divided into four groups based on personality characteristics. This gives them like-minded peers to study with.)
We divided our houses into the four main historical periods of keyboard literature: Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Contemporary. We spent some serious time in Starbucks debating which were the most important characteristics of each and which composer should be the house mentor. Once we settled that, we created crests for each house and customized handouts.
Before the fall semester started, we sent a sorting quiz for our students to take. This quiz showed them artwork from each period and asked them to choose their favorites. If they chose mostly Baroque art, they were sorted into the Baroque house. If their answers were divided amongst the periods, we placed them in whichever house needed more team members.
Davis and I tracked points for our students throughout the semester. We each did things slightly differently, as we have different teaching styles. I created a point tracker to give students credit for a variety of activities, while Davis used a basic system of one point for theory and one point for every two pages of music learned/passed.
One of our goals with this activity was to create community and connection in the studio. Piano study can be isolating, and being on a team gave students a sense of pride and competition throughout the semester. We printed a large poster with a sticker chart so students could track how their team was performing each week.
The surprise favorite activity for my students was the Composer Biography worksheet. Students received points for listening to music by composers from their house and filling in biographical information. If they got bored listening to music from the same period, I let them “steal” a composer from another house.
If this sounds like something you’d like to try with your students, you’re in luck! Davis and I have decided to give away all the resources we created for the Piano House Challenge for FREE. This includes practice charts, point trackers, printable posters, composer biography charts, and notebook covers. We designed these to be flexible since we have different teaching styles, so there are endless ways you could incorporate the Piano House Challenge into your studio. Have fun!