Basic concepts to keep in mind for music teachers planning

Lesson plans are an indispensable tool for music teachers. They are very important to the success of both one lesson and the teachers career in general.

There is nothing like the old saying “If you don’t prepare, then prepare to fail”. However, once you are a little more experienced then preparing lesson plans becomes a lot easier.

For those who are just starting out, here are a few guidelines for creating compelling music lesson plans and music theory worksheets.

1. Think about the age group of the students you are teaching

The best thing to start with when preparing any lesson is to consider the age of the students you will be presenting to. What do they like, and what do they hate? What music do they listen to on the radio? Are there any other cultural influences that affect them a their current development level? Are they at an age where they are extremely hesitant to do anything in-front of their peers?

These are the questions that you need to think about when preparing a music lesson plan. Ready made lesson plans that you might buy or find online that are created in a rigid format usually don’t work. Each individual class and student needs to have the lesson plan tailored to their individual needs. When a teacher has been in the classroom for a few years they are usually able to do these adaptations on the spot, and may seem to not have to prepare at all. When you are just starting however a good starting plan is to spend a few minutes researching the age group, and learning how they think and interact with each other.

2. Have much more than you thought you would planned

Often you’ll prepare a lesson with (say) ten activities. Sometimes you’ll only get up to the fourth one and the bell will ring for the end of the lesson. If you were to do the same lesson with a different class you might go through all ten points and there will still be another 20 minutes left! Its always an excellent idea to have a backup plan just in case you need more than you anticipate. Have copies of spare worksheets, or an interactive game on hand so that you can always go to at the end if you have a few spare minutes.

3. Mix up your activities as much as possible

In many schools the curriculum is planned for set lessons for the week: one lesson will practical, one theory etc. However if its possible, why not try to vary it around a bit? If you’re not limited by rooms try spending half the lesson on practical, then moving into theory based on the materials you were just playing. It’ll be interesting for the students and keep them guessing.

4. Think simple – then expand

Its always a good idea, particularly if working with younger students to have the simplest version as a backup of your complicated idea. For instance in a practical lesson it is always a good idea to plan for a piece being way too difficult for the students. Its not always the best idea to start at the very top! If you can start with a section that you’ll know they will do easily, then come back to the more challenging sections.

5. Listen to feedback

Students will give you feedback – even if it is extremely subtle. Teenage students (and pretty much most students for that matter!) will never say “Mr Brown, I thought you did a wonderful job today, we learned heaps, and had fun at the same time!” Perhaps you might have a dream that your student says that – but its not going to happen in real life! What you will see is your students more happy to be in your classes than in other classes, and happy to laugh with you and eager to come to class. You’ll also see students putting band or orchestra ahead of their other activities. When this happens, you’ll know that what you are doing is on the right track.