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Getting Started with Rotating Lessons

After experimenting with a lot of different lesson types over the last few months I’ve found that Rotating Lessons have added a lot of positives to my music studio. If you’re curious as to how (and why!) to try Rotating Lessons with your students, then keep reading for all the details on how to get started!

Rotating Lessons

What Are Rotating Lessons?

Also known as 20/20/20 lessons, Rotating Lessons involve three students rotating through different activity stations during their one hour lesson.

Set up varies between different studios, but the three 20 minute stations I have with my students include:

  • Individual lessons (working with me at the acoustic piano)
  • Theory lab (working through theory activities with an iPad)
  • Guided practice time (working through practice activities at the digital piano)

Of course every now and then I like to mix things up, and students often pair up for games, performances, or duets.

Who Should Try Rotating Lessons?

Rotating Lessons aren’t the best fit for everyone. I’ve found that this lesson format is great for students who:

  • Are learning piano for fun
  • Can work through tasks independently
  • Are aged between 7 and 12 years
  • Enjoy working alongside other students

I’ve found that younger students do well in lessons that have more direct contact time (like Buddy Lessons) and more advanced students benefit from extra one-on-one time (like Lessons and Labs).

Benefits for Students

Rotating Lessons can provide opportunities to students that traditional lessons don’t, such as:

Dedicated Practice Time

Knowing that my students have a guaranteed 20 minutes for focused practice is wonderful! Even if the rest of their practice time in the week is limited I know they’ll still make progress.

Connecting with Other Students

I love seeing friendships developing between my students. It’s one of the reasons we have group lessons every term, and Rotating Lessons are another great way to add a social element to piano (which tends to be a solitary and somewhat lonely instrument to learn!).

More Time

It’s so hard trying to fit everything into a 30 minute lesson, so having double the time for each student really helps. During Rotating Lessons students have the chance to work on creative projects (like composing or creating games), review theory and technique covered during individual lesson time (using apps and videos), explore special topics (like music history and composers), and work on important skills like sight reading and ear training.

Benefits for Teachers

There are some great reasons that Rotating Lessons suit teachers too:

Opportunity for Studio Growth

There are only so many teaching hours that our schedules allow each week, which can really limit our studio growth. If hiring more teachers or switching to group lessons doesn’t appeal, then Rotating Lessons are another way to increase the number of students you can teach without increasing the number of hours you teach.

I can now fit three students into an hours teaching time instead of only two, which is great for my schedule and waitlist

Chance to Observe Practice

This is gold! It’s really easy to see when students aren’t using their practice time effectively, and then help them find better strategies.

New Challenges

I love the chance to try something new! Adding Rotating Lessons as an option for my students has been a great opportunity to try out new resources and activities, learn more effective ways to communicate ideas, and work out better ways of organising my time and my studio.

Chalkboard Piano

Setting Up Rotating Lessons

With some additional equipment and resources, it wasn’t hard to create a set-up that works well for Rotating Lessons.

Physical Space

At our current house my teaching space is in our living room. One corner houses my acoustic piano, the digital piano is on the opposite side of the room, and students working on theory set themselves up on one of the sofas or at the kitchen table. It’s great having everyone in the same space, as it’s easier to keep an eye on progress and answer questions as needed.

Having well-defined work stations helps to keep lessons running smoothly, and also cuts down on distractions. I keep the majority of lesson resources near the acoustic piano, practice activities are stored by the digital piano, and any theory resources students need are ready to go at the start of each lesson.

Equipment

With some creativity and planning it’s possible to make Rotating Lessons work no matter what equipment you have access to. However, there are some items it’s definitely worth having:

Two Instruments

It seems like more and more teachers are choosing digital pianos as teaching instruments, so if space is limited then you can’t go wrong with a couple of digital pianos (I love my Yamaha P45, and have heard good things about the Yamaha P115)

iPad or Tablet

There are so many activities you can do with an iPad during lessons, so it’s well worth the investment! Having an iPad (or two!) is great for Rotating Lessons, whether for watching theory videos, completing worksheets, or playing musical apps.

If you’re looking for some great apps to use with students on an iPad here are some of my favourites:

Best Rhythm Apps Best Apps for Practicing Scales Best Note Reading Apps for iPad

Headphones

Noise cancelling headphones are a must! I’m looking at upgrading to something like these ones. You’ll need a couple of pairs, one for the digital piano and one for the iPad or tablet.

iPad Accessories

Leila Viss from 88 Piano Keys has a great list of helpful accessories for iPads used in the music studio. Check it out here.

Planning Rotating Lessons

Since introducing Rotating Lessons I’ve needed to make big changes in the way I plan lessons. With individual teaching time reduced from 30 to 20 minutes, I have to be laser focused with each student. Fortunately many of the activities we did in the old-style lessons (like composing, theory games, musical apps, theory worksheets) can happen during lab time, so the one-on-one teaching time with each student hasn’t been impacted that much.

Planning Individual Lesson Time

When I was teaching individual 30 minute lessons I had a great system for planning lessons, using the perfect template (available in the Free Resource Library) with a master list of resources. I’m finding that with a few adaptations this still works well for planning the one-on-one time with students.

Planning Theory Lab Time

Lab time is most effective when I plan three main activities for students to work through: a short video (which might be about music theory, an inspiring performance, advice on improving technique, practice tips, or music history), a music theory worksheet, and a music app.

Planning Practice Time

I always write very specific practice goals for my students in their Practice Notebooks, so when it comes to their guided practice time they have the option of catching up on tasks from the previous week, making a start on their goals for the coming week, or choosing a practice activity from the list below.

Practice Notes for Students

Resources

I love using a range of music teaching resources in my studio. It helps to keep everyone engaged and motivated (plus sometimes I think I enjoy the games just as much as my students!). There are some resources that have been created especially to use in Rotating Lessons, and many others that can be easily adapted.

Theory Lab Station

Here are the main theory resources students use during their lab time:

Short Videos

There are lots of great music education channels on YouTube (Piano TV is one of my favourites) and I’ll have a video set up ready for students to watch through Safe YouTube.

Alternatively I’ll use one of the videos from the Music Lab Task Cards from Music Educator Resources. These task cards are great, and of course I’ll often use some of the other activities during lab time too.

Music Theory Worksheets

Sometimes students complete their theory worksheets on the iPad, sometimes they use reusable worksheets, and other times they work through theory books (I really like Thinking Theory and Gazillion).

How to Create Reusable Worksheets

Music Apps

Once students have completed their other tasks they get to play one of their favourite music apps on the iPad.

Practice Station

I’ve already mentioned some of the benefits for students working on practice during their Rotating Lesson, but another positive is being able to use some of the practice-specific resources I’ve been collecting:

Practice Board Games

I created the Practice Plunder game especially for students to use during their guided practice time. This game can be played as an individual or group, and for every turn players have to complete a specific practice task for their current pieces or scales.

Practice Plunder Music Game

My students are having so much fun with this game I’ve been brainstorming more themes, so keep an eye out in the shop!

Practice Activities

Other resources students use during their practice time include:

I’ve also got Playful Practice and Pensive Practice on my wishlist!

Further Reading

Are you interested in trying Rotating Lessons in your studio? Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below!

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. Fantastic article Pianosaurusrex. What a fabulous opportunity you’re giving your students. So many positives for buddy and rotating lessons for the right students. Your students are so lucky.

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Getting Started With Rotating Lessons
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