improving as a teacher, Professional Development, Teaching Piano

My Assignment Notebook Method

Last Thursday, we started a Forum Q&A discussion about assignment notebooks/pages for students.  Today, I thought I’d share my own method of tracking assignments — and, of course, also announce the winner of the giveaway!

The winner of the sheet music decorative balls is commenter #5… LaDona!  Congrats!!  (By the way, if you haven’t seen LaDona’s wonderful blog before, you can check it out here.)

My method of tracking assignments is very similar to what many of you do: I write in a journal-sized notebook.

I always start with the date and then I outline any warmup/technique exercises (5-finger patterns, arpeggios, scales, etc).  The photos in this post show a made-up but typical assignment page: 

Each book is listed along with the page numbers of the assigned pieces.  I always include brief notes for what I will be listening for at the next lesson.  My students know that in order to “pass” each piece, they will need to reach those goals first!  This is good motivation for them to read their notebook as they practice throughout the week.  We often mark up the score too, but I find the notebook is a good place to put overall goals and comments.

When students forget to bring their notebook to the lesson (which doesn’t happen very often, fortunately), I use a separate sheet of paper for their assignment that day and tell them to staple or tape it into their notebook when they get home.

So that’s my current method!  Someday, I’d love to try a digital method, like some of you described in the comment section of last week’s post.  For now, my current system is working well.  I have no trouble keeping up with the pace of the lesson — I am a fast writer, and  I usually jot my notes down while students are finding the next page, putting a sticker on their finished pieces, etc..

I’ve heard of another great idea for assignment pages for more advanced students.  I think I probably read it on the Yahoo group for piano teachers (please let me know if you happen to know who I can credit this idea to).  Instead of organizing chronologically by date, each page of the notebook is for each piece that the student is working on.  I really like the idea of having a progression of notes and comments from the very first week, especially for lengthy, involved repertoire!

Thanks, everyone, for sharing your assignment method!

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12 thoughts on “My Assignment Notebook Method”

  1. Our methods seem very similar! I like how you encourage students to attain each goal before a piece is “passed.” Like you said, it’s a nice way to get them to read the notebooks! (Which is something I need to work on with several of my students!)

    One thing I like to do – when a student has a good lesson (passing songs, or learning new concepts and using problem solving skills) we add a sticker to the outside. It’s a fun way to decorate and make the journal “theirs.” 🙂

  2. Your notebook method is almost identical to mine! Only I also add a practice chart along the right side for my students to record practice time. Even with all of the directions that I write in their notebooks, though, I still have students who never even open them during the week. =P

  3. My system is similar, although I write in a dictation book so I’ve got staff paper there if needed. However, for the pieces, I write the title — I think a student is more likely to play musically if they’re thinking of their piece as “Quiet Waters” or “Hurricane Hop” rather than “page 12”.

  4. I ditched the notebook a few years ago. I found that they would get lost or forgotten and then I was completely lost about what to do in the lesson. I also heard students come to lessons saying ” i didn’t know what page to practice” that was with it written in the notebook. Most of the time the notebook was never even opened. So i switched to sticky-notes and flags. A sticky flag goes on the page they are to play for the week,(so you can see it sticking out) Instructions for the song go on the bigger sticky note that goes directly on the song. This works great for songs that are worked on mulitlple times I can move the instructions around so the student has less tendency to skip over them because they see them in the same place over and over. i do miss being able to go back in the notebook to see the progress but I don’t think my students care at all.

  5. Some great ideas here everyone. I’ve always been a notebook girl too. But I loved the idea of flagging pages with those mini post-its.

  6. I am trying a laminated sheet that we will write assignments on each week. This is then put on the front of the binder so they don’t have the excuse of looking for the wrong date. I’m new at the binder work, but really want to give the students more than just sit down, play, go home, practice type of lessons. I keep a binder of my own notes for each student so I can see how they have progressed from week to week. We’ll see how it works this year.

  7. The notebooks work the best for me by far. It’s usually something that parents can be a part of too, and sometimes I hide hidden “gems” in the writing. I tend to use a lot of brightly colored gel pens because it keeps the younger ones focused. Letting them pick out the colors keeps them zeroed in on the fact that I’m writing something. Parents have something that they can easily glance at to see if the child is even practicing the correct songs or not. You wouldn’t believe how many times a parent tells me they are confused about why no progress is being made! It might be because the “hours” of practice that little Suzy did were all on her old favorite songs, but not on the current assignment! Once I show them the notebook they feel like they are involved in the activities that they’re investing time, money and effort in to.

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