Tips for Scheduling a Successful Group Class

Have you decided to hold group lessons but aren’t quite sure how often to schedule them or how to make sure as many of your students as possible can attend?

When I first started holding group lessons I was overwhelmed and unsure of how to effectively schedule group lessons. Everyone seemed to suggest a different way to host group lessons. I heard everything from once a week, once a month, once a quarter, once a semester, to not at all!

There are so many ways to integrate group lessons in one’s studio.  Due to my large studio, I found it works best for me to dedicate one week of each semester to group lessons. This ensures that everyone has an opportunity to attend group lessons while still allowing for adequate private lessons throughout the year. During the week of group class I only teach group lessons and do not schedule private lessons this week. In my studio, group class is required and part of tuition. Even if a student skips group class they still are required to pay the same tuition as those who attended.

Over time I have found a few tips that have helped keep my sanity when scheduling times for group classes. Whether you decide to hold group lessons once a week or less frequently as I do, hopefully you will find the following tips helpful.

Tips for scheduling studio wider group classes a large number of students can attend.

 

You Can’t Keep Everyone Happy

The first thing to remember is you cannot keep everyone happy. It will drive you crazy if you try! Though I do try to accommodate different schedules and stay aware of what works for the majority of my students it is important to remember you can’t please everyone. Despite your best efforts sometimes someone will not be able to attend class.

Create a signup sheet with class time options.

I begin by creating a signup sheet with various time options. I assign each class a level, for example beginner, preschool, intermediate, teen or advanced. I then look at my studio to see who needs evenings, afternoons, or weekends. I try to schedule at least three beginner classes one in the evening, afternoon, and on Sunday or Saturday. I also do the same for all other levels with the exception of the teen/advanced class for which I only need one class and usually choose evenings. Sometimes I know I need more than three beginner classes so I will schedule one in the early afternoon, late afternoon, evening and on Saturday or Sunday.

Getting Families to Choose their Times

As families sign up I will ask for their first and second choice should I find that one of the times I originally thought would work does not work for enough families and I need to adjust the time. Typically I like to keep group class between 5-8 students but I have held smaller and larger classes as needed. When a class fills up I mark it as full and do not allow other families to sign up for that class. I usually take time preference requests on a first come first serve basis.

Sample Schedule

To give you an example of a possible group class schedule I have listed the schedule I used this past spring below. For reference preschool and beginner classes are a 1hr, Intermediate classes are 1hr 15min, and Advance classes are an hour and 15min to an hour and a ½ depending on if it’s beginning teens or advanced students.

Sunday

1:00pm Beginner

2:00pm Preschool

3:00 Late Beginner

Monday:

3:15 Beginner

4:15 Intermediate

5:30 Beginner

Tuesday

10:00 Preschool

2:30 Preschool

4:30 Beginner/Late Beginner

5:30 Intermediate

Wednesday

3:30 Beginner

5:15 Preschool

6:15 Teen

 

If you are not sure where to start in scheduling ask a few of your students what times and days might work for them. Just remember not to guarantee a time since you are just starting the scheduling process.

9 Tips for a Successful Studio Recital

Is your recital coming up? Have you ever had recitals go smoothly only to be followed by the next semester’s recital that didn’t go quite the way you thought it would? I know I have.
Up until last fall all my recitals had always gone smoother than I could have asked, but this last December things didn’t go quite as planned. In fact, I barely got the programs printed because my printer broke, I got locked out of the church where the recital was to be held, and we almost completely ran out of punch and the first reception. Thankfully I got the programs printed at the last second, finally got into the church, and managed to secure more punch for the second recital and reception.

This experience got me thinking about what I already do to keep recitals flowing smoothly and if there was anything else I could do to keep recitals successful.

9 tips to help your studio recital be a huge success.

Here are a few things I have always done and a few I will add to this year’s recitals to do list (Like asking for a parent volunteer).

Confirm the church key or door code 24-48 hours in advance to make sure you have the proper code or key.

Print the programs more than a day in advance. Nothing is worse than running around the day of trying to print programs.

Ask for parent volunteers at the reception to serve punch and take wrappings off the finger foods so that you can visit with students and their parents.

Remind parents to bring a finger food items to share for the reception.

Have a recital run through of student’s pieces at the lesson(s) before the recital. Have young students practice walking up to the piano, playing their pieces, and bowing.(Group class is also another great place to practice this.)

Ask new students to arrive early at the recital so they can familiarize themselves with the location and piano.

Avoid starting late by requiring those playing to arrive by a specific time before the recital starts.

Have particularly young students or those who get nervous easily play early in the program so their nerves don’t “get a hold” of them.

