When I first started teaching piano lessons I remember being so worried about what I would do if I “finished” everything I had planned and there was still time left in the lesson. What if the lesson had naturally ended…. but the clock told me otherwise?
While for many teachers the idea of having any time left at all in a lesson would seem like a luxury rather than a problem, for young beginning students sometimes they’ve simply reached the end of their focus and it’s time to change it up before the lesson is over.
Glance at the Clock and Then Choose An Activity
The next time you’re needing to fill just a few final moments, pick one of the following activities.
1. Remember when? My kids love to play this game. I choose an old piece of theirs and we reminisce about how difficult it used to be for them. They play it for me as a review and then they get to put a “Remember When?” sticker (head to vistaprint to make your own!) on the top of their page to show they’ve re-visited this piece. This is a great way to keep that old repertoire under their fingers. It’s more fun if you can remember specifics like “Remember when that tied note gave you so much trouble… but we drew that stick there to help you remember to “stick it out” on that note?” etc. Kids will surprise you with their recall of small details!
2. Simon Says This is a quick and easy way to review any concepts you learned during the lesson. “Simon says play me a fifth with your left hand. Simon says play me an F#. Simon says play me a C Major chord. Play me a D.”… if you haven’t said “Simon says” at the beginning of the sentence and they still follow your directions (and play that D!) then point for the teacher! Lots of giggles with this one if you make a hugely exaggerated face when they forget to listen carefully!
3. Name That Tune Have your student sit with their back facing you. You play any part of any of their previously completed pieces. They must 1) name the piece, 2) name the key (or hand position) and 3) play the same part you just played once they turn back around. This is great for their ears and their memory too! Piano kids should definitely be able recognize their pieces by ear… but some don’t! Make this more challenging by playing their piece in a minor key (or major key if it was originally minor) and seeing if they can still figure it out.
4. Grab a Theory Game – our newest resource “Pssst….Your Piano Teacher Thinks This is Theory” is super convenient to have on hand in these moments. Pick an activity that relates to what you learned during the lesson and head into a ridiculously fun theory game or activity that will not only make that concept truly “stick”… but you can bet they’ll be begging you for another one next week! Begging for theory… it’s a miracle!
5. Ear Training Fun – these final minutes are also a great opportunity to break out some quick ear training exercises while your student changes seats with you. Play major, minor, dominant and diminished chords and teach your student to name them by ear. Play short bits of rhythm and have your student clap it back. Play short bits of melody and have your student play it back after telling them the starting note. Name intervals, name cadences… the list of possibilities is huge! It’s a relaxing (yet important!) way to finish a lesson.
So the next time the clock tells you that you need one more activity, try one of the ones above. Not only will they provide some variety in your lessons, but it will also help your piano students to be well-rounded pianists.