Forum Q&A: Assignment Notebook/Pages for Students

Today’s post brings a new Forum Q&A topic, and another GIVEAWAY!

Our last Forum Q&A discussion was about perfectionism.  It’s never too late to add your thoughts to the comments, so feel free to hop over there and join in the conversation!  I plan to follow up with an article on perfectionism to discuss this topic further at some point, but haven’t gotten to it yet!  So many ideas, so little time…  :)

Today’s new Q&A topic is about assignment notebooks.  I’m curious –

What is your method of writing down assignments for students?  Do you use a notebook (if so, any particular size/type?) or do you have a custom-made sheet you designed on the computer?  What kinds of things are usually included on a typical assignment? 

Today’s giveaway is a pair of decorative balls, decoupaged by hand with vintage sheet music:

Giveaway Details:

  • To enter, leave a comment below in reply to today’s Forum Q&A.
  • Giveaway ends Wednesday, March 7 at Midnight EST.  The winner will be announced Thursday, March 8.
  • Winner will be chosen via random number generator.

Good luck!  :)

PG
Joy Morin is a piano teacher in northwest Ohio (United States) who enjoys keeping her teaching fresh with new ideas and resources. ColorInMyPiano.com serves as a journal of her adventures in piano teaching as well as a place to exchange ideas and resources.

Joy has blogged 1132 posts here.

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26 Comments

  1. Posted 1 March 2012 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    My year is divided into 4 Quarters, 3 months each: Sept-Nov., Dec. – Feb., Mar – May, June – August. Every quarter, the student gets a ONE-PAGE custom made sheet with 3 month calendar on the left. Here they keep track of the days they practice my SIMPLY putting a check in the day’s square. (Five checks/week earns incentive). The right side is simply lines for me to write assignments. I keep it short and SIMPLE. T for Theory, P for Performance, L for Lesson books. Using more than 3 lines for assignments seem to be overwhelming for most kids. The reverse side of the sheet contains my Quarterly Newsletter. I call the quarters Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer.

  2. Laura
    Posted 1 March 2012 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    I’ve always used these practice notebooks by musicroom. http://www.musicroom.com/se/ID_No/01010450/details.html
    Each week is a double page – one page for listing all the weeks work split into two sections; scales/studies & pieces.
    The other page gives space for the pupil to record their weekly practice, feedback from the teacher and the parent. There’s also a little music joke or fact each week.
    PLUS every 8 pages or so there’s a great little musical activity for the kids to try at home.

  3. Posted 1 March 2012 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    I use plain old wire bound notebooks for most kids. I write the date, the books and page numbers assigned, and any specific directions (i.e. say intervals, count out loud, etc). For some kids, I have to write directions specifically on the page, or else they won’t do it!

  4. Posted 1 March 2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    I’m so boring! I just give the kids post-it tabs for each book (they love choosing the colors) and write the assignment and any notes right on the music. In the past when I’ve tried using notebooks, it’s been my experience that many kids simply ignore them. When I write directly on the songs, I know that notes are right where students will see them. It’s not fancy, but it works for me and my kids :)

  5. Posted 1 March 2012 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    My new laptop and in-studio printer have simplified this tremendously!
    I type and print a one-page sheet of instructions at each lesson and stick it in the binder. I save a copy on my laptop and at the next lesson bring up the previous one, save it as the new date, and add or delete as necessary. I can’t believe how much faster this is, and of course it is much easier to read. I’ve even had a couple of moms thank me.
    This is my basic template: http://ladonasmusicstudio.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/simplified-beginner-grade-3.pdf

  6. Victoria
    Posted 1 March 2012 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    I use plain spiral ring notebooks. I write down everything that we did in the lesson that I expect the students to practice and how they should practice it. I then have a practice chart for them below that I write in which allows them to show me how much they practiced. I think this is really helpful to show the parents what they student did during the lesson. Also, it keeps the student accountable so that at the next lesson the student knows that I know what they did during the week.

