3 Keys to a Comprehensive Piano Lesson Plan

By Tim Topham | Creativity

Mar 08

Piano teachers are some of the most dedicated, committed and hard-working professionals around. But are we sometimes too dedicated for our own good?

I know that feelings of being overwhelmed and burnt-out are all too common. I think part of it stems from our own desire to always deliver that ‘perfect’ lesson. One that includes a little bit of everything, from arpeggios to aural tests and from repertoire to rhythm patterns.

Of course, there is no perfect lesson and you can’t do everything in 30 or even 45 minutes. So don’t even try.

Instead, think holistically about what you’re delivering in lessons and work on improving your ability to find and make connections between the activities that make up a piano lesson plan. 

In today’s post, I want to get you off the dancefloor of teaching and onto the balcony (with apologies to Jim Collins) where we can look down and get an overview of what’s going on.

The 3 Main Segments of a Comprehensive Piano Lesson Plan

I believe there are three main areas we need to cover in most lessons to ensure a well-rounded education. They are, in no particular order:

  • Technique
  • Creative/Exploratory
  • Repertoire

Here are some considerations:

  • Some of these will merge and cross over (Eg. you can make scales creative if you do some improv with them or use an app like Musiclock).
  • Not every lesson has to include all aspects. If your creative activity is providing an exciting, motivating and positive experience, keep working on it.
  • The factors included in a lesson must be dependent on the goals of the student.
  • Just because I haven’t written “aural work” or “sightreading” doesn’t mean that these are not important or forgotten. In my opinion, these are sub-activities of one of these three main areas. For example, sightreading can be part of repertoire (Eg. “Let’s do some sightreading in the key of G before we work on your Sonatina in G”). Aural is part of creativity or technical work (Eg. Can you sing that scale”?).
  • Likewise, games can also form a part of any of these components. You can play aural games as part of your creative segment. You can do note-learning games as part of your repertoire work.

You’ll notice that all my lesson plan templates, which I’ll be releasing next week, are based on these three key areas forming the main part of a lesson.

I like looking at just three segments because it’s so much more attainable than trying to do everything.

If you just cover one activity under each of these three areas every lesson, you’ll already be teaching better than half the teachers out there who only cover technique and repertoire.

See also my podcast: “5 reasons to get more creative in your piano teaching this year.”

Download my 3 Keys Cheatsheet

I’ve created a downloadable cheatsheet to help with your lesson planning.

It comes in two versions:

  1. For teachers (see image above)
  2. For students (with child-friendly images)

This means that you can use the teacher one for your own reference and the student version in-lesson. Students can choose one option from each of the 3 Keys at the start of the lesson, giving them autonomy and choice as to the activities you’re going to explore.

Just leave your details below and I’ll email it through to you. You might like to laminate it double sided!

Planning Around the Segments

Stay tuned next week when I’ll be releasing my piano lesson plan templates which you’ll be able to download for free.

These will include weekly and quarterly (or each term for the Aussies) piano lesson plans, depending on how you work.

I’ll also let you see examples of how I fill them in.

All of these plans use the three above segments as a basis for organising your teaching material.

What do you think?

Is this “3 Segment” approach too broad or does it help reduce the overwhelming desire to “fit everything in”?

Let me know by leaving a comment below.

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About the Author

Best-known for his blogging and teaching, Tim is also a well-respected presenter, performer and accompanist based in Melbourne, Australia. You can check him out on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

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