What types of lesson plans actually work for music teachers? How can we plan out our lessons but still be flexible? Find out how to plan your lessons and fit more into the same amount of time on this episode.
- 3 styles of lesson plans for piano teachers
- Assigning in advance
- Composer spotlight piano party plans
- iReal Pro
Click on any word to jump to that point in the audio. 🙂
Vibrant vibrant music teaching proven practical tips strategies and ideas from music teachers.
This is the vibrant music teaching podcast I’m Nicola Cantan and you’re listening to episode 4 where we’re going to take a close look at lesson plans. And how they can be most useful for music teachers.
Welcome beautiful teachers to another episode of the vibrant music teaching podcast. You can find the show notes for today’s episode at a vibrantmusicteaching.com/4 just the number for. Were talking about lesson plans and this is something that comes up every so often and a lot of teachers kind of balk at this. They say I don’t need to be doing lesson plans or I’ve never done them and it’s working just fine and that might be true. But I do think there is still a benefit to be found in lesson plans for private music teachers, instrumental and vocal teachers. Most teachers don’t make lesson plans because they want to be flexible and work with each student as they come. One of the huge benefits of our profession of what we do or at least most of us do is that we teach one on one right. And students get don’t get many other opportunities to actually work with a teacher one on one. So that’s a huge benefit that we have that other teachers don’t. And we can adapt to each student as they come and change things up when we need to so we want to be flexible. There’s also the problem that we don’t actually have enough time. And this is a major issue that I don’t want to ignore because it is very important that we acknowledge that teachers do not have enough time to be making detailed lesson plans every week for every student.
Because like I say we teach them one on one for the most part or in small groups. And if we’re doing that and we need to make a fully fledged lesson plan for each one of those lessons you know 30 or 40 lessons a week that’s a huge part of your personal time let’s face it gone. So that’s another reason that teachers end up not doing those because they don’t have enough time. Another reason is that they just don’t think it’s necessary it doesn’t seem like they need them. And I understand that. But as you start to include more and more things creative activity games theory work and all this stuff that probably you listen to this podcast you’re trying to do that’s where you really do need lesson plans because if you try to fit all these things in when you have been just turning the pages in a method book then they’re not just going to fit in magically. You have to plan it out. So I find lesson plans extremely useful if they’re done right. And I know a lot of teachers as well who make great use to them and just get a huge benefit out of planning their lessons each week and taking some time and some thought about it. It allows us to work on bigger goals. When you’re just in the moment and you’re flowing week to week it can be difficult to plan that overall trajectory. It can be difficult to think ahead to where your student is going where they’re up to where they’ve come from even if you’ve a very good memory or a low notebook you keep or something it can still be very difficult to actually plan and have that big Ultimate Big Picture focus for your students.
Also if you lesson plan it does allow you to be more creative. Now I know this seems a little bit like a contradiction in terms but you can trust me as someone who comes from a creative industry actually in a previous life. Structure provides room for creativity and it when you I mean it feels creative when you go in the moment and whatever but if you’re actually in a real scenario where you’re teaching back to back students all day you’re not going to be creative when it’s not planned. It’s much easier to be creative in advance of the lesson when you’re thinking through things ahead of time so that you don’t have to in the moment come up with this great crazy idea and if you do come up with that in them your moment there’s no problem scrapping the lesson plan. But it gives you that creative framework to move forward with. So it’s so valuable for increasing the creativity in all aspects of your lesson not just including improvisation but in making everything you do. That little bit more creative. It also teaches you to evaluate your expectations. Now by this I mean that you’re going to start lesson planning if you’ve never done this before congratulations get started.
