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 nothing like the old saying “If you don’t prepare, then prepare 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. Consider the students age group and situation

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? 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?

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. 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. Always plan more than you’ll need

Often you’ll prepare a lesson with (say) ten activities. Sometimes when you use this lesson you’ll only get through five points and the lesson will be over. 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. 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. 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 music theory worksheets based on the materials you were just playing. Keep the students enthused by not letting them know what to expect!

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. 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, and happy to have a joke with you at an appropriate time. 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.