I first started hearing about "Handy Houses: Memorize the Piano Keys in 5 Minutes" on FaceBook last year, but I hesitated to get it.
It seemed to me that the story would encourage students to "count up" to find certain keys on the piano - and I don't teach keyboard geography that way. I'm pretty adamant about teaching the white keys by looking at the black keys.
Nonetheless, last semester, I had a couple of preschoolers who were really struggling with keyboard geography and since I'm passionate about reading, I thought I'd give this book a shot.
Turns out that I like Handy Houses quite a bit.
How it Works:
Handy Houses is a cute story about 2 houses: a dog house and a people house. The story teaches students what goes on around each house.
Every "character" matches up to a key on the piano. Students learn about the car, then they meet Duke and Ellie. The story continues up to the B key.
The author, Samantha K. Perkins, even includes a keyboard where students can draw the story as a keepsake. You can copy the keyboard in the book or she gives you a link to a printable version.
I think this is really brilliant because it helps students recite the story in their own words, thus making it more memorable.
My Biggest Tip:
Once my students learn the story, we review the "characters" in a DIFFERENT ORDER from how the book teaches the story.
In the picture below, you can see what I'm doing with this student.
See how she's coloring the G and A keys before the F and B? We talk about who lives inside the house before we review what's outside the house.
I think that really helps to avoid "counting up" to find the correct key.
Whenever we review the story - which is weekly in the beginning - I'll quickly run through the story from start to finish to make sure my student remembers everything.
Then I ask questions based on the HOUSES:
Where's the dog house?
Who lives inside the dog house?
Where is the car?
Where is Ellie?
Where is the people house?
Who lives inside the people house?
What is outside the people house?
This completely solves my "fear" of learning the keys by counting up!
The Final Verdict:
Overall, I think Handy Houses delivers on the promise to teach kids the piano keys in about 5 minutes. I definitely plan to use it routinely with my youngest students.
If you haven't tried it, I definitely think it's worth testing out. You can get it on Amazon for 9.99.
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Hi there! I'm Tracy Selle. A Christian wife, mom, and author of 101 Piano Practice Tips. I'm also a piano teacher and founder of Upbeat Piano Teachers.