It’s going to be fun. You’re going to start and you’re going to wildly overestimate much. Most likely what that student is going to be able to do in the time you’re going to put way too much on your first lesson plans. I have never seen a beginning teacher who said I didn’t have enough to do, em that’s very rare. Most people put too much on their lesson plans. And when you do that it allows you to adjust your expectations in a much bigger way because you get that lesson. It was impossible to do all those things. And if that’s impossible probably your goals for that student in the first year might be impossible to or what you’re expecting of them week to week isn’t really realistic. So having lesson plans on a weekly basis and especially if there is something physical that you can hold afterwards and look back through or a digital record where you can look back through previous lesson plans and see where you actually got to with them it allows you to adjust your expectations for that student and also for your students in general and really prioritise what you think is important. Each week so how do we make lesson plans then. Because they’re not going to look. Probably not going to look like a classroom teachers lesson plans would. Right? We don’t want to plan it every minute. Not saying all classroom teachers do that but we don’t want to have the same type of lesson plan that they might do for a primary school or secondary school classroom.
What we want to do is have something that’s maybe a little bit more flexible or maybe a little bit more tailored to each individual student. But he’s quick to create because we have a bunch of individual or small group students. So the first idea is to try Time based lesson plans. Now this would mean that you would map out…I like to do this for my group classes and I map out on an Excel sheet you know 1 p.m. five past 1 ten past 1 quarter past 1 and go through like that so there’s five minute increments as the row and then the columns will be what we’re gonna do. So I write in a main focus like what am I teaching here or what’s the point of this. It could be improvisation it could be note names it could be whatever it is and then decide that the details of the actual activity. I like to have this for group workshops because it’s really quick to refer to. And so I can look quickly at it and say okay we’re actually ahead of schedule so maybe this next activity I can allow that to explore more or take some more time over it or I can add on the extra thing I wasn’t sure I was going to have time for or I can see were behind.
What am I going to drop off or what am I going to leave out. Because it’s not necessarily the best idea to read the last activity. You know depending on your priorities so and allows me to adjust it within the lesson time much easier if I can see one pm and 5 past 1, 10 past 1, where we are supposed to be with that and where are we supposed to it be up to at each stage of the group workshop. Now I would not really want to do this with a weekly individual student but I will do it with group situations. You could do it with individual students and I’d suggest if you are going to do something like this it might be for the first few weeks with a new student. It could require that extra bit of planning and that thought out process for the lesson. It could also be useful if you have an important event coming up that you really need to get all this stuff in like an exam coming up or something like that.
But for the most part I don’t really think minute by minute lesson planning is essential for private music teachers and most of us aren’t going to have the time week to week to spend creating that kind of lesson plan. The next idea for a lesson plan is just to do bullet points. Just make a simple list. It could be on paper it could be in Google Docs it could be in evernote wherever you like but make a list of what you want to get done. Just a very simple whatever pops into your head and you can reorder it a little bit and think it through. This is a great one actually for re-evaluating because especially if you do it like this you’re going to find yourself including a bunch of stuff that you don’t get time to do right. So if you do do this I would suggest that in your notebook or your Evernote or whatever if you leave a space or you a separate colour for writing in. After the lesson what didn’t happen or what did or what went well and what didn’t. So say something completely didn’t have time for it. You just put an X through it and red or something like that. So you’re keeping track of actually how this is going and how realistic you’re being about what’s going to get done if you find that stuff is just really not fitting in. You might do time based lesson plans for a couple of weeks just to see how the break-down actually happens and where you are miscalculating as it were. Where are you thinking that more is going to fit into a certain amount of time than than it actually does. You know don’t let time just run away from you. We only have 30 45 maybe 60 minutes with each student. And time is extremely precious to make sure we know where those minutes are going.
If you are doing a looser system another idea is to do us on a trajectory based lesson plan or a roadmap. So this could be over the course of a year and you map out in particular areas where you want a student be or overall I would suggest particular areas because it’s going to be a little bit easier to think through for you.
For example say you know one of your priorities for this June this year is to learn all of their chords really really well. Well there’s different stopping point along that journey. So where are you going to check in with these things where should they be at each lesson and just make a list for yourself.
