As we prepare to return to piano lessons next week and I sit down to write the invoices for the new online classroom fee it seems right that I let you know about the value it provides. Hopefully you saw this for yourself last term as your child learned and practised new skills. This blog post tells you how to get the most out of your online classroom experience.
During face to face lessons I taught music theory during the lesson through games and then set theory homework. This took up a lot of lesson time and despite revisiting topics frequently I still found that children found them hard to remember. This was just 'the way things were' and I accepted it, taking time to play games as necessary.
Lockdown forced me to find a different way of teaching theory. I discovered that teaching via video is extremely effective and frees up valuable lesson time for piano playing.
The online classroom allows children to watch the videos, which include activities, as many times as they want to until they are confident in their knowledge.
Children can practise their skills on the automatically marked quizzes that accompany each unit. As I'm sure you already know, practice is important for good understanding. I am seeing children engaging with the quizzes and making multiple attempts to improve their score which means that their knowledge is becoming thoroughly embedded. I am also receiving correct answers to questions I ask in lessons! This approach is called 'flipped learning' and is very effective. Children can thoroughly learn ideas outside lessons and are much better prepared for lessons, which become more effective.
Most of you are already using the online classroom really well, but just in case you're not completely clear, the value from it comes from engaging with it as I set it, including:
Over the coming academic year the theory part of the classroom will grow into a complete course in beginner music theory and your child will continue to benefit from all the advantages it provides.
The children (and I!) love improvising. It is such fun to just sit at the piano and be able to make music without being tied to what is written on the page. Improvising allows children to express themselves through music and play much harder things than they can read.
The online Improvisation course has provided fantastic 'motifs' that children have loved learning. They developed and made them their own during the last school year, including making up completely new motifs. It has allowed children to pick and learn motifs in their own time and explore the sounds the piano can make. There is already a new 'Improvisation Inspired by Nature' and, time permitting, I hope to add more to this part of the Improvisation course. My priority at the moment is, however, the theory course.
Finally, Music Moves! Music Moves is currently only studied by two students however this is something I plan to expand when I have space for new students (when face to face lessons resume). Music Moves is a new programme for 4-7 year olds that teaches core music and piano skills through movement, improvisation and rote playing. There are preparation videos for learning each piece, where children move and listen together with videos showing children how to play the piece when they are ready. There are also accompaniment videos for each piece. The online classroom provides excellent value for these students, allowing them to engage with me every time they practise!
Music is a language and, like all languages, listening is a vital part of the learning process. Last academic year I put up a Peter and the Wolf listening project for children. This term I will be putting up Carnival of the Animals which is a great piece that children will enjoy listening and moving to.
I have also embedded a Spotify playlist of general classical music. Engaging with both of these resources will further develop the rounded music education I am developing for your child. The Spotify list can be listened to anytime and does not have to be a serious 'sit down and listen' exercise!
I only have 30 minutes a week to teach your child piano. Piano teachers around the world complain it is impossible to cover all the things that provide a rounded music education in this limited time. Inevitably some things have to give and these are often music theory and improvisation, not to mention general listening!
The online classroom allows your child to benefit from these very important areas of music and means that they understand better, make faster progress, play more musically and, of course, enjoy more. It has been such a good find for me and I am excited about what it has to offer for your child. I look forward to developing it further and helping your child's music education be as rich as possible.
What has your child most enjoyed about their virtual lesson experiences so far? Do post your comments below!
Director of Surrey Music School.