Try to spend time after each recital speaking to each student and telling them specifically what they did well.

Make a point to speak to any parents you have not met yet or don’t see regularly.

What do you do to keep recitals successful? I would love to hear in the comments below. Or do you have a funny story of a recital flop? Locked out of the church, double booked location, or other flop? I would love to know I’m not the only one who worries the church will forget I booked the sanctuary for the entire afternoon.

Give your Studio the Extra Energy it Needs this Spring.

The semester is drawing to a close soon. Spring break and Easter are past and it is almost time for students to disperse for the summer. But there is still at least a month and a half left of lessons before summer!

About this time in the spring, piano teachers often start to wonder what their retention rate for the coming fall will be. We ask ourselves questions such as will my studio continue to grow or just be a constantly revolving door? Will I have open lessons slots that I need to fill in the fall? Do parents see the value in how and what I am teaching their children?

And to add to all this we often look forward to summer and a much needed break or lighter teaching schedule ourselves. Often after spring break, teaching can get just a little too predictable. There are no more exciting holidays or events around the corner. In the fall, there is the excitement of Halloween and right on its heels follows Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and Valentines. Once spring rolls around things can start to become a little too predictable. Not only that, but the weather is finally warm enough and student’s practice quantity and quality starts to drop as spring sports become a serious contender for kid’s attention.

But overly predictable lessons are the last thing teachers need in May when parents start to evaluate what activities their children will be participating in next fall. Instead, parents need to see us energetic and excited to work with their children and how much their children are learning and having fun taking piano!

Give your studio that extra something special it needs this spring

So what can you add to your lessons that is easy, already planned, and won’t add to your steady growing list of things to be done before June?

Adding some new games to your studio is a great way to mix up lessons and keep kids excited about piano. Even if you use games already in your studio give a few new games a try this spring. Most likely you’ll find a few new games over the next few weeks keeps kids thrilled to attend their lessons this spring even though they could be out playing soccer.

And if you are a little worn out from a long school year here are a few games to freshen up lessons all planned and ready to use just click print!

Free Games

Princess Match Up

Catching Bugs

Carnival Ferris Wheel

 

More advanced games available for purchase

Key Signature Games

Caterpillar Scales

Note Value Pack

Leaping Lady Bug 

Submarine Hunt

Seven Reasons to Start Holding Group Lessons in your Studio

This past year I started holding group lessons once a semester for all my students. Though I have always known the advantages of scheduling studio wide group lessons, I wasn’t sure how my students would respond.

In the past whenever I thought about group class I remembered being a young piano student. For me group classes were boring and were always scheduled on a weekend which I didn’t like much. I had a wonderful loving teacher who tried to plan great group classes but for some reason they didn’t click with me. We didn’t play very many games, instead it was mostly a performance class and back when I was 6 and 7 I found this boring. I have no doubt that the group classes were beneficial for me, but I didn’t find them fun and exciting.

But last summer a colleague convinced me to try hosting a few group classes. She told me all her students loved group class and they were not boring classes at all!  After asking her tons of questions on how she structured her group classes I decided to give it a try. And after hosting two weeks of group lessons this past school year (one last fall and one this spring), I have found that students do love coming to group class you just have to plan the right kinds of activities. In fact, when I recently reminded one of my students that group class was the following week she responded by announcing “I love group lessons, they are so much fun!”

I highly encourage every teacher to consider the benefits of occasional group lessons in their studio. Over the month of April and May I will be discussing the essential steps of hosting successful and exciting group lessons.

If you are wondering what is so wonderful about group lessons and if you should really give them a try, here are five benefits of including group lessons in one’s studio and why you should mix things up a bit.

Seven compelling reasons to include group class in you piano studio.

Builds Camaraderie

Providing group lessons allows students to meet others around their age and ability level who are also learning piano. Learning an instrument can be challenging. Music is an additional language children must learn to read and learning the technique required for playing an instrument takes hard work and persistence for even the most talented students. Meeting others around one’s age can encourage and inspire students to persevere. Group lessons provide a great way for students to meet others in the studio and get to know each other in a fun learning environment. This also keeps recitals fun because you’re just performing for a group of friends!

Prepares Students for Playing in Public

At group lessons in my studio each student plays a song they are currently working on, oftentimes what they plan to play for the recital. This mini performance opportunity for one’s peers provides an opportunity for students to sort out the initial ‘bugs’ in their piano piece such as checking memory and phrasing. Playing in a small group class also allows new students and those hesitant to play in a recital, a way to experience some of what recitals are like while building confidence.

Helps Teach Students to Listen to their Playing and Others Objectively.

