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.)
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.
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 ideas, performance 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.
“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.