Making Online Teaching Easier

We have all been thrown into online lessons whether we wanted to be teaching online or not. I have been teaching online since 2016 when I moved from South Florida to Cleveland Ohio. I have several students who wanted to continue their lessons with me, so I started teaching using FaceTime, Zoom, and now the best option in my opinion Rock Out Loud.

I have learned quite a bit over the last few months so I am sharing some new things here. Happy Online teaching!

For Yourself

1 – Get comfortable. Get a comfortable chair, set things up so you can stand if you need to. Being physically comfortable is step one in making online lessons easier.

2 – Grab a cup of coffee or your favorite drink. Treat yourself, you deserve it!

3 – Change your schedule. Online teaching is more demanding for us. However, just about everyone has some flexibility right now. I set my schedule up so that I don’t have more than seven or eight students in a row.

4 – Keep a pen and paper handy to take notes.

5 – Invest in a webcam for over the keys. I use this tool at every lesson to demonstrate how things are to be played. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.

 

When Working With Your Students

1 –Assign easier repertoire. Cut your students (and yourself) some slack. Take a step back and assign some fun easy to learn pieces.

2 – If a student is struggling, work in small chunks. Learn a measure, learn the next measure then put them together, and so on. Cover what you can and assign this to your student for practice. For more advanced students who can read well and work independently, this may be a great time to take on some new challenges. But for a lot of students taking a step back and assigning something easier to learn is a good way to go.

4 – Offer to check in with students during the week. I have been telling my students that if they are confused about something or run out of things to do to contact me and I can jump on Facetime or Zoom and help them out or give them some more work. (I do this even when in-person lessons are taking place.)

3 – Games and videos. I find these essential. About midway through the lesson, my students and I play a game, or I choose a short piano or music-related video for my student to watch. The mental break does wonder for my student’s focus and attitude. It also helps me.

4 – Choose a theme of the week. Last week I had my students focus on reviewing musical terms. We played a musical terms game. This week the theme is Baroque music, next week we will explore the Classical period. This not only is educational but fun as well!

5 – Be encouraging. Our students are getting used to this new way of teaching as much as we are. Tell them how great they are doing! Pump them up, help them to feel good about giving online lessons a chance.

6 – Keep track of assignments. A simple notebook is the best way of doing this. Jot down any notes that will help you remember what students are working on.

Video

1- Use a computer or a tablet with a large enough screen so that you can see your student easily. Be sure your student has a good view of your piano.

2 – Make sure your student also has a large enough screen and has it set up so that you can see their hands and body.

3 – Invest in a webcam and boom stand so that you can change to a view of the keys when needed.

Audio

1 – Rock Out Loud prioritizes audio over video. Since switching to this platform I have not had any trouble hearing my students.

2 – If needed invest in a separate microphone so that your students can better hear you.

3 – Speak slowly and clearly.

Internet

In order to conduct online piano lessons, you and your student must have a fast enough internet connection. 2 MB per second for upload is recommended for video.

You can check the google speed test to find out if your speed is fast enough. The big issue is the upload speed. You can go to Google and search “speed test” to check your speed.

Rock Out Loud tells you your speed and your student’s internet speed. It will not only give you the numbers but tell you whether or not your speed and your student’s speed are good.

I know that I have a super-fast connection and still, there are sometimes glitches. However, it is getting better and the whole situation is getting better overall. Technology is always advancing.

If there are a few glitches I just relax and roll with it. If we are experiencing a particularly glitchy day, I reschedule the lesson.

 

Sending Music

I have all of my student’s music in pdf format making it easy to email to parents. Of course, most of the music I use is on my website palomapiano.com. Teachers pay a small membership fee and are licensed to download everything on the website and use it with their own students for as long as they are members. (There are a lot of free things available right now.)

All of the music includes either mp3 or video performances of the pieces to be learned. This can be sent along to your students.

I recommend imslp or pianostreet for standard repertoire. Imslp is free to use pianostreet requires all users to have a membership, students must have their own account.

There are many other composers offering printable music with studio licenses. Making storing and sending super easy.

Keep it simple. Choose a few pieces at a few different levels for your students. For right now it’s Ok if multiple students are playing the same piece.

I also invested in an iPad pro. (Yes it was expensive but worth every penny). I use the Forscore app to store my music. Because I have a mac computer I can screen share my music with my student. I can even write on the score, things like fingering numbers, beats, etc. can be copied easily by my student.

Rock Out Loud allows you to put a pdf on your student’s screen so that they can just hit the print icon and print it immediately. No more sending emails to mom or dad and waiting until the next lesson. Yay!!

 

Parents

I love my piano parents! Every one of them is focused on what is best for their children. I really want to make sure they know that I appreciate them. If you have young children at home and out of school right now you know that this is an especially challenging time. Here are some ideas.

1 – At the beginning or the end of the lesson be sure to say hello to parents and ask how they are doing.

2 – Send emails regularly with updates and music and resources for the students.

3 – Send a text letting parents know when their child has had a great lesson.

4 – Be caring, be concerned, stay positive.

5 – Plan a zoom meeting and get together with families for some enjoyable and music educational activities.

I am working hard to provide the resources that my students need and I am sharing everything with other teachers. I am making more music and resources free so as to help teachers organize and plan their week. I have been sending an email out sharing my weekly theme including resources and a list of free pieces on a regular basis.

To get your freebie visit www.palomapiano.com and join our email list.

Keep going, teachers. We all have a positive part to play. This crisis will pass hopefully soon.

Stay safe.

Many thanks to our health care and essential workers.