I don’t know about you, but when I was planning my wedding (oops… “our” wedding LOL) I was an Organizational Einstein. I was obsessed with details. Every single aspect of every single thing had to coordinate, match, and flow with everything else.
Each decision I made was based on a framework I had dreamt about (okay… creepily obsessed about) for years.
I was not a Bridezilla. But I was in control 😉
And while wedding planning was fun, it was over really quickly… and so my organizational itch had to be satisfied in some other way. Eventually my aptitude for making things co-ordinate and “work” carried over into my piano teaching and my lessons became wonderfully cohesive (and pssst… super easy to plan!)
If you dream about perfectly organized and coordinated piano lessons where every aspect has a clear purpose … today’s tips are a great jumping off point!
How To Teach “Coordinated” Piano Lessons
One thing I learned while planning weddings was that you can never be prepared for everything that might happen.
For example… who would know that our wedding day would be the hottest day of the year and break zillions of records?
And the same goes for teaching piano lessons. You can plan like a fiend only to have a grumpy student arrive without books and without having practiced. In times like these, flexibility is key.
So, let’s take a look at how you can guide your students through a lesson in an organized and cohesive way… even if you’re doing so “on the fly”.
1. Choose an overall theme for the lesson – Just like a wedding needs a color scheme or theme to guide your decision making, a piano lesson needs a concept, a technique or a learning objective to lead the way.
Method books can be a big help in this department (often it’s written right on the page!) but you don’t have to always choose the obvious. Pick your theme based on your personal goals for each individual student: what do you want your student to achieve or know by the following lesson?
2. Select all materials based on this theme – You’d never see a bouquet of sunflowers at a black tie wedding. Using materials that are outside of your selected theme can interrupt the flow of a lesson and can steal time and attention away from meeting the goals you’ve set. Those extra fun and unique materials you’ve collected should be used… but at the right time; save them for when they work naturally within a theme.
This means that the off-bench activities you include, the piano games you choose, the supplementary repertoire you select… even your teaching strategy for that lesson, should all have the same end goal (the end goal being the theme you chose in Step 1. Having a large library of teaching materials makes this coordination a snap… so start collecting!
3. Move between activities frequently – You’ll likely spot professional wedding planners at the back of a venue chattering away on a headset. They’re ensuring that the flow of activities is smooth and that the appropriate amount of time is spent on each. Cutting the cake has to happen… but not before dinner… and it shouldn’t take 45 minutes. Everything is carefully coordinated based on the mood of the room and an overall plan.
Same goes for a piano lesson. Resist the urge to follow the same structure you have always followed and instead, allow your theme, materials and student’s needs to take the lead.
Does it make sense to get up and use physical movement to explain a concept before your student opens his method book? Then do it! Is your piano student not really into one more repetition of his piece? Then head over to a piano game to reinforce the concept in a different way before returning to the piano.
Allow yourself the flexibility to move back and forth between activities to engage all styles of learning.
4. Make Memories Last – Often the wedding couple is so engaged with the festivities that they forget to notice certain things. But thankfully the photographer is there to capture all of the moments and make those memories last.
We obviously don’t have a photographer in a piano lesson, but making those learning connections last is important. As you guide your student from activity to activity, make mental “snapshots” for them by commenting on the similarities and relationships between each activity. For example, a running dialogue where the lesson goal was improving interval recognition could sound like this:
“In the Zombie Acres game, you were practicing hearing intervals of a 5th and 6th… so now come on over here to the white board and let’s draw those intervals. In which interval did the notes sound further apart? Okay.. and if the 6th sounded further apart then what would it look like on the staff in comparison to the 5th I’ve drawn for you. Okay, let’s head to the piano and circle all of the 6th’s in your piece… remember what they looked like when you drew them just now?”
5. Send Them Home With “Gifts” – In this instance, the gifts are not actually gifts, but rather the “gifts” of enjoyable supplementary material in keeping with your same overall learning goal.
Why is this considered a “gift”? Because it allows your student more time to solidify a concept than the few pieces a method book typically allows, plus it provides a departure from the “same old” look, feel and theme of method book pieces. If you can send your student home with an appropriately paired supplementary piece that he or she loves, then you’ve successfully completed the carefully coordinated lesson and have ensured it will carry over into home practice time.
Want to make sure you have the perfect piece of music for any theme? Check out PianoBookClub. With “out-of-the-box” repertoire based on important educational concepts delivered to subscribers every month, your unique lessons will be the talk of the town!
The Key To Easy Piano Lessons
While all of this may sound like a lot of work, I promise it’s easier than you think. Why? Because the decisions are all made for you. Your “fun factor” is built into your “learning needs”… your off-bench time has a purpose… your repertoire selection is well-timed. There is no wondering “What should I do now?”
In fact, it’s about as easy as booking a destination wedding and letting someone else look after all of the details… which, after our wedding was over, seemed pretty darn attractive 😉