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Recipe for a Good Lesson

Recipe and 12 Ingredients

Asked My University Flute Students:

What are the ingredients of a good lesson?

They were to consider and use what we have been studying in pedagogy class:

We have been been studying the books and videos of Taffanel and Gaubert, Moyse, Kincaid, Gilbert, Rampal, Nyfenger, Baker, to present day teachers/performers Galway, Wye, Bennett, Buyse, Walker, Baxtresser, Gedigian, Porter, Pahud, Bezaly, Underwood, as well as other resources on the web for teaching and musical entrepreneurial explorations. We have learned about and developed a teaching plan for Beginning , Middle, High School and College level flutists.We have been dialoguing about all of this, have made inspirational interviews with musicians that are doing something the student wants to do and video recording the students, teaching lessons to their students and receiving feedback.  They have been exposed to a lot of great teachers, teaching books, videos, interviews, ideas and information.

and their own life, educational and musical experiences.

Basic Ingredients in all lessons:

Encouraging, Imaginative, Creative, Informative, Innovative, Positive, Passionate,  Joyful, Playing, Aware, Personal, Listening, Sounding, Learning, Communicative, Connected, Curiosity, Daring, Dialoguing, Looking, Focusing, Opening, Spirit, Possibility, Thinking, Feeling, Observing, Heart, Moving, Laughing, Risking,  Growing, Wonder, Ideas, Empowering, Gratitude, Direction, Love, Dreams, Goals...

Recipe For A Good, Complete Lesson

12 Ingredients

1. Planning and Personal Consideration:

What are you thinking about in between lessons for your students? What have you asked them to do? What are their future goals and dreams? What have their band director asked of them? What are they finding difficult? How can you help them move through this? How are you going to design their lesson and practice?

2. Greeting, Gratitude & Connection:

How we greet each other and establish a connection right from the start is important at every lesson. Teacher and student create the time and space for this to happen. Notice how a student walks into their lesson. Observe the students body language and breathing with care and kindness as they enter. This kind of greeting, gratitude and connection sets the tone for a good  lesson.

3. What was planned for and what is Now:

I have students keep a 3 ring binder with there music, handouts and notebook. We can both agree by writing lesson notes and practice designs in the notebook each week. We can see what was done during the week by the students notes and what is new. Have a plan for the lesson and also be aware of what is needed in the now of each lesson and each moment.

4. Organize lesson time & follow organic nature of lesson:

A good lesson has an organic, natural flow and movement to it. Be organized and know what you want to teach them, then follow and trust your sense of timing with your student and your plan that includes:

Greeting, Tone (warmup), Technique, Etudes, Pieces, Sight Reading, Closing (lesson notes).

5. Breathing, Body, Whole Self:

In some part of the lesson, usually best at the warm up, notice what the student needs or have a theme of the week to work on an aspect of breathing (teach and play with breathing tools & toys; breathing bag, breath builder, straws, finger breaths...) and whole body, hand position/balance/poise. You can do this inside of tone warm up development or in Technical work too. Give meaning to why creating good habits and awareness of whole self and details are so important in making beautiful, dynamic, expressive music.

  1. Tone:

Warm up and focus on an aspect of tonal development at each lesson. Include: how to refine listening, beauty, vibrato, intonation, embouchure, dynamics, articulation, listening, rhythm, harmonics,  pitch bending, colors, sing & play, whistle tones, buzzing, straws... breathing, body awareness and movement. Use with them and have them practice with a tuner and drones, like the Tuning CD. There are many wonderful books to use for Tone. Please provide the information about which one would benefit them the most. Give a specific tone development exercise for what is needed each week. Assign a specific musician and piece for their listening.

7. Technique:

Every good lesson has a goal for technical improvement that includes:

Finger Exercises, Scales, Arpeggios, Chords, Thirds, Intervals, Patterns, Etudes...   

For the student to develop a sense of control and to know how they are improving, it is important that technical work be done using specific rhythms and their metronome. Again there are many great books. Please design a personal plan for your students progress. Have them record their scales and etudes for you and you can listen to them together and then work on the problem areas during the lesson. Remember to teach and demonstrate how scales, chords, etudes... are music too! Always encourage students to be expressive, to make music in everything they play. Teach them different musical styles and articulations in all their technical, musical, practicing, playing and performing.

  1. Pieces:

Have a plan for teaching your students pieces that builds upon their tonal, technical, musical and artistic development. Use all the musical styles, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, 20th Century and Contemporary. Know how many lessons they receive each semester and year.  You can be flexible and personal with each student, but do create a plan for the year for each grade and University level.  Encourage students to listen to flute music and find out what pieces interest them. It is up to the teacher to guide students through the vast flute repertoire. If they are only learning one piece a semester or year then they do not have a chance to really be introduced and know the breadth of our wonderful flute music. There are many resources for pedagogy through the National Flute Association and on the web at most Universities and teaching studios. This repertoire is where we are teaching about music, composers, history, theory, phrasing, style, interpretation, ensemble, artistry and performing.

9. Orchestra/Band/Chamber/Improvising/Sight Reading:

Most students are in a band, orchestra or chamber ensemble. Ask them what they are working on and include this in their lesson. High School and University students are working on orchestral excerpts and complete parts. There are many lists about the most commonly asked excerpts and parts. Find one and use it to help your students learn and check off what they have done. I have one on my website that I have created over the years that is very thorough.

At some point during the lesson try a bit of free playing or improvising. Also, make time for sight reading new material or a duet. This is an excellent way to see if they are applying the things you are teaching or if they are only a part of the piece you taught them.

  1. Practice Design:

Design a creative, clear and personal practice plan for the student at each lesson. Find a way to do this that is easy to understand and notate at each lesson. Make sure that it is challenging enough, yet not too difficult or easy for your student. All studies have shown that people who have done great things in their life have 3 things in common.  One a supportive environment. Two, a master teacher that designs a specific practice that meets their level and goals and is practiced for many years. Three, that they received regular feedback on how they are doing  and that they are passionate and that they are passionately about what they are doing. This is a huge part of your teaching, to guide the practice of your students, give them direction, feedback, encouragement and to show your passion.

  1. Goals for student from teacher & students personal goals:

Take the time to know your goals and dreams for each other. This may include weekly , monthly, yearly lessons, recitals, competitions, chair tests, college auditions, jobs, creative projects....    Make a map about how you are going to achieve these. Be realistic and look at the calendar to help students create the time and energy for these things to happen. Most people need help in organizing their time and priorities. Teach them and give them information and ideas about how to do this. Educate students about their goals and dreams and Believe in them.

12. Notes, Ideas, Questions & Reflections:

Make time during the lesson for questions and to take notes. I like students to video record their lessons. They can take notes watch, listen and learn from their lesson and also teach them self this way too. Ask them to take some notes and write down questions and or reflections about their video and their practice. Have them write down what they observed in listening to pieces and performers assignment for the week. What did they focus on and learn this week? What questions do they have? What inspired them to practice? What got better? What needs to be worked on ,played with and brought to life? Have student keep meaningful notes during practice week that continue their musical growth.

Check list :

  • Greeting/Gratitude/Connection

  • Breath Work/Tools & Toys

  • Body and Hand Position/Balance/Poise /Movement/Ease

  • Play with & Demonstrate

  • Tone Development

  • Technique Development

  • Rhythm Development

  • Solo & Ensemble Music

  • Sight Reading/ Improvising

  • Lesson Notes /Practice Design /Goals

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