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#1646532 - 03/23/11 12:57 PM Elements of a good 30 min lesson?
pianolassie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/19/11
Posts: 21
Loc: Colorado
I recently started formally teaching Beginning piano lessons out of my home. All three of my students are beginners - ages 5, 7, and 20. In a couple months I will be teaching two more - ages 9 and 11.

I am looking for tips and advice or even book recommendations on how to run a fun and effective lesson time. So far we are spending the time going over their efforts from the previous week, and then moving onto new materials. If there is time at the end I have an electric keyboard that the younger ones love to play their songs on (in funny sounds) as a "reward".

Also if it is clear the student hasn't practiced, what do you do for that Lesson? Do you treat it as a guided practice session?


How do you run your lesson times?
_________________________
~Bethany

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#1646566 - 03/23/11 01:54 PM Re: Elements of a good 30 min lesson? [Re: pianolassie]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7368
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA


When I began teaching, I had 30 minute lessons, thinking this was so standard that it must be correct. But I quickly became frustrated, because we were able to accomplish so little week to week. Consider that as your studio grows, you'll have lots of lessons back to back, and you'll find that you lose 4 -5 minutes at the beginning of the lesson as the student gets oriented and into what you're doing, and another 4 - 5 minutes at the end of the lesson, as the next student arrives, attention is diverted, and you're doing wrap up. Effective period of instruction: 20 minutes. About 15 years ago, I switch to 40 min as a minimum lesson for the youngest students, age 4 and up, and have had no problems, and 55 minutes for older students.

But that isn't your question! Just a bit of experience for you to ponder.

My lessons are structured with a routine that students come to know and prepare for. If they are young and in methods, we begin with technique drills. As most of my students participate in Piano Guild Auditions, scales and chords has to be part of that warm-up. Then we move into the lesson book, reviewing older material, polishing it, then present new material. Finally, we get into the Repertoire book, and work on a performance or audition piece.

You can follow the same format, albeit on a scaled back format, and that's probably what you should do. FWIW, I use Piano Town as a method series for most of my beginners, and it's very conducive for teaching with this format.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1646626 - 03/23/11 04:17 PM Re: Elements of a good 30 min lesson? [Re: pianolassie]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
Every lesson must have some preparation for new ideas and review of concepts taught. The more time spent in adequate preparation of a skill or concept, the less correction you will need. It's also important to have the student summarize what they are to do during the week coming up.
_________________________
B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

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#1646674 - 03/23/11 05:11 PM Re: Elements of a good 30 min lesson? [Re: pianolassie]
blueston Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/28/09
Posts: 273
Loc: MA, USA
Disclaimer- not a piano teacher (yet)

But I like the idea of one or more of the following
1. Using wood blocks or clapping away from the piano to work on learning counting/rhythm.
2. Student sitting on couch while you do ear training games/drills.
3. Reading/Writing notation on large whiteboard for sight reading games/drills.

You obviously don't want these to take up the bulk of your lesson (students need to learn pieces too!) but I think it's great to do activities away from the piano to break it up a bit or as a rescue plan if the student becomes bored.

But as John says, 30 minutes is not much time to fit all this in.


Edited by blueston (03/23/11 05:13 PM)

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#1646725 - 03/23/11 06:35 PM Re: Elements of a good 30 min lesson? [Re: pianolassie]
pianolassie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/19/11
Posts: 21
Loc: Colorado
Thank you for the tips!

For those that do lessons longer than 40 minutes - how do you keep their attention? Just lots of changes in activity? The 7 year old boy I teach in paticular is a handful to keep in focus and interested! 20 minutes seems to be his max and 30 mins is pushing it!
_________________________
~Bethany

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#1646765 - 03/23/11 07:44 PM Re: Elements of a good 30 min lesson? [Re: pianolassie]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11940
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: pianolassie
Thank you for the tips!

For those that do lessons longer than 40 minutes - how do you keep their attention? Just lots of changes in activity? The 7 year old boy I teach in paticular is a handful to keep in focus and interested! 20 minutes seems to be his max and 30 mins is pushing it!

For my young ones, we only do 30 minutes, and that's pretty much all they can handle. As they progress, however, and get into more complex pieces, I start to feel the need for longer lesson times. The student is often older and able to pay attention by this time. Every child is different so there's no hard and fast rule. Sounds like your young one is fine with 30. Be sure to play games away from the piano - that really helps when you feel like you're losing them attention-wise.

For elements of a good lesson, We will go through their scales or technical exercises, then review theory work assigned, play through their repertoire and work on additional elements needed to play those, and then introduce new concepts and/or pieces. We may also do some theory, games, or flash cards. Sometimes I don't get through all the material in 45 minutes! But it's much better than trying to squeeze it in 30.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#1647200 - 03/24/11 12:42 PM Re: Elements of a good 30 min lesson? [Re: pianolassie]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7368
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: pianolassie
Thank you for the tips!