  7. Posted 1 March 2012 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    My favorite practice book that you can buy pre-made is the medium-sized greyish one from FJH. There is enough space in each entry, plus a grand staff to write demonstrations. I was considering making my own custom ones, but then tracking the printing expenses to deduct from my taxes just seemed like too much work when the FJH ones are great for what i need right now :)

  8. Posted 1 March 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    We started using this sheet in January, and so far it’s been really helpful. My wife saw someone’s assignment chart with a piano keyboard on it so we put that on ours too. We’ve used it nearly every lesson to show fingerings of a scale. Perhaps it’s not as effective as having them read the scales on a staff, but I like it.

    This link should get you there.
    http://www.rexburgmusic.com/documents.html

    • Posted 3 March 2012 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      Love your website! Clean…easy to read. Thanks for sharing your assignment page.

  9. Posted 1 March 2012 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    I’m with LaDona. I’m currently using assignment books I bought, but when they are used up am switching to doing them during the lesson on my computer, saving a copy and printing out one for the student. My handwriting is bad, so that makes it easy to read, and I have a copy I can refer to when planning, etc. Also, I never found an assignment book that really worked for me! And I’ve tried every brand over the years.
    Right now, even though we’re still using assignment books, I just started doing the assignment on my laptop and saving only. This way I’m getting the hang of doing it during the lesson and figuring out what layout works best for me. I thought it would be too hard to type and teach, but I’ve found that it only takes a moment while the student is playing.

  10. Kathy
    Posted 1 March 2012 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    I use spiral notebooks. I write everything for them to practice along with tips/reminders/suggestions of things we have talked about. Also try to add encouraging thoughts and an occasional joke (just to see if they are reading what I write!)

  11. Posted 1 March 2012 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Hi! I prepare a specific lesson plan/assignment sheet ahead of time for each student, listing specific instructions of what and how they are to practice for that week. I include the pages in the lesson, performance, and theory books that they are to complete, the technique they are to practice (along with a picture of the 5-note scale, etc.), and additional activities, worksheets, etc., they are to do. I use colored ink to make the assignment sheets look more fun. One color is for the main part of the assignment, a contrasting color is used to draw attention to the new parts of the assignment. I print out 2 copies, put them in my binder, and use a sheet of carbon paper between them so that when I write more specific instructions during the lesson, I have a copy of exactly what the student takes home. I learned this from my pedagogy professor in graduate school, and I’ve done it ever since :) It keeps me organized, helps me plan for the next week’s lesson, and I always feel like I am fully prepared when my students walk in my door.

  12. Posted 1 March 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    I use a half page sheet typed up with headings ‘scales and arpeggios’, ‘technique’, ‘lesson book’, ‘theory/writing book’, ‘performance book’, ‘exam work’, ‘extra work’ – and write page numbers and brief instructions where relevant. Although I used to staple enough pages for the term into a booklet, four per year, and students would choose the colour of the cover, too many were lost so now I slide the new half sheet into their display folder each week next to the practise chart. I also use page tags and post it notes and written instructions on the score! And I have students tell me before they leave what they need to do. Plenty of back up so “I didn’t know what to do” is never an excuse for not practising :)

  13. Brianne
    Posted 1 March 2012 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Joy, I loved that you did this post. I love getting ideas from others that teach. Thanks so much. I have a binder that I give the students and each week they get a new practice sheet to take home. I have written on the Sheet: Grab a VOCAB TECHNIQUE, LESSON, THEORY, FLASHCARDS and days for practicing.

    Mostly the same as others. I am buying a new home soon. I would love to have cute new decor for my piano studio! :)

  14. Renee
    Posted 1 March 2012 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    I use a worksheet. I only have a few students and that seems to work for me.

  15. Posted 2 March 2012 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    David – thanks for the link. That’s really a helpful worksheet!

  16. Christine
    Posted 3 March 2012 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    I’m an adult student. My teacher uses a spiral notebook with me and writes the piece names, or book and page numbers, in it. During the lesson, I write notes about what to focus on, on my music.

