Did you know that many piano teachers pursue different types of professional development each year? It could be their piano lessons that specialize on a specific style of music, online workshops throughout the year or multi-day conferences.
Part of a being a master teacher is understanding this, “We never really stop learning.”
Oftentimes, we think of piano lessons as one student at the piano with a teacher sitting next to them. However, today’s teachers have realized that group lessons meet unique needs for their students.
At Must Love Music, we offer programming based on the needs of each child. But, all student programming has group lessons built in throughout the year. This ensure that each student gets one-on-one time while also spending time and building relationship with other students within the studio.
It also means that our students our eager to see what activities group lesson weeks hold!
What are Group Lessons?
Some studios offer weekly group lessons while others hold group lessons at set points throughout the year.
The other thing that may confuse some piano parents is that there are multiple terms to describe the same thing.
However group lessons, by any name, have a few things in common.
Multiple students gather together at a common time and place.
Focus on a particular set of skills or concepts.
Common times for studios to hold group lesson weeks are:
End of year
Typically, these group lesson weeks mix seasonal activities with the current studio focus.
At Halloween, perhaps students may explore pulse & rhythm with whole body activities to burn off the pre-candy energy.
At Christmas, students typically perform music they have prepared to play over the holidays. But, they will also participate in activities that tie together musical terms or ideas from the previous months.
Weather willing, Must Love Music students spend their last group lesson outdoors doing music theory in fun ways. (But, keep that our secret please.) Rather than fighting their natural desire to be outside, we move group lesson!
Why Have Group Lessons?
If your child regularly has private weekly lessons, the idea of changing the schedule may seem strange. But, I promise there are very good reasons why piano teachers have opted to include these activities.
Piano can be a lonely activity.
While other instruments are portable, pianos are more stationary.
Imagine trying to carry your acoustic piano to a friend’s house. Perhaps you have a great case that zips up to protect it from the weather. Maybe little wheels to make it easier to transport.
I think we will both agree that scenario is highly unlikely. Especially if you have ever seen adults attempting to move a full sized piano into a home.
Moving away from this tongue-in-cheek imagining, think about where the piano is placed in your home.
Is it tucked away in a corner or even worse in the basement?
When your child plays are they alone? Or, is a member of the family close by to encourage and occasionally sing along?
When I was much younger, I remember an instant where someone in my family decided the radio was going to be turned on while I was practicing. Except the radio made it hard for me to hear what I was playing. What resulted was a hilarious (in hindsight) game of who could be louder. Me on the piano or the stereo speakers.
Another time, I was playing “The Rose” which happened to be one of my dad’s favourite songs. What I remember was finding out how much it meant to him every time I played that song. And while it was not my favourite song at the time (life experience has made the lyrics much more poignant), both did I play it a lot when he was around. Consequently, “The Rose” became a song that I mastered very well.
Yes, your child needs to do the practice. But, this does not mean they need to feel alone.
Being with other students helps students:
See how far they have come.
Get inspired by where they can go.
Realize that the ups and downs of piano are ones other students have experienced as well.
Chance to Focus on Specific Concepts
As piano teachers, we do our best to give your child a diverse and interesting learning experience each lesson.
And while this does create an environment of exploration and fun, it does mean that some concepts are a little more difficult to cover.
Group lessons give students the opportunity to delve into topics that we may only get to superficially in lesson.
Music history happens to be one of these topics. Understanding what makes each musical era unique helps students create their own interpretation of their repertoire. Making time to go into these details during lesson or assigning this during the week is more difficult to implement.
Group lessons give students the opportunity to explore music history in a new way.
For example, one year we “Traveled Through Time” in our studio. At the December group lesson we all learnt the basic steps for the minuet because we had focused on the Baroque era.
Not only was it fun to try something new as a studio, but individual lessons make group activities like this either difficult or impossible.
Change in Routine
Why do we love holidays so much? Because they are a break in the routine.
As a former classroom teacher, I can tell you that there are certain times of the year when our students resemble swarming ants more than focused children. In fact, I would venture to guess that you see many of the same behaviours at home.
While routine is important and creates a foundation for learning, shaking up the routine is just as important.
Group lessons can ensure that deep learning happens at a time when your child is just ready to be done.
Rather than fighting the natural desire to take a break from the routine, changing the location and timing can bring a whole new energy to lessons!
On a side note, piano teachers often will take time for professional development throughout the year.
Whether this is conferences or workshops or pursuing higher education certification, a teacher that is continually learning is a teacher that has an amazing toolbox to help your child learn!
Rather than cancel lessons completely in order to attend training, teachers can use group lessons as a win-win situation.
The teacher continues to learn. Your child still has a piano lesson albeit in a different form.
What to Expect
Each teacher will handle group lessons a little differently, so be sure to ask your child’s teacher.
There are two options that teachers use to set up group lesson days & times. Neither is better or worse. They just reflect the goals or comfort level of your child’s teacher.
The schedule may be set up by the teacher. You will receive an email telling you which group lesson your child is expected to attend.
At Must Love Music, piano parents get a registration link in the monthly newsletter. This link shows a couple options of days/times for group lessons. Piano parents that register quickly get the spots that work best for their family. Piano parents who wait take the spots that are left.
The second option gives more flexibility to the family, but more planning to the teacher. A teacher must be very comfortable having students of all ages at the same time to successfully use this scheduling option.
Day of the Group Lesson
Each group lesson will have a specific drop-off time and pick-up time.
Think about the expectations when your child attends a birthday party at a rented facility (for example, laser tag). There are certain social norms that apply in both situations.
You are expected to drop off your child on time. Arriving 15 minutes early is not acceptable, unless you are supervising your child in your vehicle. This is because your child’s teacher is prepping for the group lesson.
You are expected to pick up your child on time. Children will often worry if their parent is late for pick-up. It also means that your child’s teacher is unable to shift to other prior commitments because they are still caring for your child.
Your child’s teacher will tell you and your child what they are required to bring to group lesson.
This can include your child’s:
Practice pouch (with pencil & eraser)
Music that will be performed
If you are not sure what your child needs to bring to group lesson, ask your child’s teacher. They want your child to have a successful group lesson as well!
What Happens During Group Lesson
Again the activities within group lesson will vary from teacher to teacher. And, to a certain extent from group lesson to group lesson.
Often there is an intro activity. This is something that allows students to settle into group lesson and transition from whichever activity they may have add before arriving.
This intro activity could be a worksheet or invitation to warm-up at the piano before performances begin.
The Main Event
Typically, piano teachers switch activities often within the group lesson.
This ensures a few things:
Students do not have a chance to get bored.
Group lesson seems to “fly by” with students wondering why it is already over.
Students can explore concepts in several different ways to facilitate deeper learning.
Activities can range from:
Playing the piano (individually or as a group)
Whole body movement
Videos with discussion
The goal is for your child to have fun while learning. Or as I jokingly say, “Trick them into learning.”
Your teacher may or may not have a closing activity.
At Must Love Music, students get a healthy snack while music that matches the group lesson theme plays in the background. We may talk about the music or activities within the group lesson lesson. Or, students may visit with one another.
Either way, students have created closer relationships with other students in the studio and started the transition for their next activity.
Helping Your Child Prepare For Group Lesson
Most teachers give information to their clients before group lesson. They may talk with the student beforehand to answer any questions.
But, some children can be nervous going into a new situation. And as parents, we want to know how to help our child.
Click below to access your FREE copy of “5 Ways to Prepare Your Child for Group Lessons”.