I have this running to-do list on my iPhone and at the veeeery bottom of it..
MAKE ASSIGNMENT SHEET.
(It's been there for awhile....)
Now it's done. I got tired of drawing weekly practice boxes now that we award points for practice in our new incentive program for piano students.
The first assignment sheet I made contained typical items like "Assignments", "Practice time", and "Questions/Notes for Teacher". I don't remember what sparked this but I went through and changed everything to start with "I" because I wanted the students to take ownership of their assignments & accomplishments.
Plus, I just think it's more fun & personable for students to fill this out than...."Assignments".
Also notice the word "work" in the assignment sheet ;). It ain't all rainbows and ponies honey. There's a reason for everything on this assignment sheet!
So what are all the different parts of the assignment sheet and the thinking that went behind all of it?
This assignment sheet is MINE!
1. Circle of judgement
This circle is where I grade the lesson and the student's progress. Instead of a letter grade or a number I put down "+" for improving and "-" for no progress or getting worse. (No progress and getting worse equal the same thing in my book--stagnation of death!)
I forget which educational paper I read gave me this idea for grading on progress rather than product. If I remember correctly there's a school somewhere that eschews letter grades for something similar to what I'm doing. If any other teacher know what I'm talking about please chime in!
This is also a good opportunity for me to ask the kids how they think they did and for them to practice evaluating themselves--an important skill in mastering any skill.
The placement of the circle helps students flip through their assignment sheets and quickly get an idea of how they're doing (maybe I should make the pluses green and minuses red). I'm also hoping after a few pluses in a row, Jerry Seinfield's "don't break the chain" effect kicks in.
2. Talk to me!
This is where the students talk to me! They write any questions or observations they made over the week here. Again, this goes back to taking ownership of their practice sessions and progress.
Last week, I had a 6 year old little boy write "I'm frustrated with my left hand" in the box. So we started the lesson talking about how our left hand gets less practice because we don't brush our teeth/eat/write etc. with it. But playing piano requires our two hands to work equally well.
We then proceeded to pretend brushing our teeth with both hands at the same time. Great start to our lesson ;)
3. The proof is between the colorful circles
This area is the whole reason I finally finished designing this assignment sheet. For our new point system, students get a point for practicing at least 5 days a week. This is mainly for all the younger kids to develop a habit of practicing consistently.
Kind of like brushing your teeth!
Practice is like personal hygiene to music students, if you don't do it you start stinking--and becoming offensive to those around you (mainly me, the teacher).
Once they develop the habit of consistent practice and having a schedule, then we start working on more goal-oriented practice sessions.
I wrote about the important role parents play in piano lessons and different ways you can show support in a previous post. This is one small way to get involved. If your kid practiced more than usual that week/practiced without being reminded, this is a good time to praise their work & dedication.
On the other hand if they dropped the ball on practice this week, this is a good time to spank them. I always recommend parents to get the spanking done before arriving at my studio.
4. Parent participation ;)
I'm totally kidding.
But you can also just ask how their practice went this week, depending on your kid you'll probably just get a "good" reply. Ask more questions! Dig a little deeper, how was it good? Which piece did you spend the most time on? Why? What's difficult? What was easy? What was your favorite piece to work on? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?
Remember when your kid was in that "Why?" stage?--now's your turn.
This leads us to the last part of the assignment sheet!
5. Think positively! You're gonna need it...
Pianists are notorious for never feeling like we're ready, always having something to pick at in our pieces, and getting down on mistakes.
Fantastic trait in the practice room but horrible with a performance coming up or worse, during a performance.
We get plenty of practice picking out mistakes, this is a chance for the kids to practice finding something good they did and build positive self-talk that'll come in handy in performances.
Like what Dr. Noa Kageyama said, "Because in the practice room...it’s less about whether we are perfect or imperfect. It’s more about making sure we’re growing and learning from day to day."
The last two questions on the assignment sheet help the kids wrap up their progress for the week on a positive note (pun intended).
It's also fun for me to get feedback and see which pieces different kids like; helps me when I pick out repertoire for them in the future :)
Teachers! Got any assignment sheets you love? Share what you like about it! If you'd like to use this assignment sheet for your students, just ask! :)
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