Start Giving Super-Charged Hybrid Piano Group Lessons
Piano group lessons are super popular, but sometimes hard to start doing. So I am so excited about this article by Charlene Zundel Shelzi which discusses the kind of piano group lessons that have worked for me for over a decade! Charlene is an expert on this topic as she has been using her own TCW games in group lessons for years. Her games (like Wacky Wanda, Tapping Telephones, Note Nabber, Primary Pounce) and her resources (like music money and fun post-it notes), available at music stores across the country, have been a staple in my studio for years. My students love ALL anything she creates! So, here’s one of the best articles about hybrid group lessons that you’ll ever read:
What are hybrid piano group lessons?
Hybrid Piano teaching is a phrase I coined to represent a teaching style that includes both private and group musicianship lessons.
Why would I want to teach this way?
Hybrid Piano teaching offers the perfect blend of private and group classes. Students can flourish in both environments since each environment provides a different experience. A group musicianship class in my studio consists of a small group of students learning theory and ear training, playing music games and performing for one another. Students receive 17 lessons per semester: 13 private and 4 group lessons. Since there are no private lessons during the week of group, I am able to teach all my students in two days––giving me the remainder of the week off. This works especially well during holiday weeks.
Here are some benefits of group teaching that you may already be familiar with:
- Social interaction enhances cognitive development
- Students develop their own hierarchy in a group environment–creating both motivators and mentors among the students
- Piano is a lonely sport. Group lessons provide a place where students can form a “Piano Family” to support one another
- Group musicianship classes can provide multiple performance opportunities for students in a small, friendly environment
So, how can I make the switch to hybrid piano group lessons?
First, make the decision to try it this year. You may want to offer only one or two group classes each semester to see how it goes. Some teachers who offer fewer groups during the year call their classes Piano Parties. After you evaluate your results you’ll see what a great addition these classes can be to your studio.
How do I group and schedule piano group lessons?
Follow these guidelines for a successful group experience:
- Grouping levels according to age generally works better than playing levels. Try to avoid mixing High School students with Jr. High kids, and never mix teenagers with elementary students. (The older students tend to shut down and not participate)
- Limit your groups to 8 or less. This way you have plenty of time to work with everyone. I prefer a group of 4.
- Scheduling: This is the trickiest part! Here is the form I send out in the fall lesson. Parents choose the time frame that works best for them, then I schedule according to student needs, theory level and age.
How do I structure a piano group lessons class?
- Play games with your students to make the piano group lessons fun! Game playing is a wonderful way to teach and review concepts. Games make students want to come back to group again and again. You can find fabulous games and student theory game books to structure your group lessons at www.tcwresources.com
- Along with these student materials, teacher guides for each level that outline group activities and games are also available
- Be Flexible. Plan several activities for each group and don’t hesitate to switch to a new activity if what you’re doing isn’t working.
Here is the formula I follow:
- Review a theory concept with an activity or game
- Have students perform
- Practice ear-training
- Teach a new theory concept
- Reinforce concepts with Games, Games, Games!
How can I explain this to parents?
“Our studio will experience an exciting change this Fall. Beginning in September, I will offer a one-hour group class during the 4th week each month. This will take the place of the private lesson for that week. Tuition will not increase. I am strongly committed to monthly group classes. Here are a few of the many benefits that your child will receive from their group class: camaraderie with other pianists, multiple performance opportunities and new ways of learning music theory, composition, and music history.”
You could also change the frequency of the group lesson by saying something like,
“…I will offer a one-hour group lesson during the 4th week of September, November, January, and March.”
What do you do in these piano group lessons?
I (Wendy) added this question to Charlene’s article. If you don’t know what to do at these group lessons, take a look at the TCW YouTube Channel which will give you lots of ideas. I haven’t used one of her games yet that my students didn’t like. Here’s just one for older students:
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Charlene Shelzi is an independent piano teacher located in Scottsdale, Arizona. Charlene studied at BYU Idaho and Utah State University with Gary Amano. She’s a former faculty member of the USU Youth Conservatory. She develops piano teaching materials with TCW Resources (Three Cranky Women) published through the Neil A. Kjos music company. She directed the 1st Arizona Youth Piano Competition and was recently chosen as the Featured Teacher for Yamaha’s Passport to Music program.
Visit the TCW YouTube Channel for samples of Charlene’s amazing games and resources!