I received an email from a reader over the weekend, asking: “I would love to know your general process/techniques for keeping record of work done with a student.”
Although piano methods already provide structure for study and the student’s assignment notebook does serve as a log of the student’s progress, I personally find it very helpful to keep my own records and notes about each student. As a colleague of mine recently said, the idea is to have a plan or record of the past, the present, and the future.
Here are some of the things I like to keep notes about:
- The student’s current level.
- When the student began lessons.
- Curriculum. Meaning, the books we are using, when books/pieces are completed, a repertoire list, etc..
- Pieces/books I think would be appropriate for the student in the future.
- Events the student has participated in (recitals, festivals, exams, etc.).
- And any other accomplishments or miscellaneous notes.
I currently use Evernote to store my notes, but any program or platform would work. (Evernote is an online-based note-taking service that offers syncing across their apps for smartphone, tablet, and computer.) In Evernote, I have a notebook for “Active Students” and “Inactive Students.” Each notebook contains a series of notes titled by student name.
I do not necessarily pull up these notes during the lesson time, unless I need them for some reason. I find myself referring to my notes before I begin teaching for the day or when I’m brainstorming about a student’s needs.
Below is an example of what my teacher notes look like for a hypothetical elementary-level student and intermediate-level student, covering September 2012 through August 2014. [Note: The repertoire list for the intermediate student be much longer in reality, but I’ve kept it short for this example.]
Current Level: Mid Elementary
Joined Studio: September 2012
Began Lessons: September 2012
Notes: Began as a 6-year-old. Very enthusiastic beginner with an excellent natural sense of rhythm.
- Animal exercises from PianoSafari.com — Sep. 2012 through Jan. 2013.
- 5-finger patterns in major keys — Jan. 2013 through Jul. 2014.
- Two-handed arpeggios in major and minor keys — Jul. 2014 through present.
- Piano Adventures, Primer Level — Sep. 2012 through Apr. 2013.
- Piano Adventures, Level 1 — Apr. 2013 through Jan. 2014.
- Jon George: Kaleidoscope Solos, Book 1 — Jul. 2013 through present.
- Piano Adventures, Level 2A — Jan. 2014 through present.
- Next: Preparatory Piano Literature (Faber).
- April 21, 2013 – First performance ever at studio recital: Japanese Garden by Jennifer Linn (Early Ele. level).
- March 21, 2014 – Bat That Ball! by Wynn-Anne Rossi (Ele. level)
Current Level: Early Intermediate / RCM Grade 3
Joined Studio: Transferred January 2013
Began Lessons: ~2008
Notes: Dedicated practicer with supportive parents. Finds it challenging to play musically/with expression.
- Two-octave scales in major keys — Sep. 2013 through Feb. 2014.
- RCM Technical Requirements Grade 3 — Aug. 2014 through present.
- Fundamentals of Piano Theory, Level 2 — Jan. 2013 through present.
- SightReadPlus app — assignments each week.
- Classics Alive! anthology ed. by Jane McGrath.
- Celebration Series Level 3 books.
Will prepare 5 pieces for RCM Level 3 exam upcoming in May.
- List A: Bach: Musette in D Major, BWV Anh. 126.
- List B: Haydn: German Dance in G, Hob. IX:12/1.
- List C: George: “Rain … and the Rainbow” from A Day In The Forest.
- Etude 1: Burgmüller: Arabesque, Op. 100 No. 2.
- Etude 2: Schytte: Study in A minor, Op. 108 No. 5.
- Bach: Minuet in G, BWV Anh 116.
- Haydn: German Dance in E Major, Hob. IX:22/9.
- Mozart: Minute in F Major, K. 2.
- Burgmüller: Ballade, Op. 100 No. 15.
- Rebikov: Chinese Figurine (No. 13 from Christmas Gifts)
- April 21, 2014 — Studio recital: Schumann Soldier’s March, Op. 68 No. 2
- May 21, 2015 — RCM practical exam Level 3.
For discussion: What is your favorite method for tracking student progress?
Side note: This is a good example of a topic that is covered during my online course for piano teachers. Get more information at institute.joymorin.com, where you can also join the mailing list.