Teaching in groups

The majority of my teaching is one to one.  However, on a Monday and Wednesday I teach two lessons as a group lessons with two students present at each.  Every Friday I teach back to back half hour lessons from 11.45-2.45 at St. Wilfrid’s RC Primary School with three students in each group.  I wonder why there is a resistance to group teaching – it’s certainly viewed as a less favourable environment for learning an instrument than one to one lessons.  This isn’t the case in other countries – America has a well established culture of group lessons.  In my short experience of teaching this way, here are my early observations in terms of how it assists learning:

1.  Students have to get on without a teacher listening to their every note.  They have to work independently and, when the teacher goes to them, be able to articulate what they are finding difficult.

2.  There is an element of healthy competition – pretty much every student in a group of three knows where the other students are in the repertoire book.  They also keep a mental ‘sticker count’ of who in the group has received reward stickers.  It’s amazing how much goes in!

3.  There is the opportunity for impromptu performances – there is an instant audience in every class.

4.  Students hear a wider range of music.  As students advance and can take on more advanced pieces, they have more of a say in what they learn; this inevitably leads to a wider range of music in class; especially when there are students from different cultures and backgrounds.

5.  Students share ideas and thoughts on music – this encourages greater and deeper conversation on musical topics (even at primary school level).

There are, of course, different demands on the teacher and my experience as a school classroom teacher certainly helps.  Setting expectations is vital, as is staying focused throughout the whole lesson, nipping any problems (such as a student who isn’t focused) in the bud and encouraging conversation about music, to name but a few areas.  However, despite the extra work that group lessons mean, as a multi-instrumentalist, I am beginning to wonder why I don’t try this out with flute lessons as well as keyboard.

Tim Farnhill lives and breathes music and loves to engage and educate aspiring musician to grow. He provides professional music services from private tuition (flute lessons, piano lessons, keyboard lessons) through to conducting, composing and arranging for choirs and orchestras. To find out more about Tim and the breadth of services he can provide, please visit timfarnhill.com