Most students I've ever taught have found the combination of these concepts challenging:
- forward/backward alphabet
- musical alphabet uses only 7 letters
- left hand/right hand
A few have caught on quickly.
Others have spent months and even years struggling with it.
I often imagine the child is saying to herself:
- I just learned the alphabet - all of it! I worked super hard to learn the song so I can go all the way from A-Z with no stops.
- Wait a minute. You WANT me to stop at G. Every time? But I love that H-I-J-K-L-M-N-O-P part! That's the best part!
- Hold on. Up isn't up? It's to the right? And the alphabet goes ABCDEFG and then starts over?
- Down isn't down? It's to the left? And the alphabet goes backward?
- You've got to be kidding! The alphabet doesn't GO backward.
- OK, so below Middle C I have to remember to go backward, AND restart the alphabet with G. GOING BACKWARD!
- You want me to remember which is my left hand while I'm doing this?
One of the best ways I've found to solidify these concept is also the simplest.
Teacher: Draw 14 short lines on the side of a page of the student's music. Do this part for them - if they don't have a reasonably straight set of lines the chart will be too messy to be useful. Remember to make it big enough for the student's large handwriting. Use capital letters.
- Starting in the middle space, fill in the alphabet, one letter at a time, going up. (A, B, C, D, E, F, G
- Then fill in the letters from A down, writing the letters in reverse order. (A, G, F, E, D, C, B, A.
- Be sure to do more than one octave so the student can see the repeat and restart between G and A.
The chart serves two purposes. First, the exercise itself gives them practice writing letters on top of each other - the way they appear in the music. Second, the chart is there for their own reference. If a child is skipping down a 3rd from G to E, they can use their chart to see the "F" they're skipping over.
You can draw this chart more than once. Do it on every piece for a few weeks if it's helpful. Sometimes it takes doing it a few times before the concepts stick.
It helps the child save face to refer to the chart they made.
Anyone you know who could benefit from a vertical alphabet chart? I'm sure I'll be making quite a few this fall!