I've been teaching piano for over 15 years, but this week was my very FIRST Christmas Camp.
I know, I know. Don't scold me. I never should have waited so long to try it. Call me chicken, I guess.
Was it successful? Yes! The kids had a great time and I'm confident they would come again.
Was it perfect? No. I immediately saw things that I needed to do differently.
And that's what I want to share with you today. The good AND the bad. Perhaps it will help you whenever you host your next camp.
4 Things That Worked
1. Six students registered and that was perfect. Truthfully, I was hoping 8 would sign up, but that would have been too many.
2. Boomwackers. I thought my students might want something a little more "active" and this worked great. The kids had fun and it was a nice change-of-pace.
3. I had a helper. Honesly, I didn't think I'd need an assistant, but I decided to hire my son, Matthew. I thought it would be good for him and he wanted to earn some money.
Turned out that I really needed him! Things got a little crazy at one point and we ended up dividing into groups. I couldn't have done it without him.
4. Everyone made a simple craft that looked really pretty. This music Christmas tree was a huge success. It was quick to make and all the parents really seemed to appreciate taking home a nice ornament. (Click here to see the video tutorial)
2 Things That Didn't Work
1. Giving out candy prizes was a BIG mistake. Several kids won prizes before snack time and they started eating the candy. Then others wanted to eat, but it wasn't time to eat. Yep, it got kind of crazy for a few minutes.
What I'll do differently - Next time, I'll bypass the grocery aisle with all the Christmas candy on sale and get other fun prizes that have nothing to do with food!
2. Singing Christmas carols while I played the piano was a flop. The kids didn't respond to this at all and I think the reason was because they didn't know the words. Maybe? Whatever the reason, after 2 songs, I gave up and we moved on.
What I'll do differently - Next time, I'll turn this into a game. I play a song and the kids guess the title. I'll even give prizes. Non-candy prizes, of course!
Will I Ever Host Another Camp?
Honestly, I'm not sure why I never did it before. I guess Christmas is such a busy time of the year - and in the past, group lessons have never been my favorite.
(My introverted nature tends to prefer one-on-one lessons instead of large groups.)
But - groups can be fun, it's great for students, and of course, it's a wonderful way to earn some extra money.
If you've never tried it - I think you should give it a shot and I hope these tips help!
A piano teacher recently asked - How do you find time for games? Do you save them for group classes? I can't imagine trying to fit it into a 30 minute private lesson!
For years I resisted playing games during piano lessons for the very same reason. I had an "all business" attitude and simply wanted to get right to work.
After all, parents hired me to teach their children to play the piano, so I had to be at the piano, right?
I was wrong. Games are a fabulous way to learn serious music concepts!
Here are 6 reasons you should try playing games during lessons:
1. Games take very little time.
We're talking 2-4 minutes - literally! I set my timer to keep us on track and sometimes we're able to play games twice.
2. Games can be a great break.
If you're working on tougher songs, students will love a 5 minute game. (And of course, it's a music game, so they're STILL learning!)
3. Games can be a good reward.
Encourage your students to work hard so they can play a game during the last 3 minutes of their lesson.
4. Games produce happy students.
Happy students practice more. The end.
5. Games aren't just for young students.
I have a couple teenage boys who LOVED playing Susan's Paradis's Bats and Cats. Not only was it a great way to review notes, but the Card of Doom produced SO many laughs!
6. Games are a fun way to learn!
If your student is struggling with a particular concept, get away from the piano and try a game. It can be a great way to learn.
7. Bonus reason - Games are a great way to find problems!
Recently during a game, I discovered that one of my students is confusing A and G on the keyboard. I had no idea - but now (thanks to a game) we can tackle the problem!
Judy Naillon said it best in Technology Boot Camp:
Are you looking for a Chritmas game that focuses on the reason for the season?
Check out The Shepherd's Adventure and the Wise Men Flashcards. Both are fun and can be played in less than 5 minutes!
And remember - you don't have to play games every week - keep them guessing!
Like Phillip Johnston says in The Dynamic Studio:
"If students are being delighted, challenged and surprised, then they'll find the lessons delightful, challenging and surprising. These are students with reasons to stay."
Do you play games during lessons? What are your favorites? I'd love to hear!
(Note: Some of links in this post are affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.)
Last week I wrote about the importance of connecting with your students on a personal level.
Yes, it takes time and effort, but it's completely doable and will stop that revolving door in your studio.
My Secret to Connecting (in 2 easy steps!)
Simple yes, but seriously effective.
