A critical part of a music teachers week is preparing lesson plans They are critical to the success of one lesson, and the whole terms lessons, and the teachers life 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.

1. Consider the students age group and situation

A very good starting point when you are preparing a lesson is to think about the age of the children you are teaching. What are their likes and dislikes? 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?

Whenever you create a music lesson plan, in your head or on paper these are the things that you need to consider. This is why ready made, fit all situations lesson plan usually doesn’t work. Lesson plans need to be tailored to the needs of the students in each individual class. 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. If you have a few minutes its a good idea to have a game or a music theory worksheet copied and ready, just in case you need it.

3. Include a mixture of activities.

In many schools the curriculum is planned for set lessons for the week: one lesson will practical, one theory etc. 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. Think simple – then expand

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. Start with a section that you know the students will be able to play, then come back and deal with the harder sections.

5. The feedback is there for you, if you listen for it!

Students will give you feedback – even if it is extremely subtle. 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.