How to Teach Mixed Ages

Posted on Sep 25, 2019 in Class Routine, Featured, Methods, Planning

Have you ever had a waiting list of students ready for you to schedule and time slots for group piano with only one or two students signed up?

Maybe they were not all of the same age group you were hoping for.

Perhaps they can only come on a specific day of the week.

It can be frustrating. You have the students willing to enroll. You have a class waiting for students. But age and skill is creating a stumbling block.

Would you consider mixing different ages and skill?

It is not hard to do.

It just takes a different way of teaching.

One option is to have the students work on their own with supervision. Students can even be in a different method book. They remain with their headphones on most of the time.

Another option is to have students rotate through different activities and combine them with either a group activity or ensemble.

However, I would like to invite you to experience a third way of mixing different ages and skills.

5 different levels – ages 7-12

Piano Pyramid

I call it a Piano Pyramid.

Classes include beginners and early intermediate students, ages 7-12 and it has been a joy to teach them all together.

Each group has between 4 and 8 students. Some groups have mostly beginners, others have students who have been playing for a few years.

Students play together out loud for most of the class with small pockets of time where they use their headphones.

How To Teach

There needs to be specific repertoire for this type of group teaching.

You do not want to spend your time modifying ensembles or other pieces in order to adapt each level.

Using the Piano Pyramid repertoire, each pianists’ part has been created to be at the appropriate level and to be an integral part of the composition. This allows the teachers to meet everyone’s needs.

The very first class might include teaching beginners about keyboard geography and steady beat. While at the same time early intermediate levels are ready for a challenge playing in the key of D-flat Major.

Flat Warm Up was written for this very purpose. Notice how the Prep Pianist is playing clusters on the black keys, a common activity for the first piano lesson, while Pianist 4 might be playing in this key for the very first time.

Lesson Format

All of my groups are learning the same songs at the same time. This allows them to have make up lessons in another group and be able to fit in.

The following is the format that I follow for each class.

  • Piano Technique (scales, posture, good habits)
  • Piano Repertoire (listen, sing, count, play)
  • Individual Work (written assignment, homework, practice)
  • Piano Game (new theory or review)

Are you interested in teaching group lessons this way?

Add your comment below and let me know if this way of teaching group lessons resonates with you.

Or if you have additional questions… let me know!

2 Comments

  1. carolyn butler
    September 30, 2019

    I currently teach 3 small group classes, but they are all beginners. I would be interested in teaching different levels together with your idea of pyramid music!

    Reply
    • Dorla
      October 2, 2019

      Carolyn! Teaching this way has really simplified my teaching this semester. Stay connected as I share more of how you can start teaching this way in your groups 🙂

      Reply

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