Tips For Teaching Group Lessons

Group lessons have SO many benefits, but can be overwhelming – our tips will help inspire you!

Tips For Teaching Group Lessons

Group lessons have SO many benefits, from encouraging your students to play with other musicians, to boosting your numbers and income without working more hours.

But group lessons can be overwhelming, especially if you’ve never had any experience with them.

We want to share with you some group teaching tips to get you feeling inspired!

Table Of Contents:

  1. Start Small
    1.1 Work Your Way Up
  2. Always Have A Clear Goal
    2.1 Question To Ask When Starting Up
    2.2 Questions To Ask When Planning Individual Lessons
  3. Plan, Plan, Plan!
  4. Don’t Use Headphones All The Time
    4.1 But Won’t It Sound Horrendous?
  5. Involve Parents in Group Lessons
  6. Bonus: Group Lesson Schedule Inspiration
  7. But I Need More Help With Group Lessons!

1) Start Small

If you’re new to group lessons, then we recommend you start small.

Select one age group or one particular level and create a group lesson program around that.

Alternatively, you could start by introducing partner lessons. One student has a 15-minute private lesson, then the next student arrives. They then have a joint 30-minute group lesson, then the first student leaves so the second student has their 15-minute private lesson.

Partner lessons are a great way to introduce students to the idea of group lessons and provide them with a similar level/age duet partner. It also gives them an extra motivator for practicing and preparing for the lesson as they don’t want to look bad in front of the other student!

Work Your Way Up

After trialing out partner lessons, you could then expand to bigger group lessons.

Group lessons can come in many different forms, including:

  • Weekly (in place of private one-to-one lessons)
  • Monthly (could be named a ‘Piano Party’ where students come together to perform and play games)
  • Summer camps/workshops (special one-off events that perhaps follow a specific theme)
  • Catch-up lessons (at the end of a month/term/semester students can attend a group lesson to make up for any missed lessons)

2) Always Have A Clear Goal

Having a clear goal for group lessons overall and for each individual lesson helps when it comes to starting out and setting up, and also for planning each lesson.

Questions To Ask When Starting Up

By asking yourself ‘Why?’ ‘What?’ and ‘How?’ you can create a clear idea of…

  • Why do you want to incorporate group lessons into your studio? Why will they benefit your students? Use these answers when advertising. Why will they benefit you? Remind yourself of these answers when things get hard!
  • What do you need to do to get group lessons up and running? What resources do you need to source? Make a list so you don’t miss anything. What instruments do you already have that you can use? Again, make a list so you can plan anything you need to purchase.
  • How do you envisage them running? How will you group students together? By age? Ability? Siblings? Friends? How often will they run? Will they be weekly? Monthly?

Questions To Ask When Planning Individual Lessons

Asking yourself ‘Why?’ ‘What?’ and ‘How?’ for each lesson can help ease the planning process:

  • Why is this lesson happening? Is it to provide students with a performance opportunity? Is it the one time in the week they’re getting primary instruction so it needs to be full of educational content? Is it a fun get-together to reinforce students’ theory knowledge?
  • What do you want your students to get out of the group lesson? Are they working on scales? Improvisation? Are they working on duets or a group piece?
  • How will the lesson run? Do you need to source any extra resources? Do you need new music? Do you need to ask them to bring anything in particular?

Have a clear goal for each lesson, focus on that, and build your activities around it.

3) Plan, Plan, Plan!

Once you have your goal, it’s time to start planning.

(I know – I wish lessons just happened as well! Where’s the lesson planning genie when you need him?!)

If you’re staring at a blank page that says “Plan For Group Lessons” and no inspiration is coming, let us help you get started…

  1. Divide your group lessons into four parts.
    For example, if your group lessons are weekly and the goal is to learn new music theory and continue through the method book, your plan could look like this:
    1) Review what was covered in the last lesson – clapping and playing rhythms using quavers (eighth notes)
    2) Theory – start looking at time signatures
    3) Game – a rhythm game
    4) Method book – continue onto the next page
    (These elements can be done in any order)

    Obviously, if your goal is different you’ll have different elements. But by dividing the lesson into separate parts you’ll plan enough activities to keep everyone engaged and busy.
  2. Decide what MUST be accomplished in that lesson (even if just one thing). Everything else that happens is a bonus!
    For example, in the example above if the main goal was to review the students’ understanding and ability to clap and play certain rhythms, moving onto time signatures would be a bonus.
  3. Always plan a few extra/backup activities. There are bound to be times when things don’t quite go to plan or students get through things quicker than expected. Having backup activities will make you feel less worried about something going wrong.
    For example, if it’s clear that all students are confident with the rhythms, the review section might go quicker than expected. By having a backup time signatures game or activity you’re able to fill that extra time with more educational content rather than panicking, “What do I do?!”
  4. Play games that involve everyone to reinforce theory elements rather than set worksheets or tests. These activities will make your students feel like they’re at school. Anything that makes them feel like they’re at school will immediately lower the fun levels!
  5. Mix up the order of events in each lesson so they don’t get stuck in a routine. Maybe some weeks start with a game, and other weeks start with some scale improv. Changing up the routine will keep them all on their toes!