  17. Posted 3 March 2012 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Up until this year i used a standard metal-coil notebook. I now use an app called “Noterize” & quickly type my notes on my iPad during the lesson. At the end of each lesson, I email the resulting PDF to the student/parents. In the app in the top-left corner, you can see the previous “page” which in my case is the previous week’s assignment so I don’t even need to flip pages to see what I had written the week earlier. The students are to print it out at home & add it to their binder. The app allows for colour highlighting of really important text, but I try to limit that because I know how much I hate wasting colour printer ink.
    My system is working well. The only thing I’d change is having a bit more of an interesting layout that I can type onto – right now it’s just text only.

  18. Erica
    Posted 3 March 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    I found some cute little notebooks from the dollar store that my students love.

  19. Brenda
    Posted 3 March 2012 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for all your work — I love reading your ideas!!! This summer I plan to create my own sheets for a notebook for my students. Our theme for next year will be dance music–so the sheets will include information about different dances or composers who wrote dance music. The sheets will also include theory and scales based on the student’s level of playing and a section to specifically list the music they are learning for a particular event so that parents are always in the loop.
    I really learned a lot reading the other teacher’s comments. Thanks again!!

  20. Posted 4 March 2012 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    I used to use a notebook to write down everyone’s assignments, but I found that very few of my kids were prone to actually use it! So now I just put a little Post-It flag (like this: http://rainbowresource.com/products/045373.jpg) on each of the pages that they are supposed to practice for that week. That way they see the colorful flags sticking out of the book and can turn right to the page that they need to work on. When we move on to a new page, I simply move the flag from an old page to the new one. The kids like picking out the colors, too!

    With certain people, it could still be useful to use the notebook–but this seems to be working for my students right now.

  21. Tammy Struk
    Posted 5 March 2012 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    I use a sheet that I typed up in microsoft word. There is a place for teacher comments and parent comments. Then I list each book and can write the page numbers under each space for each specific book i.e. lesson, theory, etc. I put four to a page so that I don’t waste too much paper.

  22. Posted 7 March 2012 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    I print out my own assignment sheets that I designed on the computer. I can fit two per page. The sections I have are:

    *Date
    *Name of book/song; page number with check boxes for how many days they practiced that song
    *Boxes for logging practice time
    *A field for one or two things to focus on for the week
    *Note to parents, specifically for the parents who drop their kids off and don’t stay for the lesson

    I like them so far. :) They work well for my needs. When I had the kids bring notebooks they always lost them. I don’t know why a 3-ring binder is harder to lose. ;)

  23. Libby Foster
    Posted 10 April 2012 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Joy-I love your website! I am so impressed and humbled by how much time you spend to help your fellow teachers and especially the children. My situation is that I am teaching 4-6 year olds. They are just beginning to read and the parent is essential to the practice time. I designed my own assignment sheet but it is taking so much time to plan each lesson. I keep looking for a better way .Is there anyone who teaches the little ones who has an idea on sending assignments home for student and parent?
    Thanks-
    Libby foster

    • Posted 10 April 2012 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

      Are you teaching private lessons or group classes? If they are private lessons, I would definitely require the parents to sit-in on the lessons because they are so young and will need a lot of help and supervision with their practice. Having them there watching what you do will help them understand what is expected better, and you will probably be able to write less down on the assignment sheet. If you are teaching group classes, then I think you probably have no choice but to create detailed assignment sheets! If this is your first time teaching such a class, then be encouraged – it WILL be easier the second time. But I still do spend a great deal of time lesson planning when I plan for group classes – it’s the way it works, I think.

      I’m curious – what books are you using? With 4-6 year olds, I recommend the Faber’s “My First Piano Adventures” (read my review here) or the Alfred’s “Music For Little Mozarts.”

    • Posted 14 July 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      Libby – Although it is helpful to have something tangible for parents to have to refer to between lessons, I find that they must attend the lessons with their children. I always have them look at is as a benefit for them as well as their child… sort of like getting a 2 for 1 lesson! They learn the basics right along with their little ones. You may also encourage them to video tape or digitally audio record the lessons to refer to when they sit down to practice with their kids. Good Luck!

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