I’ve been holding group classes in my studio for years and have tried tons of different ideas. Some have worked really well. Others have bombed. 🙂 The group classes I offer are in addition to the regular weekly lessons and students can opt to participate or not. I might have anywhere from 5-25 students taking part in any given group class, so I’m never quite sure what to expect when I’m planning! Here is a basic overview of how I go about planning each class:
1. Select a Topic – Typically this will have something to do with our theme for the year or with a specific area in which I think my students need some extra instruction or reinforcement. For example, right now I’m working on a group class for “The Symphony Orchestra.”
2. Vigorous Self-Education – This is a term I came across in one of the self-publishing books I read this summer, but the principle is one I’ve been applying for a long time. I start by researching the topic as extensively as I can – checking out books from the library, looking up sites on-line, perusing lesson plans and activity ideas from other teachers, etc. I love learning new things and have found this to be a great way to increase my knowledge and understanding of different areas and then pass it on to my students in a fun and creative way!
3. Brainstorm – I grab my trusty spiral notebook and just start writing down every idea that comes to mind. My notes are extremely random and would probably be incoherent to anyone else who attempted to read them, but eventually my thought process becomes more organized and I’m able to pull together some workable plans.
4. List Class Objectives – Some of the objectives are general (e.g. learn about the instruments of the orchestra); others are more specific in nature (e.g. be able to identify each instrument by sight and assign it to the correct family). I always start with “Have Fun!” because I don’t want to lose sight of that emphasis as I get into all the other planning. Every class also includes time for student performances since one of my primary goals is to give students a chance to play their pieces for and listen to each other.
5. Create an Outline – Break down the time frame into smaller time segments and determine what activities will take place during each time segment. I usually begin with an ice-breaker/intro game of some sort to introduce the topic and/or help the students feel at-ease. It’s also good to avoid large chunks of time devoted to a single activity. I usually separate the performances into two or three different time segments with an activity or game in between each one. Here is the outline I worked up for the upcoming Symphony Orchestra group class:
6:05-6:15 Introduction to Instruments and their Families
6:15-6:25 Case of the Missing Instruments #1
6:25-6:35 Performances #1
6:35-6:45 Case of the Missing Instruments #2
6:45-6:55 Performances #2
6:55-7:05 Case of the Missing Instruments #3
7:05-7:15 Performances #3
7:15-7:25 Case of the Missing Instruments #4
7:25-7:30 Identify false clue and figure out mystery word, eat snack, hand out worksheets
6. Make Lists – I keep several running lists so that I can hopefully avoid overlooking any important details. “Things To-Do”, “Things To Take”, “Resources Used”, etc. All of these are bullet point lists that are a part of the whole lesson plan document so that everything is easy to find!
7. Communicate – Talk about the class a lot leading up to the event, discuss with each student what they want to perform, send e-mail reminders to the parents, post a sign-up sheet in the studio and have students sign up if they plan to attend. Early on I made the mistake of assuming that because the event was listed on my studio calendar, that was sufficient. But now I use lots of different means of communication to hype up the events and encourage students and parents to attend.
Regardless of how many students do or don’t attend, refuse to be discouraged and instead put all your energy into making it a great time for those who are there. They will love it and you’ll have students looking forward to the next group class all year long!