By Greg Chase, SRMTA Member
Q. How do you make a good lesson plan and how do you execute it when you don’t really know how the student has prepared (especially with a short amount of lesson time)?
A. Although lesson planning for a private lesson is different than planning a lesson for a class at school, the main concepts are the same. Like school teachers we also have to set our objectives, decide on the teaching techniques, and list resources and materials to be used in the lesson.
However, the individual detail needs to be flexible to accommodate the musical differences of each student. It is important to keep in mind that whatever we do in the lesson that it is a purposeful activity and we understand the reasoning for doing such an activity.
A lesson plan is much like a financial budget. We often get unexpected expenses but those expenses do not render the budget useless. A lesson plan is a guideline we follow (as is a budget) with changes made along the way. The success of the lesson does not need to be evaluated by how closely we follow the lesson plan but rather how well we use the lesson time
for learning, and the learning that was accomplished.
One of the biggest challenges for private music teachers is the fact that we do not know how much the student has progressed from the last lesson’s assignment. Did they practise as much as we expect? Did they have trouble in a section that we weren’t anticipating? Above all, flexibility is needed when lesson planning for private music lessons.
The Lesson Plan
Lesson plans will differ according to the level of the student being taught. Lesson plans are based on the musical age of the student, rather than their chronological age. This ensures a student-focused lesson, rather than a teacher-based lesson. For younger students my lesson plans will entail the following activities:
Developing a music vocabulary of tonal patterns and rhythm patterns
Singing a folk song/melody to be played on their instrument
Keyboard Geography and Technique Activities
Learning new repertoire
Reviewing old repertoire
Taking old repertoire to the next level: e.g. improvising, creating, transposing, creating accompaniment patterns, changing tonality, and the list is endless.
Technical preparation for repertoire to be learned in the next lesson.
One of the key goals in creating a lesson plan are the sequential objectives of the lesson. Objectives are a thorough description of what students should have accomplished by the end of the lesson. Each bullet point listed above would be accompanied by one or more objectives. Also included would be skills or activities that students will learn by the end of the lesson. When
developing a lesson plan sequential ordering of objectives are based on how music skills interact with each other. This entails how tonalities, meters, tonal patterns, rhythm patterns, and harmonic patterns interact with one another, and how music context and content interact with each other. Students are guaranteed success when sequential objectives are designed in terms of skill development using techniques enhancing audiation (the ability to hear music, whether present or not, with comprehension). These sequential objectives have a logical order as they progress step by step from achievement at one level of learning to the next level.
Writing Lesson Plans
Having a written lesson plan keeps me “honest” in my teaching, and on task. This allows me to get through most, if not all, of the bulleted list above in a 45 minute lesson. Through the use of Google Docs my lesson plans become my students’ weekly lesson assignment. While I may not get to everything on my lesson plan I do know what was accomplished and what needs to be bumped to the next lesson. Regardless, in creating a written lesson plan make sure that whatever is done is purposeful and aids in accomplishing the immediate and longer term goals of the