Group Class Formats

Mychal Gendron said: Feb 14, 2017
Mychal GendronTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Cranston, RI
5 posts

Hi Folks,

For the past 20+ years I have had success with I what I guess is a pretty standard group class program in my studio—weekly, 45-minute groups on Saturday mornings. I currently have four groups: Book 1A, Book 1B-2, Book 3-4, Book 5-7—student ages in each group are all within 2 years of one another. This is all working fine, not even a real problems with competition from other activities that you might expect to have on Saturdays.

My reasons for considering making a change include my age (getting older, might want to slow down a bit soon), my time (more new students who will need a Pre-Twinkle group, thus more of my unavailable time) and just the need to know what else can work.

I am curious to know if others have had success with any of the following:
—groups that meet less frequently (bi-weekly, monthly, etc.)
—shorter group classes (30 minutes)
—overlapping groups (sharing some common time in addition to their own time)
—combined groups (3+ levels in one class, making it work)

Any and all thoughts are welcome as I am considering making some changes here for Fall 2017.

Many thanks,
Mychal Gendron

Mengwei Shen said: Feb 15, 2017
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
221 posts

I’ve only been doing groups for 4 years (violin). It seems like almost every semester needs adjustment based on typical number of students attending, mix of levels, logistics of the space, etc. I’ve made much use of overlapping/combined classes, and the latest tactic is having double, but shorter, class periods. My current group class setup is weekly (Saturdays):

Part of the Pre-Twinkle group 30 min
The whole Pre-Twinkle group (partially inspired by Suzuki ECE) 45 min
Another part of the Pre-Twinkle group 30 min
1. Book 4 group 25 min, 3-4 students
2. Book 4 students & book 1B beginning readers combined for a reading ensemble (non-Suzuki pieces) 30 min, 8-10 students
3. Book 1B group (readers and non-readers), plus a cellist, and any book 4 students still around get something more advanced to do (reading from duet parts or Starr’s 77 Variations on Suzuki Melodies, notation/dictation, playing book 2-4 pieces for any listening activities, playing book 1 pieces with intermediate techniques) 25 min, 8-12 students
4. Book 1B non-readers & Twinkle/1A group combined (includes pre-reading activities) 40 min, 6-10 students

The last group gets a slightly longer, single class period because everyone else is scheduled for two (back-to-back, with almost a seamless transition). The intent is that they have one class with a narrower level range and focus, then in their second class period, they are leaders for the benefit of less advanced students and are playing more review pieces.

I find that a 30-min group is too short because I haven’t been able to get everyone to come on time. This way, whoever is late for the reading ensemble just doesn’t get to do it, and there are very few stragglers for the start of the 3rd period.

Rebekah said: Feb 19, 2017
Rebekah HansonInstitute Director
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
24 posts

I used to have group classes twice a month, but found that too many families skipped out, making it difficult to grow as a group and build on previous classes.

I now teach group classes once a month and attendance is required. If necessary, I figure they can miss dance/soccer/choir once a month. Side note: it was always required, but people would skip out more frequently because we met more often. Now people seem to really value the classes because they only get one a month.

Here is my schedule….I hope this is helpful!

4:00-4:45pm- Books 1-2
4:30-5:15/5:30pm- Books 3-4
5:00-6:00pm- Books 5 +
6:00-6:30pm- advanced ensemble…Books 6+
(my book 6+ students are there for 90 minutes)

I like the overlap because it gives the younger students a chance to play their pieces with the more advanced students who play them very well. It also is great for the older students to refresh their review pieces, and interact with the younger students. I like this also because more families and kids get to connect.

The start times of classes are pretty set, but the end times are flexible. Some students have to leave right on time, but because one class blends into the next, I often have students stay a little later to play more with the more advanced group.

Also, in the summer I have group classes every week I am in town. My schedule is more open and students come when they can. It was a great way to keep students motived and excited about playing. I’ve done that for two years now and have had very positive responses from families.

MaryLou Roberts said: Apr 23, 2017
MaryLou RobertsTeacher Trainer
Institute Director
SAA Board
Suzuki Association Member
Ann Arbor, MI
317 posts

My groups meet 2 times per month. This idea was given to me by a colleague when I first began Suzuki teaching, and it has worked well over the 20+ years.

Two groups each week, alternating weeks, so my schedule is the same from week to week. I have the flexibility of combining groups if I need to travel, or for holidays, or makeup lessons.

For example, I teach Group A and B at 5:45 and Group C and D at 6:30. Other weeks it’s Group A at 5:45 and Group B at 6:30, etc. During the Leadership retreat week, I don’t need to teach group class. Other weeks I have each group separately so they can get more specialized repertoire. On months that have 5 weeks, I have makeup lesson time, or recently I have made it ensemble time for advanced students.

It works as far as supporting with repertoire, some time for a game or two, but isn’t enough time for a really polished group performance unless it is planned for far in advance. Students sign up with me who would not be able to if it were a weekly class schedule.

Rebekah said: Apr 25, 2017
Rebekah HansonInstitute Director
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
24 posts

Thanks for sharing this MaryLou!

It’s such a simple and organized way to organize group classes. I don’t know how I hadn’t thought of that before!

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