As students become more advanced, part of group class not only involves playing for each other but also giving each other encouragement and constructive feedback. After each student has played I ask them to share one thing they liked about their performance and one thing they would like to improve. Each student then shares one thing they liked about each other student’s performance and a kind suggestion or encouragement.

Gives You the Opportunity to Provide an Intensive Theory Session

Group lessons are all about having fun in a group learning environment. For group class I like to pick a theme such as rhythm or sight reading and structure the majority of the classes’ games around this skill. The possibilities for this are endless. I have reviewed scales, note identification, chords, time signatures, complex rhythms, and even composition. By having an intensive one hour session focused on a specific skill or two I find students learn and solidify information better and faster.

It’s Just Way More Fun Learning in Groups than alone!

Piano can be a solitary instrument to learn at times and it is important for students to have a social aspect to learning an instrument. Students who are able to socialize while learning are more likely to maintain interest in piano for a longer period of time and it is far more motivating to learn if you have a friend learning alongside you!

Mixes the Regular Schedule Up a Bit

After spring break, do you find teaching gets just a little too predictable? There are no exciting holidays or events around the corner. In the fall, there is the excitement of Halloween and right on its heels follows Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and Valentines. Once spring rolls around things can start to become a little too predictable. But by scheduling a group class in the spring it helps change things up. In fact, you may find your students enjoy the change so much they talk about group class for months afterwards, mine do!

Encourages Students to Participate in a Summer Camp.

If you are planning to offer any summer camps in your studio, group class can expose students and parents to how fun and beneficial it can be to learn musical skills in a group environment. In my studio, students who have not participated in a camp before often sign up for camp simply because they enjoyed participating in group class.

Five Things Every Piano Teacher Needs When Working With Preschoolers

I hope you all are having a wonderful start to the New Year. After a refreshing Christmas break, January was full of adding new students to my teaching schedule and keeping up with existing students. I have been so busy starting new piano students and finishing up the new practice incentive for my students that blogging took a back seat for a while. But now I am back, and I have some great new games and products coming this year to give you the resources you need to make this year a fun and exciting for your students!

Last fall I wrote a post on the 5 things I like to always have handy when teaching elementary age students. Though I use some of the same resources in working with preschool students, there are many other resources I like to have on hand with younger students that I do not use with older students as much.

If you are just starting to teach preschool students or are looking for some new fun activities for your preschool students, here are a few ideas to get you started. If you don’t yet teach preschool students I highly recommend considering working with this younger group. They can be so much fun!

What every piano teacher needs when working with preschool students.

Buckets and Beanbags: One of the most inexpensive resources I purchased last year was a set of buckets and beanbags. I have found an infinite number of uses for the buckets and beanbags but one of my student’s favorites is when we play the listening toss game. On each bucket I place a picture of what they are listening for in the music I play such as happy and sad (Major/Minor), Slow and Fast, Legato and Staccato, or Piano and Forte. Whatever my students hear, they then put a bean bag in the correct bucket. Though this is such a simple game, my students love to toss the bean bags in the correct bucket and they are learning basic music analysis skills all students need.

High and Low Picture Cards: At every preschool students first lesson (and subsequent lessons), I introduce the concept of high and low sounds with my set of high and low picture cards. My set of high and low card are pictures of objects high in the sky or low down on the ground. I have had students pick a card from my hand and play either high or low notes on the piano and I have hidden the cards around the room and had them find and come play notes that are high and low on the piano. Additionally I have taped the high and low cards on the buckets mentioned above and played a high and low listening game. These are just a few of the games that can be played with a set of high and low cards.

Dessert Rhythms: One of the most popular resources in my studio is dessert rhythms. Students love saying the names of their favorite foods while learning about rhythm. With dessert rhythms, I can now successfully teach young students to correctly clap sixteenth notes and other complex rhythms with success. Want to know more about the very popular dessert rhythms resource? Check on this post here and this here.

Staff board: I find I use my staff board just as frequently with preschool students as with elementary students. My preschool students first learn about high and low, going up and down, and same versus different on the staff. After students have what I refer to as general staff awareness skills I begin to introduce the names of the lines and space.

Vinyl Keyboard: My vinyl keyboard is second in popularity with my students to dessert rhythms. Not only can students move around on the keyboard when learning to differentiate high and low sounds, but I also find my vinyl keyboard to be a valuable resource in teaching students about the names of the keys on the piano. With just a simple set of music alphabet cards, I can ask students to put them in the correct order on the vinyl keyboard. After my students have put the cards in the correct order, students love when I ask them to close their eyes while I mix-up the cards. When students open their eyes, I then ask them to find what is wrong and if they can fix it. In fact, any game that asks preschool students to close their eyes is sure to be popular!