When we teach our beginner pedagogy students, we ask our students to write lessons plans where they will:
introducing new scales/technical exercises
introduce a new piece
improve aural and sight reading skills
develop memory skills
refine and shape old pieces
And this must all be achieved in half an hour.
Devising lesson plans ensure that the teacher understands what musical concepts will be delivered during the lesson, and a sequence of them will provide the start of a logical curriculum that ensures that the student's skills are sequentially built up.
Because of the very significant change in the way we deliver lessons now, a lot of the "infrastructure" that I had built to keep me abreast of my student's progress has been thrown out the window. For instance:
I can't see or mark up their scores
I can't write in their note books
I can't see what I wrote in the last months of their notebooks
I rely on them to send me scans of their theory books
To combat that, I have started writing lesson plans again. This is useful for many of our younger students don't have the ability to listen very well - especially over Zoom/Skype which can have glitches in the sound.
It is also really helpful for the student as it provides them with the details of what their homework assignments are going to be - pretty much, whatever is on the lesson plan needs to be practised during the week.
I have cut and past some of the most successful parts of my lesson plans below.
From Pre-preliminary grade students to prepare for scale playing and identifying tones and semitones
Now is an especially good time to develop aural skills. Use solfege to sing to each other, to sing with scales and to sing simple pieces. I tell the student what you can sing you can play, and vice versa.
A few weeks later, after exploring semitones and singing in the sharp (ascending) and the flat (descending) direction, we are ready to tackle some pieces with accidentals in it. This piece is from P-Plate Piano Book 1.
This is a favourite exercise. The image of the thumb going under the tunnel helps with hand position and ensures that the train is not "crushed" by a collapsed tunnel or fingers. It also ensures that the thumb is moving behind the playing finger and that the arm is moving from the very beginning.
Now is also good time to review scales and technical work and theory knowledge, ready for return to in person lessons where other skills will be developed (such as shaping all the lines).
The power of imagery is never lost of students and can elicit an immediate change in their tone colour, tempo and key attack.
More scales for students who have mastered the sharp keys: grouping scales in fours gets rid of rambunctious thumbs and allows for control over the tone of every note. The accent is eventually removed to allow for a smooth and even scale.
Choreography, hand position and technique are definitely good things to improve upon now.
This piece, by Burgmuller, is very helpful in teaching chords, harmony, voice leading and modulations to related keys. As well, I use this piece to teach the circular choreography of over and under shapes.
This piece is a real gem of the repertoire and is in the Grade 4 AMEB syllabus. I love a good tarantella and so do the students.
Once again, technical exercises are easy to teach online and develop important skills such as polyrhythm and the second one is a preparation for octave technique. Teaching the student to feel that the piano is springing them from interval to interval allows this exercise to take off.
I hope that some of these ideas might inspire you. If you find them useful and want more ideas on how to improve your pedagogy, you might consider joining Piano Pedagogues workshop - which will be taking place online in September. Click here for more details.