It isn’t always easy to keep students engaged all lesson. With so many other activities in their lives, it can feel like piano is just one more thing vying for their attention. But, what if we could have our students ask this …
“What do you mean lesson is over already?”
This is the question EVERY teacher would love to hear at the end of each lesson. After all, a student who feels lesson flies by is much more likely to continue taking lessons & even tell their friends about how awesome piano is. Sure it can get a bit awkward when you get to listen to the following conversation.
Student: “Mom! How long has lesson been?” (Inwardly you’re cringing because, let’s face it, it just doesn’t sound good.)
Mom: “30 minutes.”
Student: “That’s what Ms. Rosemarie said! Are you sure? I’m sure it was only 15 minutes!” (A sigh of relief since that sounds SO much better.)
When this happens, I’ve chose to take it as a compliment & use it as an opportunity to talk to parents about how much their child loves piano. And, yes, I have students who regularly have this conversation with myself & their parents. Needless to say, they re-register every year without fail.
Maybe you already routinely have student’s complain about how short lessons are or maybe this is one complaint you would like to hear more of. If you fall into the later category, here are some ideas to help you keep students engaged each & every lesson.
4 Ways to Keep Students Engaged
1. Embrace short memory spans.
Children, and many adults for that matter, have short attention spans. So, rather than bemoan this reality embrace it. On average, children have an attention space that is their chronological age plus 1 minute (i.e. 5 year old would have an attention span of 6 minutes). Unfortunately, this does not seem to hold true for adults. Sorry!
I travel to my student’s homes, so everything I need for a lesson needs to be with me & this requires a plan. When planning lessons, I focus on 5-minute segments with a 5-minute buffer at the end of lesson. The buffer gives flexibility if something is going really well or needs more time. That being said, sometimes throwing the lesson out the window is the best thing you can do. Thank goodness for a wide variety of apps on the iPad to reinforce concepts to keep students engaged on those especially distracted days!
2. Make a recipe for each song.
By breaking a song down into it’s smallest components (or ingredients) you will always be able to reach your student where they are that day. Since applying this to lessons, I have seen huge strides in my student’s ability to see patterns & apply them to multiple songs. Plus, technique became a whole lot more applicable & enjoyable for students to practice when they see over & over how it shows up in their music!
- “Studying Suzuki Piano: More Than Music” by Carole L. Bigler & Valery Lloyd-Watts. I read it on a road trip as I eagerly shared ideas with my husband while he drove. (Link above is NOT an affiliate link.)
- Tim Topham’s episode on Simultaneous Learning with Paul Harris opened up my eyes to what I could do in lesson.
3. Why teach (on the bench) when you can trick them into learning?
This is one of the biggest changes in my personal teaching style since I started out as a teacher. Games, apps & manipulatives are just a few of my favourite things! (That IS how the song goes, right?) Even my most book-oriented learners light up when they get to move off the bench.
If you are just starting your game & supplementary music collections, many of the blogs I follow have both on their sites. I also recommend joining the Piano Book Club & Piano Game Club with TeachPianoToday. Getting new resources each month keeps the excitement up for students & teacher alike!
One of my students all-time favourite off-the-bench activities is our rhythm warm-ups. There were zero problems with keeping students engaged during this unit!
4. Have fun!
Go into every lesson with more energy than your student. It doesn’t matter how tired you are or what may be going on outside of lesson. If you have lots of positive energy & are excited about what you will be sharing, they will catch onto that excitement as well.
I will concede it is difficult to have more energy than a 4 year old, but do your best. If they are looking forward to lesson all day because they KNOW you will have fun with them for 30-minutes, those are the students that stay with you. And, those parents become huge converts who advertise for you.
What do you mean lesson is over?
All of these ideas have created a healthy, happy studio for my students. My hope is that you will be able to incorporate at least one idea into your lessons & that this positive complaint will be one you hear week after week.
So, what are some of the ways you keep your students engaged & coming back for more? Share in the comment box below!