Sandy Lundberg

Sandy Lundberg

Sandy Lundberg teaches piano in her private studio in northern Colorado. Her desire is to enable students to achieve their own personal musical goals, and to assist them in becoming literate, life-long musicians and patrons of the arts. Sandy is known for the wide variety of activities she designs to interest and motivate students to continue learning. She is a past president of the Loveland Area Music Teachers Association.

I tried a new way of organizing my lesson planning this year which has kept me more on track. It involves just three basic pieces: a small plastic box, 8×5 index cards, and tab dividers. (I have included links for similar items on Amazon.com, but I got all my supplies at Walmart.)Lesson Box, cards

Here are ways you can use your box:

Student Lesson Plans Tabs:

Put each student’s name on a tab divider. You can organize them alphabetically, or by lesson schedule. Write each student’s lesson plan on a new 8×5 card each week. I also include the date, the time of their lesson, and any unusual circumstances, such as a makeup lesson. Keep the most current card in the front, right behind their name tab.

You can write the next lesson plan out on a new card right after a lesson, any time during the intervening week, or the day of the next lesson, using the previous week’s card and notes as a guide. Writing out a plan doesn’t mean that you will stick to it exactly, but it gives you an overview of what you should try to cover. During the lesson, you can also jot notes to yourself on this card, and check off things you covered in the lesson. I review the lesson plans at the beginning of the day and get out any games and props I will need that afternoon.Lindas card

It can also be helpful to put a “master list” card in the very front of each student’s tab, with a list of general things you would like to teach the student this year. Check this list every so often as you make your lesson plans to be sure you are meeting your big goals for the student. This is a great place to write down the student’s goals too.

Teaching Tips Tabs:

Add teaching tips tabs behind the students’ tabs for skills such as scales, arm weight, posture, phrasing, and such. You could have just one tab that says Teaching Tips for all your ideas, or you can have a tab for each separate skill area. Write out any helpful hints you come across for teaching these skills on an index card. You could have cards for scales, blues chords, jazz scales, modes, historical eras, improvisation, one-hand ideasperformance prep, and so on. The possibilities are endless. Make these very concise—just notes that will help you remember all the important points. This would be a great project to expand upon after attending a conference, so you don’t lose all those new ideas in a folder somewhere at the bottom of a closet. You can also fold an 81/2 x 11 paper in half and trim two edges so it will fit in the with 8 x 10 cards. This can save recopying information. I also trim card stock to fit the box on which I have printed out helpful hints or graphics. I love having teaching notes and tips available right by the piano, instead of having to run to the other room and look in my file cabinet.Practice Box

“Wing It” Days Tabs:

Use this section when a student shows up with no books, or is having a bad day. Make cards full of ideas for beginning, intermediate, and advanced students that can be done with no preparation, but will be educational and fun. If you have a lot of ideas, put one idea on each card. If you need less to go on, just make three cards, one for each level. Be sure to include directions to games, and where to locate the supplies quickly.

Extra Cards and Tabs:

Keep extra tabs and index cards in the back of the box so you can access them quickly. With a full studio and lots of teaching tips, you may need to give students and teaching tips each their own box.

If this sounds interesting, give it a try! I would love to hear your comments below about how you organize your lesson planning.

 

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music mentality

According to Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, in chapter seven of her book Rising Strong, we are hard-wired to tell stories to explain the world around us. By “stories,” she means our perceptions of ourselves and others. This inclination is so strong that our body actually releases cortisol and oxytocin when we come up with a satisfactory story to explain a situation. Unfortunately, most of our stories are constructed without all of the facts, especially since we cannot read other people’s minds or know all their history. Our stories also reflect all of our own past experiences and the stories we have created around them.

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Student motivation is an ongoing discussion and concern for every music teacher. We debate internal versus external motivation, parent involvement, the role of talent, and the million ways to structure home practice. Students Luke Jones and Matt McKeever at the University of Missouri at St. Louis are taking a summer graduate music education class with Jennifer Mishra and they have created a series of podcast interviews with musicians around the country addressing the issue of student motivation. You can check out their project here: http://sutbpodcats.podomatic.com/

My interview encouraged me to once again write down a few of my thoughts about motivation.

The student has to own the lessons, not feel forced into them. If he or she does not arrive excited to start piano lessons do your best to sell the idea that studying music is an awesome, amazing experience. It helps if you can find ways to connect music to areas in which the student already has an interest. Our goal as teachers is to nurture and develop the student’s own personal value of the music study so they are not as dependent upon our external motivation.

Parents need to be educated about the value of lessons and how critical their role is in the child’s success. Compare the support they give the child on a sports team to the level of enthusiasm they need to show for music lessons. Give parents specific things they can do to be supportive and involved. Even non-musical parents can ask questions about the music, sit down for a living room concert, negotiate a motivation system, and show their child how much they value a musical education.

Taking music lessons will rarely go well if a student feels a loss of peer respect from the activity. Help students to develop friendships with other musicians, let them invite friends to a fun musical event, introduce role models, include fun popular pieces in their repertoire, and make sure students always have an impressive short piece to perform on the spur of the moment. Find ways to make their music relevant and useful in their life.

The student and teacher relationship is critical. Students need to know that you care about them as a person and are willing to listen to them. Share appropriately about your life as a musician. Be respectful, honest and trustworthy. Work hard, but be an source of encouragement, not a drain on their self-esteem. Personalize their program to reflect their unique gifts, interests, and learning style.

Learning has to include some fun, especially for the young. Include games and laughter in your teaching. Plan some group activities. Tell stories that make the music come alive. Every once in a while do something unexpected. Plan a surprise! Andrea and Trevor Dow are full of great ideas at http://www.teachpianotoday.com/.

Students need to know they are making progress.  Remind students how far they have come. Play old recordings and look over old play lists. Remind them of the goals they have already accomplished. Judging the correct speed with which to move a student forward is always a critical decision on the part of the teacher. Too fast and the fundamentals are not established deeply. Too slow and the student loses heart.

Create a vision for the future with the student and talk and dream about it. Point out harder pieces that they will be able to play one day. Take students to hear more advanced musicians and attend live music events.

Keep their vision alive with goal setting. Short term goals can take just a week or so— “See if you can memorize this to play for your grandmother when she comes to visit in two weeks.” An annual theme can keep motivation going throughout the year. Michelle Sisler has created a wonderful series of games at www.keystoimagination.com. The Music Teachers National Association offers a music achievement award program to help students set personal goals for each year. Don’t forget to set long term goals too, such as being ready to join the jazz band in high school.

When a student quits, all forward progress stops. Those that continue, even at a seemingly slow pace, will keep learning and growing. The longer a student sticks with their instrument, and the more independent and self-motivated they become in learning, the more likely they will have music in their life for as long as they live.

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