Piano Lesson Format 5: Reminders

The last few minutes of the lesson are the time to remind my pupil of the points I’ve made during the half-hour and to make it absolutely clear to him what he needs to focus on during the week ahead.

Although my piano lessons are organised into half-hour slots, I rarely start or finish exactly on time, although I do try very hard to accomplish this – especially when I’m teaching several pupils in succession. Generally my pupils are reasonably punctual, arriving within a few minutes either side of their given time. If any are very late, I make a point of explaining that if I give them the full half hour this will have a knock-on effect on my other pupils.

On their first late arrival, I try to give them the full 30 minutes, but explain that if it happens again, I will have to cut the lesson short to be fair to my other pupils. Once the parents have realised this, they generally make more of an effort to ensure their child turns up promptly.

Making sure that a piece is completed before the end of the lesson (therefore leaving sufficient time for ‘reminders’) is something which I always aim for but – as with my cooking attempts – I don’t always get the timing spot on. Quite often I overestimate a pupil’s ability and he takes twice as long completing piece as I would expect. I usually let him finish – although on the odd occasion I might have to say: “We’ll just go to the end of this line.”

Establish a Priority

I then ask my student what he feels his priority should be during the forthcoming week’s practice. I feel it’s better for the pupil to come up with the answer himself – and then prompt him if he’s not able to. Or, if I don’t agree with his answer, I’ll say what I feel his priority should be. This may mean working on one particular scale, scales in general, a few bars or one page in a piece of music. In some cases the main priority may be just to settle on a regular practice time.

Of course there will be other ‘goals’ on top of this but by focusing on one, I know I’m more likely to trigger at least some degree of effort. If a parent is around to collect the child, I will make sure both are aware of my recommendations.

All this is also written in the pupil’s notebook and – although my handwriting can be hard to decipher at times – I feel that it is clear enough to help trigger a pupil’s memory if he has somehow ‘forgotten’ what he’s supposed to be working on. For this reason, most of my pupils realise that (unless there have been genuine difficulties at home during the week) there is no real justification for their lack of practice.

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