Unfortunately, once you've gotten to that point, it's almost too late to try and remedy the problem. Rather, it's important to plan ahead during the lesson. Being proactive throughout the lesson will keep the last minute cram sessions to a minimum.
I've written previously about flexibility during the lesson, and how to capitalize on what we can control, but now I'd like to offer a few tips on how to maximize weekly lesson times.
How to Avoid Getting 'Bogged Down' When Teaching: Tips to Maximize Limited Lesson Time
1. Don't Skip Warm-Ups!: As tempting as it may be, these are essential to the lesson. Warm-ups help the student relax, settle in, and focus for the lesson ahead. Skipping warm-ups can negatively impact the entire lesson.
2. Gimme a Break: Kids have a hard time focusing for extended periods of time. If you expect a child to sit at the bench and be fully engaged for the entire lesson, you're going to be disappointed. To keep a fresh focus, taking a mid-lesson break to do some other music-related activity away from the bench will give the student fresh focus when they return, meaning that the end of the lesson will be more productive.
3. Stick to Your Guns: Do you have a timeline before you begin? Do you have a good idea of what you want to accomplish and how that's going to pan out over the timeframe of the lesson? If not, you're setting yourself up for disaster! Know what's on the list to accomplish before the lesson- and do your best to stick to that schedule. Flying by the seat of your pants never works- trust me!
4. Let it Alone: If you find yourself with limited time and a planned task to accomplish that you know you won't be able to get to- skip it! Yes, skip it! Instead, pull out another activity- a short game, worksheet, or do some sightreading. Trying to cram at the end won't do you or your student any good. Then, plan to hit that area first the following week.
As teachers, we have to be insightful, sensitive, and intuitive. When do we spend a bit more time focusing on a certain aspect, when is it best to move on? Is a student engaged, do they need a break? Are they comprehending what I'm explaining or do I need to try a different approach? This is all part of what makes teaching such a challenge-- and what makes it so rewarding! I'd love to hear your thoughts on how you avoid last minute cramming at lessons and how you work to keep your students focused!