Updated: Aug 4, 2021
Piano teachers spend a very limited time of 30 or 60 minutes with their students every week. This makes planning and designing the best lesson plan that fits all the material that needs to be covered crucial to avoid overwhelm and stress.
In today's post, I want to talk about the different aspects of lesson planning to guide you through and give you ideas that will help you design your own personal lesson plan that suits you and your students. Keep in mind that it's impossible to teach a "perfect piano lesson" and your lesson plan will largely depend on your personal preferences and teaching style, which is precisely how it should be.
First, let's study the three main elements that we have to consider before we start developing a suitable lesson plan:
1. Your student
Every student is unique and as piano teachers, most of us teach students either privately or in small groups, which gives us the luxury to design lessons that cater specially to our particular student or group.
Here are some of the most important characteristics to consider:
Current goals and ambitions
Need for routine
Ability to stay on task and attention span
Likes and dislikes
Any disabilities or difficulties
2. The concepts and ideas that you plan to teach
In order to deliver a comprehensive piano lesson, we need to include the five main components, not necessarily in the same single lesson. However, always ensure to include all of them through the course of the student's piano education:
3. Time segments of the lesson
The final stage of lesson planning is to decide how to fit all the concepts into the appropriate time segment, of course, depending on your student and the lesson type (group or private) you are going to give.
In general, the typical piano lesson will include all of the following segments, except maybe the short breaks.
Depending on the age, level, and needs of your student, a warm-up may include a wide range of possibilities. It is handy to have a few preplanned ideas ready. A quick rhythm and movement game might be a great idea to wake up a younger student who arrives feeling sleepy. Another student might prefer to start the lesson with a song. An older student might benefit from playing some Hanon exercises. I have one or two students who love to start their lessons by improvising for a minute or two. the possibilities are endless and the lessons do not need to start the same way every time.
The main segment of the lesson
Whether it is repertoire, theory, chords, scales, preparation for a recital, sight-reading, or whatever you have planned for the lesson, this is where it goes. Depending on your student, you may need to subdivide this section into two or smaller parts with short breaks in the middle, especially if you are teaching a younger student, with a very short attention span.
Having the student for a stretch of more than 20 minutes straight on the bench might not be a good idea. With most of them 10, 15 minutes is actually quite a long stretch. After that, it is beneficial to change the activity or take a short break, I say a break, but I don't mean a time of no activity, on the contrary, these short breaks are spent learning something that doesn't involve the intense concentration of reading a score, such as a short ear training game, rhythm game, singing, and playing a percussion instrument.
Always end on a good note to keep the student coming for more. In a group lesson, this is the performance time. The students will take turns sharing something with each other, either the piece they have been working on, or sometimes, something that they have learned on YouTube. Anything! Sometimes they suggest ending the lesson with a competitive, ear training game or rhythm game.
Younger children love to end the lesson by singing a favorite song playing the tambourine while I accompany them on the piano. Anything happy and positive can go in this segment of the lesson.
Lesson Plan Example
Example1: 30 minutes private lesson with an 8-year-old student who has autism.
2 minutes: Sing "The Hello" song
5 minutes: Compose a rhythm and perform it on the bongos
5 minutes: learn a new five finger scale and chord
2 minutes: Sing a song
10 minutes: Assigned piece
4 minutes: Ear training, recognizing intervals
2 minutes: Improvise with the scale and chord learned earlier today
If your student has a special need or benefits from using visuals, I created the following visual lesson planner for you!
In this visual lesson planner, you get a lesson plan card, seven cards that represent the different activities involved during the piano lesson, and smiley faces to mark each activity finished.
Laminate and use these cards to display and rearrange your lesson routine on the lesson plan card according to the needs of your student. After each activity is finished mark it with a smiley face. Most students with special needs appreciate routines and predictability. Providing a visual representation of their lesson helps keep them focused and calm.
I would love to hear your ideas and thoughts and what works best for you. Here in the comments or by sending me by filling the contact form.