5 Tips for Teaching Elementary Lessons Virtually

5 Tips for Teaching Elementary Lessons Virtually

By Karin Dye

Does the above video look familiar to you?

This footage is from one of my first elementary orchestra zoom lessons. 

Oh, no.

Oh, yes.

It happened.

I've reflected.

Here are some tips that I have found to be helpful.

1. Make tutorial videos for parents to help them tune their child's instrument. 

Sure, you can teach the students. But with beginners, I think the time is best spent elsewhere. Involving parents is also important now that you don't see your student's instruments once a week. In distance learning, parents need to know more about instrument care than they did before.

2. Take turns having a student "Be the Leader" on a song.

A group lesson is really tricky when you're digital. The students can't play together because of the time lag. Teach your students to count the group in and "Be the leader" while others play along muted at home. This gives you a chance to hear all of the students play individually without making others wait. Over time, students know that they will have to take a turn as leader on at least one song from their homework. 

3. Pass the melody!

With 6th graders (I wouldn't recommend this for fresh beginners), we often play "pass the melody" games. This works well for longer pieces of music. Say Ringo, John, and Paul are in a lesson group together. Assign them an order: John is 1, Ringo is 2, and Paul is 3! This means, John plays measure 1, Ringo plays measure 2, Paul plays measure 3 and they cycle this way until the piece is over. This helps students engage and listen to others playing/supports intonation.

4. Guarantee they are watching your lesson videos by doing something silly in them.

My most watched video from the spring of last year was a lesson in which I kept changing my hat. As I was teaching, I repeatedly pretended to drop a bow or pencil and bent down (just out of frame) to pick it up. When I stood back up into the frame I was wearing a different hat. As part of their homework for the week, they were asked to identify how many hats were seen in the video. It was one of our highest engagement weeks.

5. Use Mail Merge to send slick and easy reminders so students remember to come to their lesson.

Mail merge saved my life. I will warn you, it takes a little bit of work on the front end...but it is so worth that. I now have three separate mail merge forms for the three separate days I teach elementary lessons. Once you have this set up, you can send students personalized emails that greet them by their first name and remind them the specific time of their lesson time ALL IN ABOUT 2 CLICKS! I have included a video tutorial on outlook mail merge below. Happy exploring!

This Video Taught Me How to Use Mail Merge