“How do you know so many things!?”

One of the very best parts about teaching young children is their youthful curiosity and wonder, with concepts and topics that are all but innate to me at this point.

With my Music Theory Level 1 class this weekend, I was reviewing whole tones, semitones, flats, sharps, naturals, and going around the room asking students to give us the answers for the workbook problems.

When it comes to flats and sharps, one of the most challenging things to remember is that B# is NOT the same as Cb, just as E# is NOT the same as Fb. Since E & F, and B & C are the only pairs of white keys without a black key between them, E# = F, Fb = E, B# = C, and Cb = B. I went over this concept again with my students, and we continued with our workbook pages.

There came a part in the book where instead of labeling notes on the staff, the questions were in word-problem format. Below each question were three choices: note names in fancy boxes that resembled ribbons.

“Which note is one semitone below E? Circle all that apply.” One of my students—a very sharp one at that (no pun intended)—raised her hand and offered hesitantly, “Eb?” I replied “Yes. Is that it…?” She stared at the board, eyes slightly squinted, brow slightly furrowed. “Oh, D#!”

“Yes, excellent!” I cheered, “Does anyone remember what we call notes that have the same pitch but different names? It starts with an e…”

No one raised their hand, and I could sense their little brains rewinding, digging through their memories, searching for this mysterious vocabulary term.

“Does… Enharmonic sound familiar?” I wrote the word on the board.

The same sharp student as before gave me an incredulous look, and gasped, “How do you know so many things!?

I laughed and said, “I’ve been studying these things for years! You’ll know them and be able to remember them, too!”

Side notes:

  • I’ve decided to create a new category, “Ms. Russell“, in which to put my teaching anecdotes. Never before in my life have I ever been referred to as Ms. Russell, and probably not anywhere else in my life will I be called Ms. Russell. But I feel that I have really embraced the role that the title gives me, and I even feel that I become a different person, or at least show a very different side of myself, while teaching 🙂
  • I also will be putting one of my students’ quotes as the title for each teaching anecdote, to make it easier to tell instantly that it’s a teaching-related story 🙂 As often as I can, I will try to incorporate the things I talk about with my students relating to video games, though it’s not a guarantee.

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3 thoughts on ““How do you know so many things!?”

  1. Cute. I remember when I wanted to know things. And now that I know things, I’m wondering how I don’t know anything.

    Sounds like you have enthusiastic students. That’s hard stuff to teach! I’m glad they’re picking it up!


    • Hahaha yeah, if there’s anything I learned from studying music in college, it’s that I still have a lifetime of more musical things to learn X’D

      Yes, there’s a lot of color-coding, tons of repetition, and bursts of “Does that make sense…? Come on everyone, let’s go to the piano! Watch me play things! Do you get it now…!?”


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