All of this is tracked in my student folders.
I’ve written about my folders before and you can read the full post here, but this is where I keep track of everything. Not just what students are working on, but everything associated with that child.
In the 2 images below, you can see where I noted "French horn test" and "foundation repair."
Students were worried about those things, so I wrote them down and most importantly - followed up the next week.
(No judgment on my handwriting. I’ll be the first to admit that I write like a 2nd grade boy! But remember - this is MY folder, not the student's notebook. I try to much neater in those!)
This is such an easy way to get involved in the lives of my students - outside of piano.
What about you? How do you connect with your students on a personal level?
Read Question #1 here.
Did you miss the Book Club announcement? We're reading this book starting in January! (Add it to your Christmas list!)
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(Note: Some of links in this post are affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.)
(Today I’m continuing my series about why students might be leaving your studio. If you missed Question #1 and 2, you can find the beginning of the series here.)
#3 Do you connect with each student on a personal level?
When I was a little girl, part of our Christmas tradition was visiting Santa. Every year I would go with 2 of my friends to a local department store to see Santa and Snow Queen.
But this was no ordinary Santa.
This was THE Santa.
He “remembered” you. I'm not kidding.
Well....actually, it turned out that Santa and the Snow Queen were rigged with a microphone and headset. But still....
Kids would first talk with the Snow Queen, then head to see Santa, who was several feet away. Since Santa was listening to the conversation with his headset, he would call you over - by name!
It was the most amazing thing! (And pretty impressive some 35 years ago.)
(That's me in the back with a bow on my head.)
I fell in love with this Santa because he “knew” me.
The same thing can happen with your piano students if you simply put in a little effort.
Many of you are probably doing this already, but if you’re losing students, ask yourself these questions:
Taking the time to really know your students is one of the most important ways to keep your studio thriving. Why?
Everyone benefits when you get involved personally:
But a warning - you can’t fake interest. This takes genuine effort and a heart that truly wants to connect on a personal level.
I know what you’re thinking - But how in the world do I keep up with 30, 40, 60 students? I already have so much on my plate!
Next Tuesday, I'll let you in on my one-minute habit that has changed everything!
And here's a fun way to connect with your student - Christmas jokes! Get the PDF here!
If you missed Question #1 in this series, read it here.
If you've thought about hosting a Christmas Camp, but haven't planned anything - I’ve got you covered. There’s still time to put one together!
But you do need to start planning. Like....TODAY!
Here are 4 easy steps to get you started:
1. Pick a date and time.
Quick Tip - Host a 2 hour camp and but add a 4 hour option for moms who want that extra free time. You could use the last 2 hours as a holiday movie! I know a teacher who offered this to her her families and several students signed up.
2. Decide your activities.
Yes, you could buy a plan, but honestly at this point, you can do it yourself.
Here's the link to one of my Christmas Games, The Shepherd's Adventure. It includes boards for 3 different games and card for all levels. Best of all? It's only $3!
Here's another great game that celebrates the reason for the season - Wise Men Matching Game. Only $2 right now!
For my Christmas Camp, I'm keeping it simple but fun: games, crafts, snacks, and performance time. (These are my go-to cookies for camp!)
Quick Tip - I have a huge round-up of resources in this post that will give you everything you need. Most are free or less than $5.
For the craft, we'll be doing this musical Christmas tree. Easy to make and yet so cute!
3. Set a price - with early bird registration.
Since you're waiting until the last minute, I would go for a low "no-brainer" price that parents will immediately want to sign up for.
Quick Tip - mention that spots are limited and set your early bird registration for just 3 or 4 days away.
After you list the price, make sure you note that supplies are included. (So build this into your price!)
4. Announce your camp!
Since time is of the essence, I would skip the flyers and send out a mass email ASAP!
Quick Tip - No time to be creative? Here's what I put in my email and several parents signed up right away. Feel free to use this -
I've planned a TON of musical Christmas-themed activities. Games, crafts, snacks, and a performance time. My goal is to review important concepts in a super-fun way. It'll be the perfect way to close out the semester!
I'm even giving out unique certificates to everyone who attends. (Note Reading Ninja, Rhythm Rockstar, Most Improved Musician)
So there you go - Christmas Camp Planning Emergency Style! Yes - you only have a few weeks left, but you can still pull this off.
Now stop reading and go get to work! Start getting ideas here.
Hi there! I'm Tracy Selle. A Christian wife, mom, and author of 101 Piano Practice Tips. I'm also a piano teacher and founder of Upbeat Piano Teachers.