I believe that the most important thing I do as a teacher to keep my students excited about piano lessons is to give them choices. Choices give students ownership over the learning process and help them to feel like their input is a valuable part of our lessons together. Choices have power, and learning how to use those choices to further your teaching goals is key!
Today I am sharing 5 ways you can use the power of choices to keep your students motivated, engaged, and excited about piano! Keep reading to learn more...
Notice that each example below begins with the words "help your students choose...." This is an important distinction, as the key to making choices work for you is to guide students towards choices that are level-appropriate, age-appropriate, and mesh with your overall teaching goals. I often find that giving students 2 or 3 specific options to choose from works well. Remember, the key here is to give your students "teacher-approved" choices!
1. Help your students choose repertoire pieces.
Giving your students options when selecting repertoire is an easy way to incorporate choice into the lesson process! Instead of turning the page and assigning the next piece in the lesson book, look for two or three pieces that use the same concept and let your students choose their favorite to work on that week. Over time, you’ll develop a better understanding of which styles really resonate with your student, as well as which styles your student may need a bit more encouragement to play.
2. Help your students choose long-term goals for the semester.
As our students enter middle school and high school, I think it becomes especially important to incorporate their goals into the lesson planning process. Knowing these goals will not only help give your students a feeling of ownership over what they are learning, it will also help you to better plan which skills to focus on throughout the semester.
Some of the goals my own students have shared with me have included: auditioning for the jazz band at school, playing a duet with a friend who plays the flute, playing a piece by Chopin, and composing a piece for our local composition competition. As you can imagine, each of these goals required a different teaching strategy to accomplish! However, they were all valuable insights into the interests of my students, and knowing these goals ahead of time allowed me to research ways to incorporate these concepts in a level-appropriate way throughout the course of the year.
Want an easy way to help your students keep track of their goals? Download my free Repertoire and Wish List sheet, found HERE.
3. Help your students choose the order of lesson activities.
Little choices can make a big difference, too! Another easy way to incorporate choice into your lessons is to give your students a choice of what piece they would like to play first in their lesson–and ask them why.
Maybe it will be a piece that gave your student problems at home, or maybe it will be a piece that they found to be easy. Either way, learning the reason behind their choice will give you valuable insight into how their practice went that week.
4. Help your students choose the best way to practice a tricky section in their music.
The next time your student encounters a tricky passage in your lessons together, help them to choose a practice strategy that they think will work to make it easier.
This process serves two purposes:
- It helps to build your student’s "practice toolbox" of strategies, as they run through all of the strategies they have learned and pick the best "tool" for the job.
- It gives students ownership over the practice process, since they will be using their own ideas as they practice at home that week!
5. Help your students choose their favorite supplemental activity to end each lesson.
If you are like me, you probably have an arsenal of apps, games, and supplemental activities that you enjoy incorporating into lessons. (I’ve shared some of my own supplemental activities on my Free Stuff page HERE!)
Invite your students to pick their favorite activity to use at the end each lesson. This can serve as a great reward for a job well done. And, whether they choose to do an improv activity or to play a fast-paced note naming game, you’ll be sure to end your lesson on a high note (pun intended!) and give your students a feeling of success as you end your time together for that day.
What do you think? How do you incorporate choices into your lessons? I would love to hear your ideas in the comments!