For those that do lessons longer than 40 minutes - how do you keep their attention? Just lots of changes in activity? The 7 year old boy I teach in paticular is a handful to keep in focus and interested! 20 minutes seems to be his max and 30 mins is pushing it!

I've never really had a problem keeping students attention, so it's a bit difficult to know what to recommend. We start off playing immediately, warmups, however simple, give them something to do, and it makes sound. Even a simple 5 finger pattern up and down, maintaining a beat, helps them. You can play along, either on a separate instrument or an octave or two higher.

It's true that with my 4 year olds, I've had to switch from playing to flash cards to clapping rhythm back to playing a couple of times, but by the time they're 5, this seems a non-issue.

If you and the student are going through 3 technique drills, 3 or 4 pieces from the lesson book, 1 or 2 piece from the performance book and 5 minutes reviewing their theory book and looking at the new assignment, you've pretty much used up a 40 min block of time.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1647261 - 03/24/11 03:21 PM Re: Elements of a good 30 min lesson? [Re: pianolassie]
Stanny Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/06
Posts: 1461
What is the most painless way to move students out of the 30 minute lesson? Right now all my students have 30 minute lessons, but about a third of my studio REALLY needs a longer lesson. Should I bite the bullet and move them all to 40 or 45 minutes in the fall with the associated price increase, or should I specify just require the older students, or those doing competitions to do it?
_________________________
~Stanny~

Independent Music Teacher
Certified Piano Teacher, American College of Musicians
Member: MTNA, NGPT, ASMTA, NAMTA

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#1647283 - 03/24/11 04:00 PM Re: Elements of a good 30 min lesson? [Re: Stanny]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7368
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
As I recall, I transitioned during the summer, with longer lessons, at the same price, then come Fall, new schedule, new fees. What I thought would be difficult proved not to be, and that was convincing parents of the need for longer lessons. When I pointed out that a 30 min lesson was actually a 20 - 22 min lesson, and a 40 min lesson would be 30 - 32 min, they would be receiving a 50% increase in learning for only 33% more cost, and their student's learning would sky-rocket with the added time. And that has proved correct. The first year's hurdle was the only hurdle, because all new students coming in elect either the 40 min lesson or the 55 min lesson.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1647326 - 03/24/11 05:15 PM Re: Elements of a good 30 min lesson? [Re: pianolassie]
Crayola Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/09
Posts: 299
Loc: Chicago, IL
I also transitioned during the summer a year ago. I only give the option of 45 or 60 minute lessons. I offer 30 min for really young beginners, but my three 5 yr olds have all wanted the 45 minutes, which I'm not complaining about! =)
I had to explain my reasoning thoroughly to the parents, as some of them just didn't get it. ("why does my kid need longer lessons if they're not going to major in music someday?") I told them that I'm expanding my curriculum to include sightreading, exams, festivals, and most importantly: how to practice, which I simply didn't have time to do in a shorter lesson. It's weeded out a few families that weren't serious, and although I miss the kids, I have a much better studio now. My students (still have around 30 even with longer lessons) have been improving so much over the last year, I can't help but attribute part of it to the increased lesson time. Smartest move I made for my teaching and their progress, I think.
_________________________
Independent Piano Teacher, NCTM
Member of MTNA and ISMTA

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#1647560 - 03/25/11 01:15 AM Re: Elements of a good 30 min lesson? [Re: pianolassie]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5487
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: pianolassie
Also if it is clear the student hasn't practiced, what do you do for that Lesson? Do you treat it as a guided practice session?

If the student obviously didn't practice, then you should punish the student! Double or triple their homework, or add extra worksheets, or more theory assignments.

"Guided practice session" only works for those who are assiduous to begin with--maybe they just had a busy week. For younger students, there's no excuse not to practice.

Don't put up with students who don't practice.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1647641 - 03/25/11 07:17 AM Re: Elements of a good 30 min lesson? [Re: pianolassie]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
Punishing the student only makes them dislike piano study.

Often times there is a good reason why they didn't practice. The younger students typically need a parent helping. Older students sometimes don't know HOW to practice (keep this in mind as you teach -- a big part of your job is to teach the the HOW of practicing). The way a student practices has to change and grow with the demands of the music.

When a student comes without having practiced, I find out why. Piano isn't the only thing in our students' lives. I have the occasional unmotivated student in my studio, but by and large, when a student in my studio hasn't practiced, it's because either they were truly too busy or they really had trouble in the process.

