One of the biggest concerns, when a studio moves online, is, “How will I create community?” There can be a fear that all the wonderful in-person activities you do are not possible, or at best, less effective. Using the best online group lesson ideas means these student-favourite activities can be just as engaging as the in-person option!
The ideas below focus on online group lessons scheduled throughout the year. But, they could be applied to weekly group lessons as well.
Isn’t it just sitting in front of a screen?
No! An online group lesson should not be about staring at a screen the whole time! Students should be actively participating each step of the way. Just like students get bored at piano lessons if they can’t play, they will be bored if they aren’t interacting during a group lesson.
Parents worry that their child will get lost in the screen of students. Or, that they will need to be involved the whole time.
Students wonder if they will be waiting for the activities to start or end up listening with nothing to do.
The best group lesson ideas ensure students are engaged, make it easy for you to interact with each student, & take advantage of the positives of being online. While diminishing the negatives, of course.
Make it unique
Don’t try to make online lessons, whether individual or group, the same as in-person lessons. The way to share information & get students to interact with each is different.
We saw this firsthand in the first months our kids went online during Covid. One of our kids had a teacher who arranged things so students spent time with her in live sessions, worked independently away from the screen, & made sure everyone knew the best way to ask questions. With our other child, we saw a teacher who had a clear purpose for teaching the material (an end of year test that was cancelled) & a clear way of teaching the material that wasn’t feasible outside in-person classes. It was a big struggle for this teacher to move online. Often the teacher would miss or arrive very late for live sessions, assignments were assigned haphazardly week to week, & questions didn’t necessarily get answered.
What did these teachers have in common? Both were dedicated to their craft. They both genuinely wanted to help their students become the best they could be. And, before Covid, had both ensured programming was consistent & progressing.
What made one teacher more successful in teaching online? The difference was one teacher understood being online meant a difference in approach. The other teacher couldn’t imagine a different way of teaching her students beyond what she had set up in person.
Make your online group lessons unique. Focus on what you can do well online. And, leave out the rest.
Make them special! When group lessons are social events held throughout the year, this becomes even more important. Pull out the extra fun activities. Move away from the regular schedule.
4 Ideas for online group lessons
Here are the top online group lesson ideas that students love & are teacher-approved!
I’ve included ideas that are often used during in-person lessons but may need a tweak for online use. Remember you don’t have to start from scratch! Just like the teacher that did well online, take what you do & change it a little to take advantage of the positives of being online.
1. Get off-the-bench
Ensure students are moving around at various parts of the group lesson. Not only are we building healthy bodies, but these types of activities keep students’ minds active.
- Dance (one of my favourites)
- Do whole-body movement (like these rhythm warm-ups)
- Simon Says
Aim for something active a minimum of 1-2 times in a 90-minute online group lesson.
2. Play your instrument!
Sometimes we get so excited about fun activities, we forget that our students want to play their instrument!
You can have students:
- Play a prepared song or 2
- Improvise with their microphone muted
- For siblings, give each a different part of the piano to play on.
- After 1-2 minutes, have students share their improvisation.
- Teach a basic song to the group (more advanced idea)
- Have students play the next part to a song (this works if everyone has learnt “Happy Birthday” or another song).
Aim for each student getting to play a minimum of once in a 90-minute lesson. Even better if they can play more! This is where small online group lessons work best. Yes, it’s more time for you during the week. But, your students & their parents will thank you for making each moment engaging!
3. Play a game
You have access to free (or low-cost) technology tools. Use them! Combine these with games that students love!
- Play a multi-person physical game you already have.
- Scan the game board & show the game cards on the screen.
- Or, you could put the game in Google Slides for an interactive option. (Just make sure all students have the link to join in,)
- Use a digital escape room
- Students work as a team to solve the clues.
- Great opportunity for discussion amongst students!
- Use the whiteboard function to have a game of musical Pictionary.
- Privately message the student the term or concept. They draw it.
- For siblings, ask one sibling to close their eyes while the other reads the chat. Once the student reads it, get them to close the chat.
Aim for at least 1 game per 90-minute lesson. This could be the main theme of the online group lesson. For example, you could look at different aspects of a musical era, in a series of digital escape rooms.
4. Listen to music
There is something powerful about listening & talking about great music. “Great music” is the greats of classical music. And, it’s music that is created now. If your students love it, it’s worth exploring during lessons.
- Tell a story & have students play or listen to musical excerpts throughout.
- Ask them questions to describe what they are hearing.
- Listen to a song that fits your group lesson theme.
- No lyrics: Talk about mood & what might be happening. Discuss mode, meter, dynamics, articulation, etc. as they make predictions on how each influences the overall song.
- Lyrics: Talk about how the lyrics add to the music. Does the style of the piece match the lyrics?
- Ask students to share their current favourite (appropriate) song in the chat.
- Take time to listen to at least a portion of each.
- Ask students to share what they like about the song. If they don’t like it, why?
- This gives great insight into what your students want to play!
This was always my favourite way to end in-person group lessons! We would put on a playlist while having a snack & visited.
Now that we are online, I do my best to incorporate this throughout our time together. Use your computer sound to ensure students can hear the music clearly. Students love listening to a variety of music. And, they love that their opinions matter!
Make it fun!
Whether you feel comfortable using every tech feature available to you or are slowly building your skill set, there are online group lesson ideas that will work for your studio!
By choosing different categories of activities, your online group lessons will keep students engaged from the moment they enter to the time they leave! By playing, listening, moving & including games, your students will eagerly await the next time they get together online.
In the comments, share your favourite activities for online group lessons!