Memorising Kodály Music & Piano Lesson Plans

Do you memorise your lesson plans for piano lessons or music classes?

When Doremi Members start using my detailed lesson plans, a frequently asked question is how do you remember what to do?

It made me realise that so many of us feel we need to memorise our lesson plans and I reflected on my own journey, hang ups and misconceptions about memorisation.

In this week’s podcast I share those reflections and why memorising your lesson plan isn’t necessarily desirable or achievable.

Key Points:

  • Why we feel the need to memorise
  • Why it can cause problems
  • How to avoid the need to memorise
  • The benefits on not hiding your plans
  • A sneaky peek at one of my Doremi Teach lesson plans

Transcript:

When I started teaching music, piano specifically, I didn’t really have a lesson plan.

I, like many new teachers, used my method book religiously and whatever the book presented on the next page was the thing we’d learn next. Pretty embarrassing looking back now.

Obviously as I developed as a teacher, and identified other activities to include, I started to plan a little more. Keeping notes on what we’d done and what I wanted to cover next that wasn’t already sat on the page of the book.

Fast forward and my lessons became more and more complex. As you know, I ditched the method books, created my own Kodály based curriculum and never looked back.

The trouble is, I had this hang up about how to present myself in the lesson.

I felt I had to look like I knew it all. If I had to look at anything other than the student, their lesson book, or their notebook, then it made me look like I didn’t know what I was doing.

I also worried it would break the flow of the lesson and make me stumble or lose their attention.

It was a sign I was incompetent or unprofessional.

Even worse, when I returned to the classroom I felt the same. I thought I needed to memorise my lesson plan and it was super stressful. Even though I hadn’t felt that way years earlier when I started my teaching career in the classroom.

Was it something that grew from the piano lesson atmosphere and culture?

I mean, when I watch demonstration lessons from guru teachers online, in piano lessons or in classroom music lessons, I don’t see them looking at their notes. But I guess we also only see a snapshot of their working week.

But here’s the problem
1 – There have been times when I’ve had over 40 students a week
2 – Most of them start in September and for those first years I am teaching very similar lessons
3 – Right from the start they diverge a little, and sometimes a lot! So they aren’t identical lessons – it would be easier, but far less rewarding, if they were. After all, one of the things I love about one to one teaching is that the lessons can be tailored to the individual student. I can meet their needs.
4 – Even if I could memorise a single lesson plan, I certainly can’t memorise all the little tweaks and variations for each child
5 – Since teaching using the Kodály approach those lesson plans are COMPLEX!
6 – For Doremi Teach Piano and Doremi Teach Music we have 7, 8, 9 different activities within a single lesson.
7 – And because I break down each activity into microsteps and then deliver one microstep per lesson, there are many different threads running in parallel. So it would be really easy to miss one out or join two together, or more likely teach Ellie’s next microstep to Archie.

The Doremi Teach curriculums are at the same time super simple and super complex. That’s why they’re so effective. We only want to give them a tiny microstep of knowledge at a time. But because we can run different threads in parallel, we can actually deliver multiple microsteps each week.

Let me explain

I taught a lesson yesterday to Harry

We’re working on the following threads in parallel
1 – Preparing triple metre
2 – Practising phrasing
3 – Practising letter names
4 – Developing part work
5 – Practising our new note do
6 – Preparing our next note re
7 – Growing our repertoire bank

For each of those seven threads we’re taking one tiny microstep along their paths.

1 – For triple metre we’re unconsciously experiencing three in a bar with a clapping game that goes with the song Bells in the Steeple.
2 – For phrasing we’re listening to a 12 bar blues recording and doing a dance that breaks into 8 beat phrases – again unconsciously for now. We’re going to reuse this later on in the term to practice letter names
3 – For now for our letter names thread we have already found all the Fs and all the Gs and today we worked out how to find the Cs
4 – We’ve been working on ostinatos to develop two part hearing. Today our focus song on the piano was Apple Tree and instead of singing or signing the ostinato, I played it as a duet. Harry LOVED it!
5 – Of course Apple Tree contains our recent new note do, so we’re practising that. But we also played around with so-mi-do triads using Double Double. That is going to be our focus song next week
6 – Our next new note will be re and we have already discovered that we need a new note for Hot Cross Buns, today we worked out that it’s a step between mi and do
7 – And we’re growing our repertoire bank for future focuses. Today I sang them Peter Taps for the first time and they played the beat game with their 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 imaginary hammers.

Can you imagine memorising all that?

I certainly can’t!

Sure as I teach a particular lesson a number of times I will need to look at the plan less and less and just glance at the headings. Which is why the format and layout of your lesson plan is so important. But blimey, I’d struggle to memorise it as a single lesson. Let alone one of 11 lessons that day.

So I don’t

I either print out my one page lesson plan – and Doremi Members will know that the lesson plans I share with my members are always one page. I can’t be doing with multiple pages! If more information is needed to understand what to do, that can be found in the video walkthroughs of each lesson, or the transcripts of the videos.

Because it’s one page, it will also sit nicely on my iPad if that’s what I’m using today.

Or, my favourite because it’s so versatile. My laptop. I take my laptop to my studio and it sits on the side by the piano, or on the table, or on the floor or wherever it needs to so that I can glance at it without breaking the atmosphere of the lesson.

Why did I think it was unprofessional to have my script. Why did I think I needed to pretend I had it all in my head?

Once I stopped being embarrassed about “needing” a script I embraced it.

Before a student comes in, I know the opening warm up activity I’m going to do, and which piece they’re going to review from last week. Then we can start the lesson with some momentum. But embracing your lesson plan includes not hiding it.


When we tell a student that we have planned a lesson for them, why would they feel anything negative. They will feel valued that you took the time to create something just for them. They will feel confident and secure that you have a plan for their progress and success. They will feel excited at what you have in store for them.

What are we doing today Mrs Russell?

They don’t want you to be winging it!

So why do we feel we need to look like we are?

What do you think?

Do you memorise your lesson plans? Could your lesson plans be more effective if you didn’t feel under pressure to memorise them?

Give me a shout here or on social media. I’d love to hear from you!

And if you’d like to see my lesson plans for teaching piano or classroom music using the Kodály Approach then you need to check out Doremi Membership. Doremi Members get access to my classroom music curriculum, including video walkthroughs, downloadable lesson plans and resources and access to my live coaching and Q&A calls and online community. If it’s piano you’re after, you can become a Doremi Teach Piano member and get all that plus my Doremi Teach Piano curriculum. Again, lesson plans, resources and walkthroughs.

There are teachers just like you already in the community ready to support you and share your questions, successes and stories. So come and join us here or if you’re a piano teacher here

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