If unpreparedness becomes habitual, then it's time for some other kind of action. If it is occasional, then we practice at the lesson, sight-read, ear train and do theory work.
_________________________
B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

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#1647661 - 03/25/11 08:15 AM Re: Elements of a good 30 min lesson? [Re: pianolassie]
Crayola Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/09
Posts: 299
Loc: Chicago, IL
I recently had a 6 yr old begin lessons, and we're going through MFPA book A. I had assigned her a few pieces but when she came to her next lesson, she told me she hadn't practiced at all. Immediately warning signals went off in my mind but I didn't give her a strict talk or say anything. Instead I asked the mom about her practice routine, and it turns out that the reason she was not practicing very much was because I asked her to play her songs with the CD, and this child was not yet able to run the machine. And if Mom takes the time and attention to help, the two little brothers begin bothering them, and practice becomes a futile attempt at winning Mom's attention. The next time they came to lesson, they had found a solution: daughter would practice with the portable DVD player (which she new how to operate from vacation) and she could pop her CD in all by herself and select the track. Problem solved! She came very well prepared for her last lesson! I'm glad I didn't get upset at her or come across in any negative way. There's usually a reason, like Minniemay suggested.
_________________________
Independent Piano Teacher, NCTM
Member of MTNA and ISMTA

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#1647702 - 03/25/11 09:35 AM Re: Elements of a good 30 min lesson? [Re: pianolassie]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7368
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: pianolassie
For those that do lessons longer than 40 minutes - how do you keep their attention?

I paid very close attention to the clock yesterday as I had two 40 min lessons. In each lesson, one in the primer level, the other in level 3, the warm-up technique drills ended up finishing at exactly 15 minutes into the lesson. That may seem like a lot of time, but it isn't really. And I noticed that my students have roughly 6 drills, 4 review/polish and 2 new. These are very important, as they cover foundational material. Three minutes on each is hardly excessive, and the students never got bored. That leaves 20 - 25 minutes for the remainder of the lesson. Hardly any opportunity to get bored.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1647858 - 03/25/11 02:30 PM Re: Elements of a good 30 min lesson? [Re: pianolassie]
pianolassie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/19/11
Posts: 21
Loc: Colorado
You are all wonderful! Such great responses. I've done oodles of lessons myself but it is different being on the teaching side!

Here is my next question - Do you like to have parents sit in or do your find it to be a hinderance?

The 5 and 7 year olds that I teach, their mom drops them off and leaves to go do errands. That is fine overall - but I think it might be beneficial for her to sit in for a few lessons so she can get a better feel for how she can help guide practice time at home.

Any tips on dealing with the parents?


Edited by pianolassie (03/25/11 02:30 PM)
_________________________
~Bethany

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#1647992 - 03/25/11 07:23 PM Re: Elements of a good 30 min lesson? [Re: pianolassie]
Overexposed Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2647
pianolassie, I have a parent sit in lessons with 5 to 7 year olds for about the first 4 months. I also reserve a few minutes at the end of lesson to talk to the parent about how to help the child at home.

After the first few months, I teach the child alone, but still allow a few minutes at the end to meet with the parent to answer questions and go over the assignment for the week.

As far as "dealing with the parents": during lesson my focus is with the child, generally limiting instruction to parent to the end of lesson. The parent is just observing.

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#1648001 - 03/25/11 07:49 PM Re: Elements of a good 30 min lesson? [Re: pianolassie]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
I welcome parents into the lesson whenever they wish to attend. It's especially for younger students, but sometimes older students who are struggling can benefit from the parent being there. Rarely has the parent being there posed a problem. In that instance , I speak to the parent and make the case for them to sit out.

In this day and age especially, I think it is unwise to prohibit a parent from attending.
_________________________
B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

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#1648161 - 03/26/11 02:27 AM Re: Elements of a good 30 min lesson? [Re: pianolassie]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5487
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: pianolassie
Here is my next question - Do you like to have parents sit in or do your find it to be a hinderance?

Good question!

It really depends on the parent. Some parents talk too much and interfere with my instructions, so I try my best to tell them to wait in the car, go run errands, or sit in the living room next to my studio.

For younger students, though, having the parent there (usually the Mom) can be very helpful. In fact, I often teach a concept to the parent, and ask her to reinforce the concept at home during practice. It just bugs me how some parents avoid such small responsibilities.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1648224 - 03/26/11 08:49 AM Re: Elements of a good 30 min lesson? [Re: Minniemay]
Overexposed Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2647
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
I welcome parents into the lesson whenever they wish to attend. It's especially for younger students, but sometimes older students who are struggling can benefit from the parent being there. Rarely has the parent being there posed a problem. In that instance , I speak to the parent and make the case for them to sit out.

In this day and age especially, I think it is unwise to prohibit a parent from attending.


+1

I too welcome parents to attend. My previous post was general guidelines. I have one parent who continues to observe and that is fine with me.

So far I've only had 1 parent who was a problem during lessons. Then I got the idea of telling him that his son is ready to be in lessons by himself...that the child (age 6) was mature enough...presented it as a sign of progress instead of the truth which was that the parent was getting on my nerves. smile

Sinces that experience, I tend to suggest at a certain point that the child is ready to be in lessons without the parent. One parent is keenly attentive during the lesson though, and with her I have not suggested that the child have a lesson alone. Some parents are relieved to get to read in the next room.

So the idea of after 4 months, lessons alone is just a general guideline. I don't do that with everyone. But I do think it is important for the parent to observe for the first few months.

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