You know something that I really didn't predict happening in the midst of a global pandemic? That it would mean I would start using PowerPoint again!
When I was a school teacher, using PowerPoint presentations to structure lessons, give visuals and lay out objectives and instructions, was very popular. In fact a little too popular if you ask me, and actually fairly soon we, as a teaching profession, were realising that students were moving around 6-7 lessons per day and being delivered 6-7 PowerPoints! Per day! We called it death by powerpoint.
So as you can see, I fell out of love with it and used it as a tool simply to have the lesson objectives on the board should a member of the Leadership Team or an Inspector walk in (because not having the objectives on display was an immediate fail -😬).
Fast forward quite a few years, now a group piano teacher and program creator, I, along with every other piano teacher, and not by choice, have started teaching online. And I quickly realised that the PowerPoint presentation could come into its own in this situation! Particularly since its features have improved so much.
How could a PowerPoint help us to deliver online lessons? Well first of all it helps (as it always used to) to structure the lesson and to give our students something useful to focus on. In my in-person lessons I teach in a large classroom and we move from the tables, to the floor, to the piano, to the keyboards, back to the floor, etc. But for online lessons we are expecting them to sit at their pianos for the entirety. So we need to think of other ways to engage them and keep their attention*.
Second, it gives us much needed structure in uncertain times. Most of us are completely new to teaching online; there may be nerves, there is certainly exhaustion and definitely uncertainty about timings, fear of running out of activities or overrunning. So a PowerPoint presentation can help us to have that structure and give us the crutch that we might need when we are feeling unsure.
A presentation can also deliver games, listening tasks and activities that we might do at the start and end of our lessons. Or it could even have the sheet music that we want our students to learn when they might not necessarily have a hard copy at home.
I am going to take you through my first PowerPoint that I created for KeyNotes teachers, and one that I am actually making available to you for free so you can use it for your Easter lessons!
I am lucky enough to work with designers on all aspects of my program content and that certainly came in handy here. So the first thing I would suggest is that you have a good design that is clear for students and is attractive and engaging to look at. Have a theme that all of your images and slides relate to.
Next you need to think about the actual activities that you are going to have and how they are presented. For my Easter lesson I wanted to focus on "Hot Cross Buns" so I started with a listening task where students have to compare two different versions of Hot Cross Buns (there are links to Spotify) and describe their elements - loud or soft, fast or slow, instrumental or vocals etc. For the very little ones I asked them to tell me which they preferred and why. More experienced students can describe the songs without any prompts from me as to what they need to listen for.
Next we took the song and put it into a relay. I had sent the music home already but the music is straightforward enough to play by sight (hence why I used the E, D, C version rather than the octaves version that is more commonly sung in the UK!). I uncovered the bars one by one (by clicking away each hot cross bun) and we practiced each bar as we went, discussing where we had played the same bar previously and guessing which motif would come next.
Then I assigned bars (measures) to each child (there is a little opportunity for differentiation here as you can assign the slightly more difficult bars to those who are slightly more advanced, or you can ask them to play hands together). And we put the piece into a relay! The first couple of times I would need to shout out names as reminders, but after a couple of goes, they were able to play fluently in their relay!
Next we uncovered more hot cross buns with the wrong order behind them and played "Crazy Hot Cross Buns" and discussed what we needed to move to get it back to the right order.
Finally we played a game: identify the notes of the keyboard for the pre-readers, or notes on the stave for the readers. Here's where my new knowledge of the possibilities of PowerPoint came into play - you can ask each student to give you their answer (I gave each student their own question, rather than letting everyone answer all of them!) and then I clicked on their answer - if they got it right, the box with the note in goes green, if they got it wrong it goes red! How clever is that! And they loved it!
If you want to use this PowerPoint in your own Easter lessons, you can access both a reader and pre-reader version in our free group teaching support site. You will need to have a log-in and be a subscriber of our emails which you can sign up for HERE and if you are already a member you can access the lesson HERE.
If you use the lesson, I would LOVE to hear how you got on! Do let me know by posting in the Facebook group, or by emailing me!
Hope you are keeping well,