In the uncertainty and confusion of the COVID-19 crisis, the music community faces unprecedented issues surrounding private and group instruction. As you consider what is best for your studio, we at the Frances Clark Center hope that you find this document helpful in your decision making and communication:
- Helpful resources include the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization:
- Be aware of public school and community music school closures in your area and follow their lead.
- Find the Department of Health website for your state for region-specific recommendations.
Ten Tips for Communicating to Parents about Online Lessons
- Be direct, but sensitive to the weight of the situation.
- Consider communicating with each family/client individually as opposed to sending a generic email.
- Listen to the concerns of parents, care givers, and students.
- Articulate the specific goals the student can reach through distance learning. In addition to progressing with their playing, this is a wonderful opportunity to explore music history, improvisation, composition, aural skills, and new genres on a variety of online sources and software.
- Underscore the importance of keeping a routine. With many schools closing and stress levels high, keeping as many routines in place will be beneficial for children and adult students.
- State the need for flexibility. A five-year-old student may have trouble focusing for a thirty-minute online lesson but has success with two, fifteen-minute lessons. You may need to be flexible with lesson lengths as you and your student adjust to this format.
- Let the family take the lead as you set up necessary technology. Ask specific questions that are relevant to online lessons. In which room is the piano located? Will they be using a computer or tablet? Can you see the student's hands?
- Communicate often. Maintaining open lines of communication is essential. Send email updates after the lesson or ask to speak to the parent online at the beginning or conclusion of the lesson.
- Emphasize the many positive benefits of music making and its importance for the health and well being of your students, their families, and your community
- Make music! Communicate the importance of continuing music education in the wake of uncertainty and change.
Possibilities to Consider for Distance Learning
- Real-time lessons via web conferencing application (synchronous online learning).
- Time-shifted lessons via recordings (asynchronous online learning). Students share a private video or sound recording of their exercises and pieces. Teachers share responses and new assignments in written and/or video format.
- Discussions with parents and students via phone or other means (such as messaging or chat applications) after online lessons or sharing of files.
- A combination of the above.
- Explore as many creative possibilities as you can. Visit our website to access resources and support on best practices for online teaching.
- Explore online video platforms (Zoom, Skype, Facetime, Google Hangouts). Consider hosting an online video chat with fellow teachers to get comfortable with the platform before starting online lessons.
- Give families and students a set of guidelines for online lessons (camera angle, materials, distraction-free zone, etc). Please see our recommendations below.
- Have a back-up plan for issues with connectivity. This could include an immediate phone call to try and resolve the connection. If this is not successful, ask the student to record videos of their pieces and activities.
- Google drive, Dropbox, or other file-sharing sites are good resources to use when videos are too large to send over email or text.
- Prepare a lesson plan and share the assignment sheet with parent/student in advance of the lesson.
- Explore creating and/or sourcing instructional videos for students.
- Find online learning tools and applications to augment study.
Student Guidelines for Remote Lessons
1. Space Set Up
- The camera should be set up to give a side view of the student seated at the piano so the teacher can see the students full arm and hand.
- The lesson space should be well lit and free of all other distractions (pets, siblings, etc).
2. Connection Platform
- Be prepared to use zoom, Skype, or Facetime for lesson connections, based on a mutually agreed upon platform.
3. Materials Needed
- All lesson books and materials should be at the piano, as well as a writing utensil. A phone or computer with an internal camera will be needed, as well as an internet connection.
4. Other Factors
- Be sure the student is ready promptly at the lesson start time. Students should be prepared to focus on the lesson for the entire duration.
- An adult should be present at the start and end of the lesson. It is reccommended that children under the age of 8 have an adult present for the entire lesson.