Piano Teaching Q&A: Lesson Plans?

Each week we will be featuring questions about music teaching, and will do our best to answer them and to give some ideas 🙂 We would also love lots of comments to see what you think!

I am right now working on my portfolio to fulfill the requirements to become a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music. (In fact I have been thinking about my post for this week about Teaching Beginning Technique, but have not written it yet because I have been swamped the past few of days with this portfolio! Must. Get. It. Done!! :))

My question is this: What do you think about Lesson Plans? Do you prepare them for each lesson? Do you use them at all? Part of the Certification Portfolio is to write nine representative lesson plans for a semester of piano study for a student of any level. I have never used formal lesson plans before, and after working on these I must say that it is a LOT of work! Although I don’t usually write lesson plans, I usually have an idea of what we will go over in lessons, and have an activity or two planned to help reinforce concepts. I think it is important to be familiar with the method books used by the student and know what units and concepts are coming up, but I wonder about the usefulness of lesson plans – are they useful, or are they just a waste of time? Is it hard to stick to the lesson plan anyway, depending on whether or not the student passed off their assignments? I can definitely see the importance of having a lesson plan when teaching in a group setting, but what do you think about using them for private lessons?

Thoughts? Ideas? Opinions? Experiences?

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Jennifer Boster

7 Responses to “Piano Teaching Q&A: Lesson Plans?

  • I don't write up set lesson plans because so often the direction of the lesson depends on the students preparation. Instead I mark up my own copy of the method books I use with my students with "lesson plans" for that song for me to refer to. For example I write:
    -supplementary songs that reinforce the new concepts presented in case the student needs a bit more work on it -questions or tasks for the students (Which 2 lines have the same notes/rhythms?, Find and color all of the I,V7 chords, clap on the accents as you listen to the teacher play, sightread the left hand as your teacher plays the right hand, etc.)
    -lab activities that reinforce the concepts in the song.
    Often I will plan a "lesson opener" activity like theory card memory, rhythm bingo, etc. to do with all of my students one week and I adapt it to the level of each student.
    I think following the student's interests and abilities works better than trying to stick to a specific/formal "lesson plan" although it doesn't hurt to have a general plan in mind.

  • I think the only time you need a lesson plan is for a first lesson, or for some special circumstance (like if you've decided to dedicate a lesson to a specific concept that the student needs to work on). I'm much too lazy to write lessons plans that would have to be changed anyway once I hear the student play.

  • Heidi – I love the idea of writing in your own copy of the method book some ideas of activities, supplementary pieces, etc. And I totally agree that following the student's abilities works much better.

    And Jen – great point, I think that in certain situations it may be helpful, but I feel the same way – I am too lazy to do all that work for a lesson plan that will be changed anyway 🙂

    One thing I have learned by writing these lesson plans for my portfolio is that it is very helpful to know the method books WELL. I think sometimes we can easily get in a rut and just turn to the next page at the lesson and not really be prepared to teach whatever concept comes up next. I have enough experience that I can wing it fine, but I think it is important to have a copy of the books (like Heidi said) and at least know what concepts are going to be taught next.

    Also, as you teach more you get an idea of a sort of "curriculum" for your students – the things you want to make sure they know and the things you want to make sure to do in your studio. I think it is wonderful to have a general idea of what to cover in a given amount of time, but to be flexible and adaptable for the individual weekly lessons.

  • Alysia
    7 years ago

    I don't write up a *formal, complete* lesson plan for each lesson, BUT, I do plan each specific lesson, generally speaking. I think the most important component of this is keeping a copy of the lesson assignment from the previous week, AND, communicating more frequently with parents so that it is a cooperative effort that lesson are prepared for by the student. I have implemented a system in the last 6 months where by I do this systematically each week. Yes, it IS more work, BUT, it has greatly increase the relative rate of students who come prepared for lessons, and therefor, their individual rate of progress. I have a 3" binder I keep my lesson records, so I am *much* better able to review my students' repertoire during the week and planning has become something I do as a matter of course. Of course, I utilize a copy machine and email in this process, but even old-fashioned carbon paper would work. The most important thing is simply to retain a copy of your assignment – if you're like me and forget what you wrote down the second they walk out the door (easy to do if you have 20 or more students). My 2 cents! 🙂

  • Alysia, thanks for your comment! I think that is a wonderful idea to at least keep a copy of each students' assignments each week. I have done something similar in the past (at LEAST writing down the basics of their assignment right after their lesson) and found that when I did it, I felt much more prepared and lessons ran more smoothly. I also found I was better able to help each individual student progress better (because each student learns and progresses in different ways!)

  • Hi everyone! First of all, after lessons for the day I will spend a brief amount of time typing in what we did in the notes section on my Music Teachers Helper account online. Then the next week on the student's lesson day, I will refresh myself on what we did via the online notes and then construct a brief outline of what we might work on in lesson. I'm a fairly structured person, so I like having an idea of what to do in lesson, but at the same time be flexible, meaning that I don't have to cover everything I've planned for. It really comes down to what is best for the student during the lesson. My outline is as simple as something like this:
    1. Assign new performance page
    2. Play Step-skipping Game
    3. Give worksheet to name notes

    Ta-da! Works for me. 🙂

  • Thanks for the comment April! I think that is a great and simple way to do it. I actually do something pretty similar now – http://theteachingstudio.blogspot.com/2012/03/new-printable-student-notes-records.html