Group Lessons: Lesson Structure & The First Week of Lessons

Part 4 of the Group Teaching series written by guest contributor Marissa Erekson

Lesson Structure

As a classical musician with a firm background in piano pedagogy, I understood the need to include technique, theory, sight-reading, performing, etc. and I wanted to include all of these areas. The basic lesson structure included technique (5-finger patterns, Hanon Jr., chords, and then building to scales, etudes, etc), lesson books (ensemble style and performance style), and different games each week (theory, etc).

Since most of my students began the group lessons as their very first form of lessons, they were accustomed to how we would play together part of the time. The songs and technique exercises were short and allowed time for the kids to play together and separately as desired.

At the end of each lesson we had “parent time.” This was an opportunity for the students to review what they learned and I could demonstrate to the parents the new techniques or explain difficult concepts we learned in class. With group classes I also had papers printed with the week’s assignment. I carefully prepared the assignment sheet to include practice notes for the parents as well. There are different beliefs about parents attending lessons. In the case of group lessons I found that my kids performed better in the lesson without the parents, but that meant my time was limited for interaction and explanation with the parents. (I would have required parents to attend the whole lesson in the case of young private beginner students.) Between the parent time and the assignment papers the parents were able to understand what they were supposed to

do during the week. I was also very open towards allowing parents to contact me through email or phone calls for further explanation.

I had binders for each student. In the binder I had dividers for their lesson assignment sheet, technique (some of my technique did not come from books or I had different papers I had created explaining the activities) theory, sight-reading music, and other things I needed for lessons. The binders served as a reference for the weekly assignment as well as for me to include papers for my own personal teaching method as I didn’t directly follow any specific method books already published.

During the time in between lessons I made notes about the students’ progress during lessons and any insight about what was needed for the following week. Then at the end of my lessons for the evening I would prepare the lesson sheets for the following week and sketch out the time frame for the lesson the next week (ie – games to play, new music needed, how many minutes for each activity).

First Week of Lessons

The first week of school I held “Parent Nights” where I taught the parents about my teaching philosophy and style and also helped them to learn how they could help their child at home with practicing. I held classes for all group piano student parents, but had separate classes for new parents and for continuing parents. Information covered included the lesson binder layout, practicing tips, the basic lesson schedule for what would typically be included in a lesson, and the general syllabus for the school year.

During the first week all students attended large group classes (groups of around 8 students) to review concepts from the summer for the beginner students or review concepts from the previous year for continuing students. This provided a “teaser” for lessons without the full practicing assignment, and typically led to them reviewing a lot of other music before their regular lessons the following week.

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