Group Lesson Activities
If you're a teacher who doesn't teach group lessons and you need to teach one, you might be at sea when it comes to choosing activities. An example: you are implementing a new makeup system: a child who misses her private lessons and can't reschedule at a time convenient to the parent - - your convenience is not very important in this case unless you are fully booked and have a long waiting list, such that you can afford to drive off a student because of your inflexibility - - receive a group lesson (often on a weekend day).
Note: I recommend the group lesson be an hour long. In exchange for the group lesson situation (at which the parent might balk because he has paid for a private one), the child receives a "free" extra lesson. Make sure you point this out: "The group lessons are an hour long, rather than half-an-hour. It will be no problem for her to concentrate for that long, so don't worry about this."
Here are some easy ideas to implement for a group lesson.
- Have the children play for each other. Everyone needs more performance practice. Use a piece recently completed or a piece that is currently under study (play just a portion of such a piece - - the part that is the most fluent).
- Play "The "Don't Stop Game" while the children are performing for each other. Here's how to play the game. Instruct the student to keep playing "no matter what. I'm going to try to make you stop, so keep playing! If you stop, I win. If you keep going, you win!" During his private lesson, you have a pocketful of tricks that you use to try to make him stop. During the group lesson, the other kids will have plenty of ideas on their own! Only rules: (1) You can't touch the performer; and (2) you can't blow or yell in the performer's ears. Depending on how many children are at the lesson and to avoid mayhem, you may need to limit the number of children trying to trick the performer into stopping.
- Play "The Wrong Bow Game." Have the children clap or hoot or point when the performer forgets to take a bow. Or, doesn't bow correctly. Know how you want your students to bow at recitals. ( I have my students to drop their arms to their sides and look at their toes for a count of three. No "barf bows" - - as in "Ooooo! My stomach hurts! I think I'm going to throw up," right forearm at the solar plexus.) You take a turn, too, and do a terrible bow or forget to take a bow.
- Select a song two children know. Have one play the RH part and the other the LH part. Or, use a song that's easy enough to sight-read. In this "piano four-hands" treatment, I suggest a song two levels below pieces currently under study. Or, you and the child divide the music. If you have more than one instrument, have several children do this activity. Or - - very difficult! - - use two children and put them at separate instruments!
- Especially if it's a holiday season, select a tune and have the children jointly write silly words to it. Then everyone performs it if it's easy enough to remember. It it's not, write it out after the group lesson and mail a copy to each child. "Perform" (ahem) the masterpiece with the child at the next lesson. You could give the copy to the child at the next lesson, but having it arrive in the mail accomplishes two thing: (1) immediacy of the parent seeing positive outcome of the group lesson; and (2) the child gets a letter in the mail.
- Play "The Tap-Back Game." If you have a tambourine, drum, claves, or other simple rhythm instrument, give each child one. Or, the kids can clap. You present a rhythm, and they give it back to you. Do one (two max) child at a time so you can check for accuracy. After everyone has had a turn, each taps a rhythm for you to copy. Of course, you make mistakes. They must re-tap the rhythm so you can try again. To avoid having the child beat out 16 whacks in a row (!), they must confine their pattern ("Make it a short pattern, ok?, so I can remember it. Oh, no! That's way too long for me!").
- Cover some aspect of music theory. You might be able to make a card game for it. I do not recommend "learning about" a composer. The kids will be snooze-o within minutes and will start to fidget. You want to "maintain order in the court," so something physical is your best bet. Plus, a presentation about a composer will require preparation.
- Spend the last 10-15 minutes or so with a
game. Card games are good. If you are using the game type described in this file, depending on the number of children you have, you may need to play with a doubled, tripled, or even a quadrupled deck so each child can be dealt five cards. There are plenty of games available online, music- and even piano-specific games or games that you can adapt. You also can take standard games and recast them as piano games.
True, you'll have to do some planning, but these ideas should pretty much have done the job for you!
Finish, if you like, with punch (you serve it from a pitcher) and store-bought cookies. Two apiece is good - - no meals will be spoiled by two cookies. (keep the kids and their goodies away from your instruments.) A good time was had by all!
You can make these group lessons fun (yet constructive) with not much effort. The child bounces out with a grin after the lesson ("Be sure to tell your mom dad about the Don't Stop Game we played! Maybe you can play it tonight at home?!"), and the parent is glad that this option turned out so well (he was dubious). It was worth the effort to bring the child on a non-standard day and to exchange a private lesson for this group one, since plainly the child left it very happy.
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copyright 2010, Martha Beth Lewis, Ph.D.
Contact me for reprint permission.
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