Lesson plans are an indispensable tool for music teachers. They are critical to the success of one lesson, and the whole terms lessons, and the teachers life 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 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?

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. Lesson plans need to be tailored to the needs of the students in each individual class. 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. However when you are beginning your teaching career an excellent starting point is to spend a little while researching the age group.

2. Always plan more than you’ll need

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. 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. 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. Keep the students enthused by not letting them know what to expect!

4. The best ideas start with a simple concept.

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 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.” It might happen in your dreams, but not in real life! What you will see is students eager to come to your classes, do your music theory worksheets, and happy to have a joke with you at an appropriate time. Students when they enjoy music will also put a priority on band or orchestra ahead of other things. When this happens, you’ll know that what you are doing is on the right track.