Nightmare group lesson?

Barb said: Jul 30, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Hi teachers,

I am planning to add group lessons to my studio. Maybe about once a month to start with. I would love to hear any nightmare group lesson stories, and if in hindsight there was something that might have prevented the nightmare.

That may sound like I’m dreading group lessons. Not at all! I’m quite looking forward to it. But I know that my idealistic vision will likely be upset at times, and if I can learn from others’ experience, possibly prevent a nightmare? That would be great. Of course it would also be good to hear about group lesson ideas that work well if you’d like to share those. :)

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Brenda Lee Villard said: Jul 30, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
Edina, MN
27 posts

I teach groups every week from Sept-March….all ages (3-18) and all levels (Pretwinklers to Book 10) and the best advice I can give is to go into it each group with a plan, but then be ready to throw it all out the window and totally wing it. You have to go with the flow of the group and what the dynamics of the kids are for that evening. I usually have specific themes that I focus on each year and so for the most part, I stick to those themes, but I keep a typed list of all my group ideas taped to my stand and within eyesight. I go over all the possibilities before sitting down to teach the groups, but some of my best moments have been when I have punted on the spot. For my older kids I do cello choir so having kids suddenly not show up can really throw my teaching plan for the evening— especially if there is only 1 or 2 kids on a part to begin with. For the older ones it is easier to make it up on the spot once I see who is before me, but for the little guys, it can be a nightmare if Tommy doesn’t show up and Jimmy is crabby and Susie is shy and Robbie only knows his rhythms. To avoid panic, I look at my sheet of games and ideas, and I just try to go with it. My kids love “solo time” and that is a wonderful break in the group and often times it gives me a chance to rethink my curriculum and it can really get the kids interacting as they each have an opportunity to say what they liked about the other kid’s piece. Of course groups can take a turn for the worst when one child acts up, but generally if I nip it right away (parent removes him/her or I give that child a special assignment), I don’t have too much troubles. For young ones keep the activities short, fun and vary it. If one game requires listening and staying focused, then move into an activity that lets them move around. Because cello groups can have a wide range of players in one group, make sure to vary it so it’s a piece everyone plays, then a piece for the more advanced players, then maybe an older piece but give the non-playing kids a job to do, like watching for bent thumbs, catching drooping elbows and tapping on the person’s elbow. A real favorite in my studio is when I give the non-playing kids little post-it notes to go and stick onto any cello that has a bow driving out of the highway lane…..the post-its can be “tickets” for bad driving. Make sure, as the teacher, you also have a bad bow so the young ones can give you tickets, too. They LOVE it. Then move right into a piece that everyone plays. Keep the really exciting games for at the end when the kids get all excited but then you can send them home happy—and hyper—-with mom. Good luck! I’ve been teaching weekly groups for nearly 25 years now and there is always that sense of excitement, yet a tad bit of fear, when going into a group, especially for a cello group where there can be such a wide range of ability. It really forces us to get creative!! Get them interacting, use the better players as example, give the little guys a job to do, and always make sure you give each child some individual attention, even if it’s a smile/hello, or a hand on the back pat.

Barb said: Jul 30, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Thanks, Brenda! Lots of good advice there. I love the post-it note tickets!

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Irene said: Jul 31, 2011
Irene YeongViolin
160 posts

for my daughter’s first group lesson, it was disastrous. My daughter , I mean. She is the youngest there , at 27 months old, she was running around with the violin and the bow , refused to listen to teacher, refuse to follow the rules and just cry. She can only sit next to me and watch the others play. In the second group lesson, it was a little better. Teacher asked the help of older kids, like in primary school to be the teacher assistant and help out each young young child individually. That was a lot better, especially since young kids really look up to older kids.

Barb said: Jul 31, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Thanks, Irene. I don’t plan to take any students quite that young, but it sounds like the teacher and you handled it well. I visited your blog and watched videos of your daughter playing—how adorable! And she’s doing well!

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Irene said: Jul 31, 2011
Irene YeongViolin
160 posts
Paula Bird said: Aug 5, 2011
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

I agree with Brenda: have a plan but be prepared to throw it out the window. Have some backup ideas as well just in case. I have a special music card game that I can whip out if necessary. One time we spent 2 hours with those cards and 4 children of wildly different levels. We didn’t play our instruments much, but they all walked away with a great deal of music theory knowledge and a feeling that we had a great time! Another time I had a 13 year old student and a 4 year old of vastly different abilities. We had a great lesson! I can use the young one as a helper while the older plays, and the older can be my assistant if necessary or learn a duet part.

I’ve tried to get my parents to commit to a regular group schedule, but it’s cyclical. There are periods of years when I have well attended classes, then a dry spell with lots of cancellations and soccer conflicts. Then I have another new crop of students who build up group classes again.

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Barb said: Aug 9, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Thanks, Paula. I think that a feeling of having a great time is important, and I definitely want to have some games ready and that list of extra ideas.

We have met together before to practice group playing before recitals, and for our Christmas party, but we are having our first group lesson next week!

Actually, I am calling it our Summer Cello Play-in. Didn’t think the kids were too interested in a lesson in August. Do most of you call your group lessons “group lessons” or do you get more creative about it?

Speaking of creative, I’m trying to think of a good (and fun) way to make a “human scale” away from the instruments to demonstrate whole steps and half steps, making it an aural and kinesthetic learning experience. There will be 7 or 8 of us there (should be able to get a parent to participate, too, if we need to to make an octave), ranging in age from 6 to adult. Thanks for any ideas!

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Rachel Schott said: Aug 10, 2011
Rachel SchottViolin
Harrogate, TN
127 posts

Easy peasy!

Everyone receives one letter of the musical alphabet written in Sharpie on a piece of 8 1/2″ by 11″ paper. All line up in order, arms length away from each other EXCEPT for EF and BC who are standing shoulder to shoulder or with arms around each other.

Now—a sibling or parent can walk around and give anyone in the scale a big sharp or flat, and make that person move so they too are shoulder to shoulder to represent the new created 1/2 step. Of course, in the case of F flat the person gets to stand right in front of (how rude!:))the E person.

By the way, my personal preference is to refer to 1/2 and whole steps as minor and Major seconds. This makes them seem part of the entire family of intervals (thirds, fourths, etc.) and makes the concept of a minor 6th (or whatever) more clear.

Let us know how your lesson goes!

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