Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content

How to Streamline Your Music Lesson Planning (And Reclaim Your Own Time!)

By Rosemarie Penner | Blog

Dec 11 2021

How to Streamline Your Music Lesson Planning

It might seem like lesson planning is just the domain of school teachers, but this isn’t the case. Music lesson planning is just as important in the music studio. So, how do you find a balance between the creativity of teaching an instrument and the structure of a well-designed program for each student?

If we haven’t met before, I’m Rosemarie! From school classroom to travel teaching to online studio, I’ve always had to make the most of my limited admin time while keeping lessons highly engaging for students. This means that I LOVE looking for efficient ways to get admin done! Because as much as I love my studio, I want to feel like I have it all – career, family & personal fulfilment.

And, I’m guessing you want to have it all as well. Right?

Lesson planning doesn’t have to be complicated or take a lot of time each week. But, it does need to include small & big picture thinking. Teaching online doesn’t have to take more admin time than in-person lessons (yes, really!)

Benefits of a Good Lesson Planning System

Are you a planner? Or, more “let’s see where the moment takes us”?

A sound lesson planning system benefits you regardless of where you are on that spectrum. Even master teachers have a planning system in place. But, like professional athletes, they make it look easy while in the moment.

A good lesson planning system:

  •  Saves time & energy
  • Give students continuity from week to week
  • Shows parents what is expected from them
  • Shows you the big picture

In other words, a good system will not only save you admin time but help keep your clients happy.

Choosing the Right Tools for Lesson Planning

We all have different approaches in how we teach & what we hold most valuable in our studio experience. Choosing the right tools that best fit your studio is essential in ensuring your lesson planning system works efficiently & with ease.
When I was a travelling teacher, I used to bring binders of lesson plans with me. In the classroom, this meant better classroom management. It ensured we covered learning outcomes for each course. But, there were a couple of problems.

Firstly, there was no need for that level of planning when working with students one-on-one.

Second, there’s no way to get out of a vehicle wearing heels in the snow while trying to grab three teaching bags.
Trust me. I tried. It didn’t work. (Though my arms got a good workout carrying all that gear!)

I still needed access to quite a few resources and couldn’t just reach over to my studio bookshelves. So, I needed a different solution. The answer was moving as much of my resources to digital as possible.

Two of my favourites tools are Planboard & Google Drive.

Using Planboard for Music Lesson Planning

Planboard is an online app that syncs with any device. I’ve even used it on my cell phone in a pinch! While designed for classroom teachers, there is so much customization (even on the free plan) that it’s checked all the boxes, saving me admin time. Plus, it works as my students’ practice page + my lesson plan. Having a streamlined approach & look means it is efficient for both my students & myself.

Using Google Drive for Music Lesson Planning

Google Drive is an online app that works as online storage. And yet, it’s so much more. I use it for everything from registration for studio events, shared family folders & keeping lesson resources at my fingertips. Plus, it’s a tool that my students were already familiar with, which meant less teaching how to use it.

How to Streamline Music Lesson Planning

Remember how I’m always on the lookout for efficiency hacks? Well, this has led to a lot of experimentation over the years in how my lesson planning looks. One of the benefits of moving my studio online was seeing if my system worked as well in a new setting. It did!

Have a Weekly Routine

I go more into my weekly routine in TopCast Episode 257, but here are some tips to make the most of limited time.

  • Make your lesson plan & student practice pages the same document.
  • Take a moment to check students’ annual growth plans (read more on this here).
  • Know what you want to accomplish when you plan (big or small picture).
  • Edit during lessons, not after.
  • Incorporate student goal setting by including this in your lesson time.

Consider Your Student’s Individual Learning Goals

And here’s something else to think about for student goals:

Yes, each lesson should flow from one to the next. But there also need to be milestones to show student progress.
This means balancing what a student needs to learn to be successful at their level and what they want to accomplish as musicians.

