The Pick Punch – Make Your Own Guitar Picks
I’m always looking for fun and exciting ways to get parents into the music room during parent teacher conferences. I want to bring them in with something fun and engaging that will get them excited about music. One of the greatest successes I ever had was when I created an “Instrument Petting Zoo.” Parents and students followed a little map around the room and were able to “pet” all the instruments and listen to their sounds. My kiddos had so much fun with the petting zoo and I had more parents in the room than ever before. It proved to be a great way to actually meet with parents, explain the curriculum, and get everyone excited about a year of music making! Read more about the petting zoo at this blog post.
I wanted something new and interactive this year to bring kids and their parents to the music room. At the same time I was trying to figure out how and where to order guitar picks for my guitar classes. I teach beginning guitar to two sections of middle school twice a week. We’ve spent the last few months learning a LOT of chords and songs and for the most part have been strumming with our thumbs. We have classical guitars with nylon strings and those generally aren’t supposed to be used with guitar picks BUT I wanted students to at least have a little experience with picks. The trouble is that we don’t have any picks at school and they can be expensive if you’re buying enough for a class. I know that middle schoolers could easily lose or take the guitar picks and I didn’t want to be constantly ordering guitar picks for replacements. What was I to do!?
Make Your Own Guitar Picks for FREE!
What Material Can You Safely Punch?
You can absolutely get cool and colorful plastic to punch for a very reasonable price on the internet. Just do a quick search on Google and you’ll find lots of great colorful options of plastic sheets to punch out. I searched through Amazon and bought a couple packs. These resources are made to be punched out and so they’re a great durability and the right size. You have to be careful with what you choose on line. Look for materials like Delrin, Lexan and Ultem. Some other things you might find could look really cool but might be too brittle or conversely too hard. You want something that’s the right strength and thin enough to fit into your punch. At the end of this blog post I’ve got some examples of the colorful plastic that I purchased and some links to other things you might consider.
If you want to get gift cards and other materials to use for free? Try out this easy trick! On December 27th I emailed out to my whole school and told them about my guitar pick punch and how they could help. I said that I was making guitar picks for my class and mentioned that if they had any gift cards left over from Christmas that I would take the used cards (with no credit left on them) to punch out for class. I have had dozens of gift cards come in over the last few weeks and don’t think that I’ll ever run out of things to punch! One teacher works part time for a restaurant and has been collecting all the used gift cards from other servers so that I have a near endless supply of used gift cards to use.
If I ever run low I think that I could put out a request for old gift cards/credit cards in our school’s weekly newsletter. With over 750 kids, I can imagine that there are quite a few parents who would be willing to empty out their wallet and get rid of old gift cards or those unused “frequent shopper” cards. The possibilities for free things to punch are endless.
Ideas for Conference Day or Open House
All this punching of picks gave me the idea that I could easily use this fun new tool to bring people into the music room on parent teacher conference day. My plan is to offer to punch out picks for FREE to anyone who comes down to the music room. I’ve collected quite a few gift cards from other staff members that I could punch out. I also spent a little money and bought some fancy colorful plastic that can be punched specifically for picks.
My plan is that if parents bring in their own old gift cards/credit cards/ID cards or if they want to use my gift cards that I’ll punch those for free. If students want to pick out the colorful plastic and punch out a pick of their own I can charge 25 cents a pick and easily make back the money that I spent on purchased plastic. Perhaps you have a music budget or a PTA that would be willing to buy the colorful plastic sheets for you to punch. In that case you wouldn’t have to charge students for the picks. No matter how you do it, it would be fun for kids to get a pick of their very own.
After punching a pick for students I could then bring out a guitar and let the kid strum an easy chord with their brand new pick. This would get kids who are already in my guitar class exited about sharing what they’ve learned with their parents. If there are any students who haven’t had guitar experience, this would encourage those kiddos to join my class when they get to middle school. You had better believe that parents are going to want to try out the pick too! You might want to have a few guitar chord charts hand and several guitars tuned and at the ready.
“Pick Out” a Necklace or Bracelet – Fundraiser or Prize
I also realized just the other day that once you have your pick punched out you can slide it under your nearest three-hole punch and punch the plastic again. This means you can add a little hole and make your pick into a fun little charm for a necklace or bracelet. Just think about all the fun possibilities that could come from this! Set up a table in the hallway at open house and you could have an easy fundraiser. Maybe charge 25 cents per pick and 50 cents or $1 per length of cord/chain to make a necklace. Show kids how you can layer in any number of picks on the necklace and BOOM! Fundraiser done!
You could also use the picks (punched or unpunched) as rewards for good behavior. There’s a second grade teacher in our building who gives out “Brag Tags” to her kids. Basically a brag tag is a little piece of laminated cardstock that says something like “I can count to 100” or “I finished my holiday homework packet.” Her kids wear little necklaces all over the school with these fun little tags and are so proud to show off when they’ve earned a new one. I was thinking that if a student did an especially great job in music I could punch them out a pick/musical brag tag to add to their necklace! If you don’t have quite that much time you could punch out the picks ahead of time and just let the kid “pick out” the one that they wanted.