Multi-level Group Lesson Ideas

Erin said: Dec 14, 2015
Erin Chapman
Suzuki Association Member
Pocatello, ID
1 posts

I would love to hear some ideas for activities and repertoire that work well in a multi-level group lesson. My studio is currently small, so one of my groups is comprised of students in books 1-4.

I know multi-level settings can be very helpful for students, but it can also be a bit tricky to adequately involve everyone in ways that will benefit and challenge each student.

Please share your ideas!

Rebecca said: Dec 14, 2015
 19 posts

Canon in D is a fun one! There are all kinds of parts and levels in that, and the beginning students only have to play the same 8 notes over and over.

Sarah said: Dec 14, 2015
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Vancouver, BC
2 posts

There are many things you can have the little ones do while the more advanced students are playing their repertoire—for instance, the beginners can count the number of bow circles in a piece, or stand up every time they hear the “taka-titi” rhythm. They can also play a pedal note (the dominant usually works well), so they can watch your bow and play the rhythm of the Vivaldi a minor all on open e’s. You might want them to stop for sections that modulate, and then give them a signal for when to join back in.
The book 3 & 4 students can get practice playing the book 1 pieces in 3rd position, either in the same octave or up an octave. They could also be challenged to use only the bottom 2 inches of their bow, or sight-read duet parts to the early pieces.
It helps to let the students know they are helping each other by being together—the more advanced ones are inspiring the beginners, so they need to model proper group-class behaviour, and the beginners are helping the more advanced students with review, remembering the basics, and the beginners can practice being a good audience.


Carla Sciaky said: Dec 15, 2015
Carla Sciaky
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Denver, CO
3 posts

Here are a few things my group does at a tutti, multi-level session:

  1. I always pick one or two composers, almost always from the Suzuki repertoire, and tell their life stories, complete with any pictures of them (as children, whenever possible) and depicting places they lived or performed. I really want my students to know that all famous composers started as music students like themselves. Also I want my students to honor the lives of those human beings who created the melodies they play. I go month by month, by their birthdate, so this week I told of Beethoven’s life, next month I will do Mozart, etc. We sit in a circle on the floor, and I pass around the pictures for the students and their parents to look at while I talk. It is conversational and relaxed, and everyone likes the “story time”.

  2. Trivia game: I have my students and their parents divide into two or three teams, depending on the size of the group and how much time we have. Each team lines up and whoever is at the front of each line gets the next question, so I can gauge the level of each question, based on those two or three individuals. It can be any trivia question I make up, (often on the spot!) If everyone is stumped, they can have a few seconds to huddle with their team members, and then try their answer. Whoever has the correct response wins the point for his/her team, and then they go to the back of their line and a new person steps to the front. Everyone loves it.

  3. When I offer solo performance opportunities during group class, I tell the students that this is so they can practice being good audience members. We review what a good audience member does, and I ask them to observe the performer carefully—listening and watching for ringing tones, good posture, dynamics, a good bow at the end, etc.. Afterward, I ask each student to share one positive observation—something s/he particularly liked about the performance. Of course, the more advanced students know that the performance is for them to practice playing their piece in front of others, but this framing gives the younger/beginning students an assignment that they take seriously.

  4. Do you know William Starr’s book “77 Variations on Suzuki Melodies”? This is a great tool for technique points with more advanced students, and the variations can be played while the Book 1 and 2 students play their regular repertoire during our play-down. It makes for very exciting and dramatic renditions of Twinkle, and the younger students are wide-eyed at what the older ones can accomplish!

You must log in to post comments.

A note about the discussion forum: Public discussion forum posts are viewable by anyone. Anyone can read the forums, but you must create an account with your email address to post. Private forums are viewable by anyone that is a part of that private forum's group. Discussion forum posts are the opinion of the poster and do not constitute endorsement by or official position of the Suzuki Association of the Americas, Inc.

Please do not use the discussion forums to advertise products or services