Structuring group class

Sara Desiree Peters said: Mar 6, 2015
San Antonio, TX
2 posts

I know this might have already been brought up in various posts, but I need some ideas on structuring group classes. I am finding it difficult to blend my Book 1 through early Book 3 group. I have a pre twinkler group and a what used to be Book 1 and Book 2 group (now beginning of Book 3). I know that group lesson objectives may vary greatly depending on the teacher, ranging from mostly games and theory to repertoire based playing. I used to do mostly repertoire (working through group playing of all the pieces) with a few games, but I can tell that my students really enjoy the camaraderie and fun part of group lessons. I do feel like the Book 2 and 3 students are robbed of playing through their pieces because I center the playing more around what the less advanced students can do. I am thinking about adding anearly Book 1 group and blending the end of Book 1 students with Book 2 and 3 students. Would love to hear how you structure your group classes and blend different levels together. Thanks!

Melanie said: Mar 7, 2015
Melanie Barber
Suzuki Association Member
Maple Valley, WA
24 posts

How many students do you have? I’ve had similar issues this year. You can find ways for earlier levels to join in the book 2/3 kids. You can work on a skill the student not playing can count. For example, how many times did they get to the tip? Im learning the importance of a few things lately; it’s very important for younger students to be exposed to more challenging piece and the need for camaraderie. In my studio the camaraderie came while playing theory games and working on non-suzuki pieces.

Sara Desiree Peters said: Mar 11, 2015
San Antonio, TX
2 posts

Thank you Melanie. Those are good ideas. I understand the idea that younger ones like to be exposed to older students (more advanced students) but I also notice that they sometimes get frustrated when they are not able to play as many pieces as the others. It is a learning and experimentation process for me. Even after 7 years of teaching…Restructuring the classes I think is necessary from time to time as the needs and levels in my studio change.

Heather Figi said: Apr 17, 2015
Heather FigiViolin
Eugene, OR
97 posts

I really go back on forth on this and quite honestly re-evaluate and change the structure every year. I find great validity in all of it.

Some ideas to put out there as you are working on this element of your program:

1- Do you have colleagues to share classes and or events with?

2- What amount of young beginners do you have vs. intermediate and advanced students? When I have a large contingency of beginners I do create a class just for them.

3- If you keep your program with specific level classes and the students do not get to model older levels on a regular basis what special events could you create to structure more modeling in addition to recitals and outreach performances?

Best wishes and please let us know how this goes. I am doing the same thing right now.


Patricia said: Apr 18, 2015
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Martinsville, NJ
58 posts

The above are all great suggestions. I once had a teacher tell me….. 1) in Beginner Classes…. teach to the lowest level, they need the repetitions and the more advanced need the review. 2) in Playing Classes…. teach to the highest level….. the students who aren’t there will love hearing what is coming and the kids there need the repetition. I understand the small studio problem, some years I have it to. I have several ways to get students who have to listen instead of playing involved…. some are rhythmic ostinatos they drum or play….. sometimes it is playing figure bass underneath, sometimes it is playing catch him if you can or another game my students LOVE….. Find it.
Sometimes, other local teachers are not offering group themselves and they may send students to yours….. but sometimes you may not want those kids. (I find most of the time, the kids coming from other studios don’t memorize their music and don’t play as well as mine do…. and I don’t want to put myself in a position of possibly taking a student from another teacher)
I have lots of ways of keeping other students and siblings watching and participating. Every week, I have at least 3-4 other kids watching my groups and I keep them actively involved.

Caitlin said: Apr 29, 2015
Caitlin HunsuckViolin
Merced, CA
41 posts

I have 9 kids in the younger age (9-5 years of age), and then 5 HS age kids. Right now I have group lessons once a month for about 1.5 hours. We first start off with the hardest level music with all ages (old and young ones who have gotten there), then we work our way backwards through the repertoire based on what we are working on for a group performance (I always tell them there will be one at some points, keeps them reviewing). I add kids as the know the pieces. It’s really cool for the younger to join in as they advance every month. The older kids sight-read the duets, which is really good for them. Then we break-off into two groups. The older kids have quartet music they are working on. The younger kids stay with me and we play Twinkle with games. My advanced-younger kids play twinkle duets for their sight-reading practice. I also do theory, parts of the violin, bow tracking games, mini-performances (they love playing for each other). In this young group I have kids in Vol. 4 through Pre-Twinkle and they all love it a lot! I think because I accept they are all at different levels, they accept it too, it doesn’t seem to bother them at all!

Christine said: May 12, 2015
Christine Goodner
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Viola
Hillsboro, OR
68 posts

I am constantly changing what I do as well.

This year I had a Pre Twinkle Group & Book One Group (where we focused mostly on pieces up to Etude) that were each a half hour long. Students are welcome to attend their group and the one above or below them.

I also had a Minuets—Book Three Group (45 min) and then a Book 4 and up. It worked well for this year and I felt like I could do something that benefited each student this way.

Next year I will only have 1 pre-twinkler and lots of late Book 2/early Book 3 students so I will have to restructure again for sure.

I guess (for me) it comes down to structuring things in a way that I feel I can teach the levels of students I have at that time well. It’s always a moving target!

Christine Goodner

Studio Website: Brookside Suzuki Strings

Blog: The Suzuki Triangle

“When Love is Deep, Much can be Accomplished” ~ Suzuki

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