Ah, Halloween week. The excitement for trick or treating, the sugar rush (& crashes) from all the candy, & all the accompanied redirecting that goes into a lesson. “Yes, I think you did get a lot of candy. Congratulations! Now, let’s see if we can burn off more energy playing keys on the piano … in the semblance of a song. Any song … made up or written.” It can be exhausting for everyone.
One year, I made an important discovery. If you can’t fight ’em, join ’em.
Scheduling Halloween week
I used to be a travelling music teacher & now teach online. This has given me a unique perspective on how to handle Halloween week in the studio. While still keeping my sanity.
When I saw that I would be driving to my students’ homes on Halloween, I had visions of driving 30 km/hr while avoiding hyped-up kids trick or treating. No, thank you. I’ll pass.
The solution? Have students come to MY home for a group lesson sometime during Halloween week. Not only did it give students a chance to come together for a lesson, but it also avoided the whole “IjusthadabunchofsugarsinceIatealmostallmycandyinonesitting! I’MSOEXCITED!!!!!” Sigh.
Have parents sign up for a group lesson using something like Google Forms. The day before the group lesson, send out the unique link & any other details they need to know.
As always, when teaching online, make sure students have a chance to move around during group lessons. This is especially true when siblings will be sharing the screen!
Here are a few tips to make the most of Halloween week:
- Schedule group lessons either before or after Halloween.
- Plan activities that are fun & let students move around.
- If you have special needs/neurodiverse students, follow these extra tips.
Overall, the kids are in the mood to socialize so embrace it rather than fight it.
5 Ways to use …
Practice is such an important component of successfully learning to play an instrument. But, it can feel pretty boring doing the same ‘ol, same ‘ol thing.
One way we got around this was by using the “5 Ways” practice strategies! Each month, students use a different object in their practice pouches. Each week, they explore a new way to use the object with a specific song or activity. By guiding them through different ways of using each object, they develop a whole arsenal of tools to help them as they practice!
You can use this resource to our advantage for Halloween week’s aftermath.
In November, what do most kids have lots of, but parents dread having in the house? Candy.
So, in keeping with the “join ’em” attitude, students can be given different ways to practice throughout November using … that’s right, their Halloween candy. What student won’t want to practice if they get candy at every-single-practice-session?
By the way, using this approach meant my students clocked in more practice sessions at the piano over November to take advantage of this!
Group lesson activities
The first group lesson of the year is always about setting expectations AND making sure the kids have so much fun they get on their parents to schedule them as quick as possible for all remaining group lessons. Since Halloween week tends to get a lot of excitement, building this into group lesson is essential!
In-person group lessons
- Arriving: My students always had a theory worksheet waiting for them when they arrive for group lesson. It allowed me to greet students as they arrive, give points on their points cards, & get students settled into the lesson.
- Activities: Making sure there is a variety of options & that each can be easily modified for my multi-age, multi-level groups.
- Games: I’ve embraced the fact that my students want time to socialize. Even though I had students of different levels for each session, it was easy enough to choose a game or two for each level of students. If necessary, students were divided into mini groups based on their level/ability for this section.
- Active Listening: I have several Halloween & Autumn listening glyphs, as well as SQUILT worksheets for older students. Students listen to a season appropriate song & practice their active listening skills.
- Snack Time: This is another great way for kids’ to socialize & get settled down before their parents arrive. And, for snacks it will be autumn-appropriate with things that we tend to eat during this season! (Like the apple chips my mom made using the apples from our tree.)
Online group lessons
- Arriving: Let students in on-time & start with a little catching up. Keep this fairly short since it can drag down the energy or let siblings start to roughhouse.
- Activities: Controlling the energy level of students is essential. Alternate between low & high energy. And, make use of breakout rooms if it will keep students focused or allow you to easily modify for multi-age, multi-level groups.
- Games: This is the perfect time to build studio community! Get students to work together for the most part. And, if there is competion make sure the game is set up for each students’ level.
- Active Listening: If you want to use listening glyphs or SQUILT worksheets, send them to parents with the group lesson link. Ask them to print it off before lesson. And, have a back-up plan so all your students can listen to a season appropriate song & practice their active listening skills.
- Visiting Time: This is another great way for kids’ to socialize & build studio community. It’s up to you whether you want to have students grab snacks & eat in front of the camera. Just make sure parents know beforehand what will be happening. Otherwise, use this as a time to find out to find out what is important in your students’ lives.
Halloween week in your studio
Group lessons are a student favourite in my studio. And, one of our favourite activities is … digital escape rooms! So, it was only natural to create a playful, engaging series that got my students laughing.
To get your copy of these digital escape rooms (& save yourself admin time in the process), click the image below!
What will you be doing in your studio to embrace the Halloween fever?
Let me know in the comments below!
NOTE: This article was originally published on October 17, 2017. It has since been updated with ideas for online teaching while building on the original ideas!