3 Useful Styles of Lesson Plans for Piano Teachers

Here’s the thing. You read my blog and others full of these creative piano teaching ideas and resources and they all look fantastically stupendous.

But then you go to fit these things into your lessons and your brain just sort of…freezes. How can you do all the stuff you want to do without your head exploding?

Note: This post was originally published in July 2017 and was updated and expanded in August 2019.

That’s where great lesson plans for piano teachers can be really handy.

But lesson plans are personal things. You need to find the style and format that works for your studio, personality and teaching style. The only way you can do that is to try lots of different types of lesson plans for piano teachers.

Which is why I decided to gather together three different styles of lesson plans so that you can assess your options. All of these lesson plans for piano teachers will work, it’s just a matter of trying them on for size and picking the best cut from for you.

You need a plan – but the formatting of that plan? Now that’s up to you.

Disclaimer: This post contains some affiliate links. Buying from one of these links does not cost you anything, but I do receive a small referral fee for sending you helps offset the cost of running this site. 

1. Time-Based Lesson Plans for Piano Teachers

This is almost always how I plan for my group lessons but it could work very well for private piano lessons too.

Basically, the idea is to give yourself estimated chunks of time for each activity you want to accomplish during the lesson. You could do this on paper, in excel or in your favourite note-taking app.

Here’s one of my recent group workshop plans to give you an idea. This might look very regimented and strict – of course, it doesn’t go like that once it’s in action!

But I do like excel or another table-based system for this – as it makes it easier to visualise the time available. For example, each row could equate to five minutes. So you can quickly see the longer and shorter activities and what time is left to fill.

Time-based lesson plans in action

2. Piano Lesson Planning with Categories

Picking a few over-arching themes or categories can be very helpful to help you clarify and choose between different resources that you could be using.

Tim Topham, for instance, divides his lesson plan templates into three main categories: Creative, Technique and Repertoire. These are the things he makes sure to cover in some way shape or form in every lesson.

This could mean a blues improv, a Czerny exercise and then a Beatles piece. Or it could mean learning a new scale, composing pieces using it, and then learning part of a Beethoven Sonata.

Of course, your categories might be different. You could choose rhythm, note reading and improvisation for example. Whatever you choose, I recommend keeping the categories broad so they form a flexible framework.

Adapt this lesson plan style for your studio and see how it works for you. What would your three or four key categories be? Could anything do double-duty and cover two themes in one?

More inspiration for your lesson categories/themes

3. Mindmap Style Piano Lesson Lesson Plans

While I don’t use this style all that often, I do think it’s an extremely valuable tool to have up your sleeve. This type of lesson plan can even help you to think in a new way about your teaching.

To mindmap a piano lesson, start with a central idea or concept that you want your student to learn– let’s say they need to learn about cadences for an upcoming exam – and then everything else can branch off from there.

In this way, you’re not letting a traditional lesson structure dictate what you do in your piano teaching. Instead you’re proactively deciding what you’ll teach, and then the activities are there to serve that. It’s an interesting distinction to make in your lesson plans.

This way of working lends itself well to Paul Harris’s Simultaneous Learning. Everything can be linked up or related which makes for a more holistic music education.

Try it out now with one of your students and see if it helps you to think in a new way. I know it does for me and my teaching.

Help choosing central goals for your students

Bonus: Themed Lesson Plans for Piano Teachers

This idea is somewhat similar to the mind-mapped piano lesson concept – but this one will be on a more tangential theme.

Often as piano teachers we can be very nervous to “miss out” important bits of a lesson. We feel like we need to fit in scales, sight reading, technique, repertoire, etc, etc, in every lesson. (Something I wrote about in more depth in the 30 minute time crunch conundrum.)

But we don’t.

We can take a whole lesson and explore the life of Debussy. Or music from good pedalling technique. Or an animal themed composing project.

(There are even more ideas to surprise and amaze your students in this post.)

As you think about these lesson plan options and how to effectively fit everything in – take a moment and consider whether your student could use a break from the norm.

A short vacation from routine can do wonders to keep the balance.

Bonus 2: Assignment sheets as pseudo lesson plans

While I do believe in the value of detailed lesson plans and planning a comprehensive curriculum for our students, I’m also aware that we don’t always have time to do this week in, week out. We can do it for a special theme or specific occasion but we can’t really sit down and detail minute-by-minute plans for each student every week.

Bringing Music History to Life Part 1- Composer Assignment Sheets with composer assignment sheets

That’s one of the reasons I love making my assignment sheets in advance. This combined with a plan from Vibrant Music Teaching and a mental map of my goals for the student is the perfect recipe for lesson success for me.

Fully Prepared Comprehensive Lesson Plans

If you’re looking for lesson plans that are done for you, there’s no better place to go than Vibrant Music Teaching.

Erin, New Zealand quote about Vibrant Music Teaching

Join today and get access to lesson plans on teaching chords, composing, preschoolers and more!

How many of these lesson plan types have you tried?

What works best for you and your studio? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments or in the Vibrant Music Studio Teachers community on Facebook.

3 thoughts on “3 Useful Styles of Lesson Plans for Piano Teachers”

  1. Hello, how are you?

    How nice it is to find a visually organized and beautiful website! Congratulations for your work! That is precisely why I am in this perfect organization. My name is Gleidiane, I’m an organist, and I have many, many digital musical files, among them: activities, games, scores, methods, books and articles. I’m here to ask you, kindly, if you can, of course, tell me (write or record) a video on how to organize these files, how you create the categories, how you rename etc. I’m trying to organize myself in this way, I can’t, I’m always in doubt about how to make it better. I would love to see an example, to have a light!

    Gratitude for sharing your knowledge here on this site!


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