What Made Me Commit to Digital Lesson Planning

By keeping all planning digital, I can access it from any device. Plus, during lesson time, I can change small things & save a copy of the practice page in the last few seconds of lessons. My admin time becomes more about the big picture than planning everything.

Planning Group Music Lessons

Here is where it’s perfect to over plan. Students WILL take over if there is “downtime”. And, there is nothing worse than a rambunctious student that has taken over the group lesson. Suddenly there are kids everywhere & you’re wondering how to herd them all back together. Not fun.

In my studio, we have five multi-age/multi-level group lessons throughout the year. But, the overall structure stays the same, which means my students know what to expect. It also meant that I got rock star status amongst the parents when they saw their kids get right into activities & stay engaged for the entire 90-minutes. And, who doesn’t want to be a rock star in the eyes of their clients?

Musts for Moving Group Lessons Online

Hosting our regular group lessons online required experimentation. It is one of the things my students have shared as a favourite activity. They love the sense of community & connection with other students! They also liked that it’s a mix of activities.

To make online group lessons a success:

  • Keep it very interactive. It’s no fun staring at a screen.
  • Keep it moving quickly. Try to wear out your students by the end of the lesson.
  • Switch it up between physically active, listening, working as a team & playing their instrument.
  • Think about the students’ personalities since they will each need different things.

rosemarie penner digital escape rooms

You can find some of my students’ favourite group lesson activities in the TopMusicMarketplace. (By the way, the “Jazzed About Spring” & “Travel Through Time” digital escape rooms are a big hit in group lessons!)

Lesson Planning For Online Music Lessons

It turns out that lesson planning for online lessons wasn’t much different than planning for in-person lessons. A big part of this was because I’d already incorporated a digital element as a travelling teacher.

But, it’s more than going digital. This is only part of the equation. Getting off the bench is even more important when online.

Imagine having a conversation with someone that’s in your personal space bubble. And, they watch every little thing you do like a hawk & tell you how to fix it. Not so much fun, right?

As you plan, make sure there are moments you’re off the bench & don’t require eye contact. It creates a more natural, conversational feel to lessons. It also means everyone gets time to move around, which is much healthier for our bodies.

Lastly, make time for onboarding during lesson time. This is SO important … for both students & parents. The truth is you will have to make time to teach your families how to use the tools & systems you put in place in your studio.

Plan to cover everything, from using apps, printing off practice pages, purchasing new sheet music, checking the newsletter, and more.

Consider this: Would you rather teach during lesson time … or your personal time?
I choose during lesson time every single time, so onboarding is always included in my lesson planning!

Music Lesson Planning Made Easy

My “top music” advice (pun intended) for lesson planning is to keep things simple.

Remember that including your students in those important decisions on goals & practice strategies takes the pressure off you. In addition, taking time during lessons to teach non-music skills pays off during the week. Lastly, be proactive about ensuring students have easy access to resources & practice help.

Our students can be an incredible source for lesson planning. You just have to include them in the process & put the resources they need in front of them. The added benefit of this is that it shortens the time you need to plan during the week. It’s a win for everyone!

Power Hours with Rosemarie in TopMusicPro (Join Me!)

So — what is your next step to streamline on this planning topic?

In TopMusicPro, I regularly host a Power Hour meeting where we set a clock and get things done for an hour, done together with you online! It’s a benefit available to members. (When are you ready to do a Power Hour with me?!)

If you’re not a member, you can check out membership options here and get access to upcoming Power Hours, and our flagship Lesson Planning full course for music teachers. Or let me know in the comments: what’s something you’ll be incorporating to streamline your lesson planning?

About the Author

Rosemarie Penner is an educator, boutique piano studio owner & writer. She has a Bachelor of Education (with a focus on special needs education) and has been teaching for over a decade. One of the main things Rosemarie has learnt is that, as educators, we never really stop learning. Outside of lessons, Rosemarie enjoys reading novels, making a perfect cup of tea, and baking vegan goodies! Find Rosemarie at The Unfinished Lesson.

TopMusic Certified