The door opens and it’s a flurry of jackets and boots and parents and siblings… a new student has arrived.
Then it’s music bags and books and notices and practice pages and… phew! The first few moments of a piano lesson can be a bit hairy. Which is why I make a conscious effort to then stop… and spend the first 5 minutes of a lesson connecting with my student.
Why Five Minutes Can Save You Ten
In a recent post we asked for readers to comment to tell us how they make their piano lessons more efficient and that post received over 550 comments! Time-saving tips for piano teachers is a hot topic. Our time with these littles each week is fleeting and we have lots to get through. So it might surprise you to know that spending just 5 of those precious minutes connecting with your student will likely end up saving you 10!
Having a strong connection with your student will carry you though all kinds of time-munching issues: your students will be more likely to tell you if and when they don’t understand something, their behaviour will improve (if this has been an issue in the past) and all of those little stories that they’re just dying to tell you won’t interrupt the flow of your lesson later on. Plus, it just makes your day that much more enjoyable!
How Piano Teachers Can Save Time By Making Time
For most of us, having a good relationship with children comes easy (after all… we chose to work with kids!) but check out our list below for some new ideas on how to connect with your students in those first five minutes.
1) Build community with a studio-wide project. One of the first things your students can do as they come through the door is somehow interact with something the previous student has left for them. Some ideas for this include a “never-ending piece” where every student adds one note at a time of their choosing to a studio-wide composition (which is then played at the end-of-year recital), or adds their part to a collaborative piano teaching game (PianoGameClub Subscribers can look forward to a material that will do this very thing in February’s upcoming set of games!)
2) Have music playing in the background and ask for their opinion. I’ve started hitting “play” on my playlist as lessons transition. It’s one more way I can sneak some important listening into my students’ week. As the new student comes in, the music is still playing from while the previous student packed up. It provides the perfect conversation starter (“Have you heard this piece before?”, “What do you like about it?”, “It’s by Beethoven… what do you know about him?) etc. Having music playing also helps to focus your student and re-direct their energies from school/sports to a music lesson.
3) Chat while you do finger warm-ups. I have some silly finger warm-ups that I do with my younger students (check them out here) and we laugh and joke around while we go through the routine. Starting off with a warm-up that’s “off the keys” gives you a chance to talk while accomplishing something. Remembering something that your student told you about the week before is a great way to make your chit-chat meaningful and connection-building.
4) Start a new tradition/routine. I saw recently on a piano forum that one teacher had a little composer character that would be hiding somewhere in her studio for her students to find. It was Elf on the Shelf meets Liszt and I loved the idea. Having something in your studio that is a fun little pre-lesson activity like this is a great way to spend those first few minutes having fun before you get down to business. As your student searches you can prep their books and check their practice sheet etc.
5) Start with a game. Piano games are traditionally saved for mid-lesson as a brain-break or for the end of the lesson, but I’ve recently started off with the piano game at the beginning of the lesson. It’s worked well as a) my students aren’t craning their necks towards my game table trying to see what new one they get to play this week and b) we can do our chit chat while we are learning important concepts and c) it reminds them of those important concepts in a fun way before we encounter them in their pieces during the lesson.
Attention to those first 5 minutes is worth it for so many reasons… so shake up your normal routine and try something new!