Monday Mailbag – Finding Time for Games

I love all your games and ideas, but how do you incorporate games into your lessons? I feel like there’s hardly enough time to get through the books as is, especially when a recital or competition is coming up! Do you always fit a game in? Do you have 45-minute lessons?

First off, yes, I do teach 45-minute lessons almost exclusively. I also have a couple of 1-hour lessons for more advanced students. I made this transition several years ago and absolutely love it! We still run out of time to get everything in, but this allows for so much more freedom to focus intently on certain concepts or incorporate games without feeling rushed. I wrote a post a while back on How to Transition to Longer Lessons. This approach worked really well for my studio, but of course, you’ll want to think through your needs and what approach will work best for you and your families if this is a change that you want to make.

Another thing to keep in mind is that for the most part, I use games as an integral part of my teaching approach. Since I rarely use theory books with my students, I use games both to assess understanding of theory concepts and to teach or reinforce various concepts. A lot of times what I do is at the beginning of the week I think of a concept that I want to work on with all my students (i.e. scale patterns, key signatures, intervals, chords, etc.). Then I brainstorm and come up with a fun game centered on that concept.

Also, it’s not uncommon for me to not hear everything that a student has worked on within the week. If I anticipate that we will run out of time, I often ask if there is anything in particular that they want to play for me, or if there are any assignments that they’re having trouble with and want me to help them work through at their lesson. Anything that gets postponed to the following week gets a star by it to remind me to listen to that first at their next lesson.

Lastly, no, I don’t play a game at every lesson. Some students really thrive with the integration of games; others would just as soon focus on their repertoire. I try to be sensitive to the needs of each student and gauge what their interests and priorities are from week to week. If a student is really excited about a particular piece and wants to show me what they’ve accomplished, then we skip the game and “dig in”! Games are just one tool in a teacher’s toolbox and can be used with purpose to accomplish set objectives and meet the specific needs of the students.

This is a great topic (can you tell it’s one of my favorites? 🙂 ), so I’ll be posting some more specific ideas this week of games that I’ve been using with my students this year!

Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!

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