An indispensable tool for music teachers is the lesson plan. They are very important to the success of both one lesson and the teachers career in general.

There is an old saying that says something like “failing to prepare is preparing to fail” Once you have a bit of experience under your belt however, then preparing lesson plans does not have to be as complicated as it was when you first start teaching.

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

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

A very good starting point when you are preparing a lesson is to think about the maturity of the children you are teaching. What do they like, and what do they hate? What sort of music do they listen to on a regular basis? What are the other cultural factors that affect them at this age? 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. Once a teacher has been teaching for a number of years they are able to do this adaptation in an instant, referencing the lesson plans that are in their head, and adapting as they go. 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

You might prepare a lesson with approximately ten points to cover. Sometimes you’ll only get up to the fourth one and the bell will ring for the end of the lesson. Another day, perhaps even with the same lesson and a different class you’ll get through all ten activities and there will still be another 15 minutes to go! You just don’t know for sure, and that is why its always a good idea to have a backup plan. If you have a few minutes its a good idea to have a game or a fun work sheet copied and ready, just in case you need it.

3. Include a mixture of activities in your music lesson plan.

Most music lessons are often segregated into set activities: One lesson for the week will be theory, one practical, one history and one aural (or something like that). Often this is unavoidable due to practical concerns and the length of the school lessons, however why not try and mix them around a bit. You could spend half a lesson on theory, then pull out the instruments for the second half of the lesson. It’ll be interesting for the students and keep them guessing.

4. Start simple – simpler than you might think!

if you’re working on something a little complicate, you may want to have a backup which is a very simplified version – just in case! This is particularly needed if working with young students. For example if you’re introducing a new piece of music in a practical lesson you may wish to plan for the scenario of it being way too hard 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. The feedback is there for you, if you listen for it!

Students are often extremely subtle in the way they give feedback to teachers. Students (particularly teenagers) will never say “Mrs Jones I thought you did a brilliant job today, you gave us a lesson that was lots of fun and we learned heaps.” 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. Students when they enjoy music will also put a priority on band or orchestra ahead of other things. When you start to see this you’ll know that your music lesson planning is going well.