Well lesson one I’ll introduce them to the semitones or the half steps in the major chords and then at Week Five we’re going to test them out using chord drills with iReal pro could be anything but focusing on specific areas I think works better than trying to do this for an entire year for your student because there’s so many different aspects going on there. It’s going to be hard to focus in. But you can make road maps for each different area and then combine them or look at them altogether and see how it’s going to fit together. And as you go through the year then you can see where you’re up to. And again this comes back to noticing and adjusting your expectations because you’re going to go for way too much especially if you’re a newbie teacher right? You’re probably going to expect them to get way further than they do because stuff comes up. This week wasn’t a good practice week, that week they had a tennis tournament, then there’s a recital and that gets in the way you know all of this stuff isn’t going to happen week to week exactly as expected. But with experience and with time you’ll get better and you won’t you’ll get better a lot quicker if you actually take note of what’s going on and make a plan that then gets broken.
It actually makes you improve faster. Another method of lesson planning is assigning in advance and this is my favourite way to plan for my individual and even buddy students partners students as well. So you can get full details on this colourfulkeys.ie/assign. But for now I’ll give you a rundown of roughly how it works and I might do a later episode with more details on this. But basically this is a assigning in advance right. So I make lesson plan…Excuse me assignment sheets in advance of the lesson before the lessons so I know what their homework is going to be before the lesson happens and they sound a bit backwards to some people but it actually worked really really well because it serves as a lesson plan and an assignment sheet. So I’ve got extra time during the lesson where I would have been a bit distracted and writing stuff to actually focus in on what I want to get done during the lesson. And it acts as a lesson plan at the same time because I can quickly see okay I wanted to assign them working with em, the, Musiclock app but I haven’t introduced them to that yet so there definitely needs to happen before the lesson is up! So it really makes me prioritise about what needs to get done during the lesson.
And of course if stuff was there there’s stuff we don’t get to just cross it off. I just X it on the page, don’t worry about this. We’ll get to it next week. So that’s my favourite way for individual lessons then I like that time based plans for the group classes. I’d love to hear though what you think. So head to the shownotes for this episode. vibrantmusicteaching.com/4 and leave a comment there let me know what you think of this. What type of lesson plans you do whether you’ve tried something and it doesn’t work and you’ve gone back to winging it. No judgment here. We’d love to hear how you get on with lesson planning and how it works for you as you move forward and incorporate maybe one of these for ideas or some of the concepts here or you find a completely new idea and a new way of doing things. Experiment keep yourself open to experimentation. You know I landed on designing in advance as my system last year and I will continue into next year because it worked really well. I’ve experimented with tons of different ways of doing things and they’ve all taught me something none of them have been wrong or a waste of time. They’ve all taught me something about how I should be doing things how I should be thinking about things. My goals for my students my teaching style my methods of teaching this and that everything. It helps you grow as a teacher. So just keep experimenting with different ideas until you learn something that maybe works for you and maybe in a few years you’ll experiment again. These things do not have to be static.
They don’t have to be the same every week but you do need to have some kind of system. If you’re going to fill in all the stuff you wanted to fit in in because it’s just going minute a minute and turning the pages in the method book it just leads to so much few seconds here and they’re just getting last right. And we don’t have those few seconds to spare. They add up to quite a lot of minutes during the lesson time that suddenly is over and we don’t know what happened and we haven’t got to this or that. So try something. Make it your resolution to try something new this year. Especially if you’ve been frustrated by this in the past and see how it goes for you and report back to us. We’d love to hear as well in the vibrant music studio teachers group on Facebook so if you’re not a member there yet go to vibrantmusicteaching.com/community and you can join us there. And then some ideas for lesson plans off us as you go forward lesson planning you need to combine this with some longer term planning and we’ll talk about that more in a later episode. But the two together are what make for the students getting the maximum success and you really enjoying your teaching the most and getting the best results for your students and the most enjoyment for them as well. So it doesn’t need to be fancy. It just needs to be something and you need to give it a go to try something out today. See how you get on and report back to me. I’d love to hear how it goes. Bye for now.
There are tons of fantastic lesson plans inside the vibrant music teaching site as well. Members get access to fully thought out week by week plans that they can incorporate with their own teaching and they’ve been finding some fantastic success with things like the tiny finger take off for preschoolers or they could crash course for bringing chords up to speed in just six weeks. Find out more and become a member today at VMT.Ninja.
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