Want your students to count aloud? Give them something to count!

One student family that knows we like IPAs just as much as they do, gave me a nice selection of them for Christmas!

Confession: my husband and I are huge fans of craft beer. We prefer varieties of IPAs (India Pale Ale.)

Our patronage to homemade brew has led to an excessive amount of “can carriers” made by Paktech.

Most people’s trash is definitely MY treasure. It pains me to see something that is so plentiful and full of potential go to waste.

My mission: discover ways to use these can carriers as teaching tools.

FYI: the carriers come in 4 and 6 packs. I left some as 6 packs, and I cut some into sets of two and three. They are easy to cut with scissors.

I struck gold not too long ago when, to my delight, the lids of my half & half bottles fit snuggly into the carriers like they were made for each other! I’ve had people saving their lids for me. Start doing the same!

Also, I have saved Juice Plus lids for years and it was a glorious day when I discovered that they fit PERFECTLY into the carriers as well! You’ll see that I’m using purple Juice Plus lids in the pictures and video below.

Another vice of mine: half & half in my coffee. Lids from any size of these bottles are perfect.

As the wheels began turning about this repurposed marriage, I made a trek to my inventory of Avery labels and found that the 1″ labels fit the lids and 1.5″ labels fit the carriers.

Although there were many other things to accomplish over my winter break, they just had to wait as I rushed to my laptop, opened my Avery account (it’s free and easy to set up!) and began typing letters and numbers within the appropriate templates.

To my dismay and after many battles with the printer and page set up, it was clear that although I had the right templates, when I printed them, the letters were not aligning to the stickers. This has worked before with other labels, why not now? NUTS! NUTS! NUTS!

So, what you’ll see in the photos and video below is a combination of labels with printed letters and some with hand-printed letters. I was hoping to share my Avery templates with you but…until I get things working, I won’t bother you with them. I highly suggest getting the labels (see links below) vs writing on the repurposed items. For now, plan to write on the labels with a Sharpie.

Get Avery 1″ Round Labels here.

Get Avery 1.5″ Round Labels here.

What are ways you can use this clever combination of lids and can carriers?

Teach counting with “&s”

Countless teachers seem to get frustrated (from what I see on social media) with their students when they don’t or can’t count aloud.

Fact: the current of beats that we wish students to count are invisible. When students don’t understand why they must count rhythm patterns with those crazy looking “&” signs, I can’t blame them for three reasons.

First, they need to feel beats before they can understand what you want them to count.

Next, there’s not a visual stream of steady beats in their repertoire that they can relate to the length of note values.

Last, the “&s” just make it all the more puzzling.

Another confession, I rarely ask my students to count aloud. I want them to hear and feel the rhythm and play it. Yes, my ultimate goal is for them to understand rhythmic notation. We’ll get there. Once they see the benefit of counting aloud, students happily pull out their counting skills when needed. I start them off the bench with a tennis ball.

Bounce a tennis ball to a groove and let students do the same to experience the fact that when you bounce a ball, there are two parts:


Just like a bounce has two parts, beats have two parts:

ON and OFF

Beats have two parts just like the word MUSIC has two syllables.

Take this connection with the word MUSIC one step further by bouncing the tennis ball and saying

1 sic 2 sic 3 sic 4 sic.

Then show the can carriers cut into pairs and labelled with  1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & and model how to point and count them aloud.

Once students can do this with confidence, drop lids into each carrier and ask them to count aloud and clap only where the lids are placed. This challenges them to count even though they don’t see all the numbers.

Remove a lid and clap and count the rhythm but don’t clap where the lid was removed. Continue until students become comfortable clapping the patterns while counting correctly.

Then create a pattern that appears in their repertoire and ask them to find the measure that uses this rhythm pattern.

Ask them to clap and count that pattern aloud while reading from the music book, not from the carriers and lids. Next, ask them to count aloud and play the measure in the repertoire on the piano.

Watch the video at the end to see how slick this works!

Teach counting in compound time

Generally, follow the same steps as above but use groups of three carriers with labels 123 456. See video for more details.

Teach scale spelling, chord tone names and chord spelling, too.

As students play a chord, ask them to spell it with a 6 pack. Place letters on the top of the lid and accidentals on the flip side. Click on the pics to see how this works. You’ll also see how to use carriers for spelling scales in the video.

And now…watch the video to see real teaching moments in action!

I look forward to hearing how you use can carriers in your studio.

And…if you don’t drink craft beer, find a friend who does!


PS Yes, I do drink and teach responsibly 🙂


If you join us this summer at our 88 Creative Keys workshop, I’ll have some can carriers for you!

A group shot from last year’s workshop. FUN is a high priority!

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Leila Viss

Creative Pianist, Piano Teacher, Organist, Blogger and Author of The iPad Piano Studio

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • IPAs are the best! 🙂 I fell in love with Delerium a couple summers ago. Your workshop also sounds great – I’ll have to attend one of these years (we’re planning on doing VidCon this year and unfortunately the dates overlap!).

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