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How to Plan a Multi-Level Group Lesson

How to Plan a Multi-Level Group Lesson

Planning group lessons is a wonderful way to increase social engagement in your studio.  Holding a multi-level group lesson may seem like a nightmare in the making.  But, it doesn’t have to be.

With a little planning, multi-level group lessons throughout the year could be just the thing your students rave about.

Why Have Group Lessons?

Group lessons held throughout the year are a great option for a studio with private or partner lessons. 

The change in the schedule is often just the thing to keep students engaged & eager to learn. 

They can create a sense of community within your studio, which is especially challenging when you have a travel studio.

And, if you play your card right … you get a week of prep instead of a regular teaching week.  

If you cancel regularly scheduled lessons in lieu of group lesson, it gives you more prep time during your normal teaching hours for that week!

Sounds pretty great, right?

What Are the Options?

Group lessons can feel overwhelming to many teachers.  And, it understandable.

I still remember the first time I stood in front of a class during my practicums.  Almost every single male student was taller than me, the girls mostly looked bored, & my cooperating teacher had just left the room after explaining I was a student teacher … & yes my grades counted even after I was gone.

Being outnumbered can feel a bit like jumping out of a plane.  You’re quite sure the chute will open & everything will work out fine.  But, there’s that little niggling doubt in the back of your mind.

Single-level group lesson

Some teachers prefer to have students come to pre-arranged group lessons. 

Parents get an email that lets them know when each of their children has group lesson.  And, the teacher can plan activities specific to that level.

The downside is many families may baulk at bringing each child to a different group lesson.  Especially with their already overloaded schedule.

Multi-level group lesson

The parents in my studio have made it clear.  They need choice in when their children attend group lesson.  They are often scheduled to the gills & if there is no choice … chances are their children will not be at group lesson.

Multi-level group lessons can seem overwhelming just from a logistical point of view.  How on earth do you meet the needs of different levels at the same time?

However, they also give a great opportunity for students of all ages to:

  • Have older students take a mentor role with younger/newer students
  • Have younger/newer students see what they can aspire to as they see & hear older/advanced students
  • Learn concepts at different levels

5-Step Plan

Planning multi-level group lessons doesn’t have to be hard.  But, it does require some planning ahead of time.

  1. Decide on a concept or theme.
  2. Look at how each level of student will learn about/practice this concept.
  3. Decide how students will work together … & individually.
  4. Find resources or create each activity.
  5. Get a backup activity just in case.

Concept, Theme … Or Both?

Do you have a particular focus in your studio right now?  Or, maybe it’s a time of year that lends itself to a theme?

In my studio, we switch units every 2 months.  In each unit, we focus in on particular concepts or skills.

And, this is where I pull activities for group lessons within my studio.

Mixing the season & music concepts

Let’s say I want to have a Halloween themed group lesson that pulls elements from our Renaissance unit. 

Students are already familiar with what music from the Renaissance sounds like & basic elements of it.

Now is the perfect time to apply those to more modern music.

We could:

  • Do imitation as a round either singing or at the piano
  • Play/listen to a prepared piece … then listen to it as the teacher plays with minor 3rds & 6ths added
  • Play a simple piece with each student taking on a part of the 4-voice texture
  • Figure out whether a song is in duple or triple meter
  • Make up new lyrics for a song … How is this like cantus firmus?  And, how is it the same?

Level It Up

Not every student is at the same level.  And that can be a benefit.

Singing a round?

  • Beginners: Place next to a strong singer that they could sing with
  • Elementary: Singing 1st or 2nd part of round
  • More advanced: Singing 3rd + parts of round

All the students are playing different parts of a song?

  • Beginner: Keep a steady beat with one note
  • Elementary: Keep a steady beat with a few different notes
  • More advanced: Play a melody/accompaniment line with a several different notes & contrasting rhythm.

Figuring out meter?

  • Beginners: Patsch (tapping their lap) to the pulse
  • Elementary: Patsch with heavy emphasis on first beat of each measure or conducting
  • More advanced: Conducting or tap pulse and rhythm with each hand

Work Together

One of the biggest reasons to have group lessons is so students can have a social experience. 

Playing piano can feel a little lonely week to week.  But, getting together with other students to have fun learning?  Sign me up!

I’ve tried having beginners doing their own activities & everyone else doing other activities.  It’s exhausting.

What works even better is knowing when students should work independently … & when pairing up or whole group is better.

A worksheet at the beginning while everyone is settling in can be the perfect choice.  You can greet students & check in with everyone individually.  Students can get into a piano group lesson head space.

Games & active components of lesson bring everyone together.  And, with a little planning are easy enough to level up.

Plan It Out Ahead of Time

Make sure each level of activity has the best resources.

  • Individual theory worksheets: TeachersPayTeachers is a great resource
  • Games: same concept but different way of reviewing
  • Flashcards
  • Music
  • Questions you ask

Maybe you are testing note recognition.  While each student sees a flashcard at their level, if the answer is correct … the other team has to do a Burpee.

Backup Plan

This is just part of good teaching.  While we plan so that things will go smoothly, it doesn’t always happen.

Sometimes students go through activities much quicker than we thought.

Sometimes an activity bombs because it was too hard, too ‘boring’, too [fill in the blank].

Having a backup plan is essential.

Make sure you have 1 – 2 additional activities ‘just in case’.

Group Lesson Ideas

Holding a multi-level group lesson is a wonderful way to create community in your studio.  (It’s also a great way to ‘trick’ students into learning.)

But if you are feeling a little overwhelmed with the planning part, click below for multi-level group lesson ideas.

What is your biggest struggle when it comes to group lessons?

Let us know in the comments below!

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