Want a Great Lesson? 3 Must-Know Tips!

practicing Sep 11, 2016

Did you have a great lesson this week?

I recently wrote an article for Harp Column magazine titled “Gold Star Student.” In it, I describe numerous ways that students can get the most from their harp lessons.

Today I’d like to look at lessons from a different angle with three tips that will help make each lesson a great one, and they apply whether you are the student or the teacher.

But first, what exactly is a “great” lesson? I think it is characterized by a spirit of collaboration, teacher and student joining efforts toward a common goal, along with guidance, growth and mutual respect. Please note that I do not measure the success of a lesson by the number of mistakes. A lesson is measured in effort, not errors.

A lesson is measured in effort, not errors. ~ Anne Sullivan

And a great lesson requires the efforts of two people: student and teacher. That is the reason I offer the tips below for both participants in the lesson.

Tip #1
Preparation and focus.

Begin to mentally set your focus ten to fifteen minutes before the lesson. Shut off your phone and computer. Warm up your fingers if you are able and prepare your mind by thinking through some of your music or your lesson goals for the day.

Teachers who have to quickly shift between students may find it helpful to read through the previous week’s assignment. This will remind you quickly of what the focus of the week’s practice was to be.

Students may find it helpful to prepare a short list of 2 or 3 questions or specific challenges that arose during the week.

Remember to smile! It’s not just being friendly; it will help you relax and put you in a receptive frame of mind.

Tip #2
Be an Active Listener.

A great lesson starts with great listening. When your teacher (or your student) has a comment for you, do you really hear what is said? It’s a good idea to repeat the comment back to the other person, using slightly different language. It will help ensure that you understood correctly and also let them know that their concern was truly heard. It will also give you time to prepare a thoughtful response, rather than just a quick “off the top of the head” remark.

Tip #3
Never leave the lesson without agreeing on a practice plan.

This plan should outline not only what you should accomplish during the week, but also how you should accomplish it, with the steps and techniques that are most likely to give good results. Students, this is your opportunity to be certain that you know how to use your practice time during the week. And teachers, this is the next best thing to practicing beside your student every day. This is how your students will learn how to teach themselves – a crucial part of learning music at any level.

And one last bonus tip: remember to say thank you. That little phrase can work wonders!


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