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

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 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? Sometimes they can be at an age where they are very shy in front of their peer group – is this one of those ages?

Whenever you create a music lesson plan, in your head or on paper these are the things that you need to consider. 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. 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, and have some music theory worksheets in reserve!

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 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. 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 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. 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 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.