Related: Mistakes To Avoid When You Start Teaching Group Piano

4) Don’t Use Headphones All The Time

You may be thinking, “But won’t it be really loud?!”

Yes. Yes, it will.

But that’s what we want!

We want your students to embrace the group element and enjoy making music with other students.

Using headphones turns the group lesson into mini private lessons with students working on their own thing independently (which in some cases may be exactly what you want!)

By not using headphones your students are encouraged to listen to one another, offering advice and compliments. It also sparks friendly competition and positive peer pressure as students will work hard to show off and not be outdone by others.

But Won’t It Sound Horrendous?

The great thing about keyboards (which we recommend for group lessons) is that they have volume control!

You’re also in control of instructing students what to play and when. This means you can turn it into more of a jam session than a chaotic school music lesson.

There may be times you’ll need to call upon your awesome teaching skills. You might need to be stern if anyone seems to be taking it *too far* and messing around. But they’ll soon settle down and learn to listen to one another.

This means they’ll always be developing their sense of rhythm and tempo as they hear things they may not have picked up on in one-to-one lessons.

Related: Engaging Music Students In The Sharing Age

5) Involve Parents in Group Lessons

Even if it’s just the last 15 minutes of the group lesson, getting parents involved has so many different benefits:

  • Makes it feel more like an event. If students know there’ll be more people arriving near the end, maybe for a mini-performance or a ‘teach the parent’ session (where students teach their parents a short piece) it adds another element of excitement to the lesson
  • Encourages the parents to become more involved and be ‘learning partners’ for their child. By seeing hands-on what their child is working on and expected to practice, they’re more likely to encourage them to sit down at the piano at home.
    Positive peer pressure also comes into play here too. If certain parents haven’t seemed that engaged in their child’s lessons, getting them hands-on in front of other supportive parents will inspire them. Which is always a good thing!
  • Students up their game. If you move students to perform/work with parents other than their own, you’re guaranteed to see them perform better. There’s something about wanting to impress the mum of their friend that makes them pull their socks up. All of a sudden, they can remember those F sharps they’ve been forgetting all lesson!
  • Parents see you at work. By experiencing for themselves a fun and successful lesson with you, they’re more likely to tell their friends and family about you. They’ve seen first-hand how good a teacher you are, which acts as a fantastic advert.

Bonus: Group Lesson Schedule For Inspiration

If group lessons sound like a brilliant idea but you’re still stuck on what you could fill the time with, check out these 12 ideas:

  1. Sight reading (using an app like Piano Maestro or a book like Sight Reading Secrets)
  2. Review last week’s music
  3. Work in method books (for example Piano Pronto for ages 6+ and Piano Safari for ages 4-5)
  4. Supplementary music (pop songs, holiday music, SuperSonics)
  5. Theory games
  6. Improvisation activity (Forest Kinney’s Pattern Play books are great, and we also have a heap of improvisation activities at staging.topmusic.co)
  7. Scale work (Scales Bootcamp, scales on Piano Maestro, or improvising melodies using scales and backing tracks on MusiClock)
  8. Rote learning of a familiar melody (we personally think everyone should be able to play Happy Birthday!)
  9. Arranging / chording (create a chord progression and improvise a melody over the top)
  10. Composition project
  11. Non-piano social interaction (this is how students form connections and we all get to know each other! For example, if you discover many of your students love Disney films, you know learning a Disney song will go down well!)
  12. Incentive program – reward points and prizes

Obviously, not every single thing could happen in every single lesson (if only!). Having a plan of action for everything you could do eases the pressure. Not having that panicky feeling of “How do I fill the time?!” allows you to enjoy the group lesson too!

Related: How To Teach A Group Piano Class

But I Need More Help With Group Lessons!

For some teachers, planning and organizing group lessons is their jam. They love coming up with new and engaging ideas, getting an absolute buzz out of planning.

For others, group lessons seem like a fantastic idea but they have no idea where to start. The thought of advertising the group lessons, preparing the resources, and having enough content to fill the session is a daunting idea.

We’ve got you covered!

In TopMusicPro we have SO many group teaching resources from webinars to courses, masterminds to teaching demos (in fact, at last count we have 41 resources under the ‘Group Teaching’ heading!)

(Psst! By using these resources to set up fun and successful group lessons, your TopMusicPro membership will pay for itself in no time!)

Do you teach group lessons in your studio? We’d love to hear your thoughts on what makes a successful group lesson!

Tim Topham

Tim Topham is the founder and director of TopMusic. Tim hosts the popular Integrated Music Teaching Podcast, blogs regularly at staging.topmusic.co and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as integrated teaching, creativity, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, California Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.

 feeling inspired? 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    more Blog, Pedagogy posts

    from our blog

    contact us

    Reach out to learn more about our multi-teacher memberships