Group Lesson Tips & Ideas
Cathy T., New Zealand
As I was making a set of cards for today’s lesson the thought occurred to me that others might like to try some of the ideas I have used so far to help with working together in group lessons. So feel free to give these a go and I hope you have fun doing so.
- To help students experiment with different chords, I made up a set of 8 cards with the following on them: C, C, F, F, G, G Am Dm . One C had ‘start’ on in and the other C had ‘end’ on it. Today in my lesson I got them to put the cards on the piano in any order but with C on the beginning and end. We then chose a ratio and I played the 8 bar sequence. We chose a topic and I played the sequence again while making up an impromptu melody and silly song to match. Then we shifted the cards around and did it all again a few times with students having turns playing and making up melodies and lyrics. It was a lot of fun. It gave lots of opportunity to naturally revise ratios as well as a little reflection on which chords seemed to be more suited to be together. Each student took a set home to compose their own song for next week. I tried this activity with my three groups which span 7yrs old to nearly 60 and everyone found it really fun. By the way, I found that an A4 sheet of paper was a good size to make eight cards although slightly narrower cards may be helpful so they can all sit up on the piano in a row without falling off.
- I have made up a set of cards with the chord shapes and names on. I give out a set of cards to each pair and challenge them to have them sorted before the other groups. I find that doing this a few weeks in a row helps them to consolidate the chords in their mind. It also helps the less able student to be supported by their peer.
- If I feel like they need to go through a number of songs in their play list during the lesson I pair them up with an envelope with the names of the songs they need to go through. They have turns choosing a song from the envelope and play it for their partner. This worked really well last week when a girl moved into a new group. It was good having her play to a partner in the first instance instead of playing to the whole group and parents right from the start.
- We are preparing to have a concert soon so now when we play for each other at the start of the lesson, I get them to introduce their name and their piece they are playing. With this I encourage them about posture, eye contact and speed clarity of speech. I get the rest of the group to get up and sing to the parents as though we are in a concert. It is great to see the fun the girls have doing this.
- To use the parents a little more, I had them make up an impromptu story and say it aloud while the child responded to the story on the keyboard. They had a practice at first and then did it for the group. I did this after having done the night storm in minor and then the variation in C. It is a great place to talk about things that can affect the mood of a piece of music such as tempo and volume and happy sounding chords (major) and sad or (scary ones) minor. It is wonderful seeing the parents squirm a little as they put themselves in front of everyone. I think it is good for the adults to feel a bit of what their children go through when they start to do things in front of the group.
- After the first five songs and at other times I like to give a self evaluation sheet for them to work through with a partner. It helps them to see where they are at with a song and what the next step might be for improving the song.
- Another fun activity I have done is make up some cards with roles
- Play piano
- Act 5 Act
- Listen and clap
You can make as many cards for as many in the group. Then in another envelope I have the songs they will need to play. We choose the song. Then they pick out their card which tells them their role for the song. I make enough cards to include the parents and if the parents have learnt to play the song, they play. If not, they swap so that a student can play the song. All the others do their particular part. Acting out dreams comes true is pretty nice.
Well that is about all I can think of for now. I hope someone finds some of these ideas helpful. I have been teaching since August last year and am really enjoying myself. Teaching SM is one of the highlights of my week.