How to teach the Genius One-Room Schoolhouse Style Group Piano
This is part two of how I teach Group piano of mixed ages and levels in a one-room schoolhouse format. https://musicalmocha.com/how-to-teach-group-piano-like-laura-ingalls-wilder-part-one/What does a typical one-room schoolhouse piano class lesson look like?
It differs from week to week depending on our current focus. For instance, if we are getting ready for a Christmas Recital where we will be performing Christmas music in ensembles, that would be our current focus. But typically, a 45-minute class looks something like this:
45 Minute Group Piano Class
The students warm-up on their own digital piano (headphones on) and play through their current Dozen a Day exercise. Yes, I love the old school Dozen a Day, and so do the kids.
I come around and plugin and give them a new assignment. I draw a funny face into the blank stick figure face by each exercise when they pass. Sometimes I let the kids draw in the faces- they love this!!
If there is more than one student learning the same exercise, I bring them to my piano. I demonstrate it once for both of them.
Next, I bring all the students to my piano and demonstrate a new concept. This is something new everyone needs to learn like a blues scale or improvisation. Or, I may introduce a class project such as an ensemble. We might also sing a song together. Depending on the week or the new concept, we might play a game that everyone can participate in.
After these activities, we are off to keyboards to practice our previous lesson book assignment. I plug-in and listen to each student and decide if they are ready to pass to new lesson book pages. The series I prefer to teach from is the Hal Leanard Student Piano Library. There are several reasons why, but the primary ones are singable melodies, built-in improvisation, and great sounding music.
The students are never bored. We stay busy the whole 45 minutes. They can work on their ensemble parts or their solos. They also have theory pages they can work on.
Introducing New Material
I plug-in and listen to each student and introduce new material to them when they are ready. I maintain a standard of them learning mastery of new concepts. I am patient with them with this mastery as new skills can take quite a while to be present and polished. I will pass kids to a new piece or exercise if I feel that that are mostly getting the new concept. It doesn’t always have to be executed perfectly. We do so much review of concepts that I know they will get it over time.
Flexibility in Group Piano Teaching is Doable!
There is the beauty of flexibility in this model. I can teach my students new concepts, or play games. We can have a unit study. We are interacting and learning together.
Working Together as a Group Piano Class
Next, we usually try something together as a class at the digital pianos. This could be a group improvisation or an ensemble piece. If needed, I give them more headphone time to practice anything they are struggling with.
At the end of our group piano class, the students write down their assignments in their practice notebooks. Classtime goes fast, and they quickly put their headphones away in their little bags with their names on them. They sanitize their keyboards and then they are dismissed. I’m generally nudging them quickly out the door as the next class is filing in.
One-Room Schoolhouse Group Piano is Effective
This one-room group piano schoolhouse format works very well. The students enjoy being in the class together. They like performing solos for each other and playing together in ensembles.
Independent Practice at the Keyboards
Since I use this method primarily with older kids, they are able to work independently at the keyboards. They like their headphone practice time. If I do have a younger student in the mixed class (this is rare), the parent sits with them until they are old enough to be independent.
Laura Ingalls Wilder would be impressed. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laura_Ingalls_Wilder (At least I like to think so.) We get so much done every week and the kids are happy. Everyone learns and no one stands in the corner. If you want to mix piano students of varying levels and ages in one-room, I strongly encourage you to try the genius one-room schoolhouse group piano approach!
Feel free to comment below, and ask any questions… I promise all questions will be handled with care and no one-room schoolhouse dunce caps!