How I Teach My Groups

Posted on Oct 12, 2019 in Class Routine, Featured, Methods, Planning

If you are an experienced piano teacher you know what it is like to teach a wide range of students with different skills and abilities.

In my studio I might have 8 students during the same hour learning together. This is becoming more and more common as teachers discover the value of teaching piano in groups.

However, group piano is experiencing a change. More and more group piano teachers are including students that are beginners with those that have been playing and taking lessons for a few years.

Group piano with students of different ages and skills.

I have limited my classes to ages 7 – 12 and would like to share with you the seven steps that I follow to teach a song.

The video at the end of this post includes a little more details and a visual of the piece (which you can download for free here).

Step 1

If the group includes a student that is joining the class for the very first time and has never played the piano, play a game (at the piano) finding 2 and 3 black keys and naming the white keys. (Experienced students will enjoy the game-like review!)

If your group does not include a beginning student you can prepare the student by playing the scale that corresponds to the new song that you are introducing.

Step 2

Label keys for first time student with Post-it flags . Skip this step if you do not have first time students.

Step 3

Listen to recording. I like to do this while I pass out the new music and they insert into their binders.

Step 4

With pianos turned off everyone points and follows the music in the score while listening to recording again.

Step 5

With headphones on students begin to sightread and explore their part. This is when I will show the beginning student how to position hands and guide in how to play the piece.

This is also the time to check on all the students and make sure they are playing correctly.

Step 6

With headphones on everyone plays along with the recording.

(take a break for a different activity)

Step 7

Everyone plays together out loud.

Click Here to Watch Me Explain the Steps on Video

Don’t forget to download your free copy of “Eleven”.


  1. Kristopher Murdock
    October 24, 2019

    Can you please elaborate? How do you keep the review of something so basic as finding 2 and 3 black keys and naming the white notes from feeling belittling to the experienced students, how much time do you spend on it, and how long do you keep doing this after new students start? (When I taught one-on-one, I used to introduce all the white notes at once with mnemonics and review them at the beginning of each lesson for as long as necessary by making a game of finding them, but more recently, with my groups, I’ve stopped introducing all of them at once to avoid information overload and raise retention.)
    Also, how long do you keep the Post-It flags on the keys for the new students? I assume you label them with the letter names; do you eventually remove one letter name at a time? How many octaves do you label? Do you also color code the different letters?

    • Dorla
      October 24, 2019

      Kristopher, reviewing basic skills is all in the attitude. I have never had any of my students feel belittled about doing this! Remember the ages are 7-12. We spent maybe 2 minutes on this and we did it once. That is all that needs to be done to introduce to the new students. When we learn the next new song I introduce the names of the keys needed.

      The Post-it flags on the keys are only one octave and they are gone by the third week. I do not color code.

      • Kristopher Murdock
        October 28, 2019

        Thanks; this helps. Do you remove the Post-It flags all at once or a few at a time?

        • Dorla
          October 30, 2019

          All at once! Without notice. They just come to the next lesson and they are gone 🙂


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