Music Teacher's Helper Blog

New Years’ Resolutions for the Studio

As we enter this New Year, we can remember that great piano teachers make great students.  How can we improve our studios and teaching abilities?  How can we make lessons more enjoyable and knowledge-saturated for our students?

Below is a list of goals for my studio. I keep a copy nearby and do my best to remember that everything I teach should serve to develop a well-rounded education for your students.

Enjoy and have a wonderful 2009!

Look in eyes, let them know I am glad to see them, be “up-beat”, smile

  • Welcome… *how was your week?, *how’s your family?  *how was piano?
  • Warm-Ups… THEORY GOALS chart (follow progressive outline)Composer of the Month… learn an easy to remember, interesting fact of the week (know it for the next lesson by memory)… 4 interesting facts about each month… 10 points if the student can perfectly recite the 4 interesting facts word-for-word… subtract one point for each word out of order.  Top three students to correctly recite monthly quota receive a special prize at the spring recital.
  • Composer of the Month… learn an easy to remember, interesting fact of the week (know it for the next lesson by memory)… 4 interesting facts about each month… 10 points if the student can perfectly recite the 4 interesting facts word-for-word… subtract one point for each word out of order.  Top three students to correctly recite monthly quota receive a special prize at the spring recital.

Listen to students’ songs/pieces/assignments… two questions (among other things to go over/talk about)

  • Scale of 1-10
    1 = only played the minimum – to pass the time and get it over with
    10 = gave effort to learn/perform everything in the song and do it well/carefully

Ask the student, “Do you think we should review this song or move on and learn something new or both?”
1 = need to review this song this week and give it another try
5 = review this song & move on
10 = move on… I did GREAT!

  • Theory pages for new concepts… do or talk about them in the lesson (use white-board, flashcards, visual aids, and games, etc)
  • Assign new songs and go over details

EXTRA TIME = games (card, board, online, active), sight-reading & looking for more fun songs, composing & recording on computer with keyboard and microphone

TAKE HOME = Classical Music listening sheet… listen to a classical piece (song) and answer these questions…

  • What is the exact/entire title and the composer’s name?
  • How long was this piece?  Did you listen to the entire thing?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how did you enjoy listening to this piece?
  • On a scale of 1-10, would this be a song you would like to learn to play eventually?
  • What instrument(s) did you hear?
  • What did the music remind you of?  Did you think of anything as you listened to it?
  • How did you feel as you listened to this music?

Rewards and Incentives:

  • Prize Box… post points on wall or bulletin board & keep updated
  • Piano Points – keep track of them (incentive program)
  • Treasure Chest (Candy & Small Toys)… one item if practiced at least 5 days (length = what teacher assigned) – signed by parents, gave enough effort and it shows in progress, brought all books, did theory & extra pages & warm-ups & classical music listening sheet
  • Student of the Month CONTEST… poster
    You may have noticed that we have a great, new feature!  This is based on the following things… (all ages and levels, girls and boys – piano or voice)
    *knowing all your lesson assignments
    *bringing everything and not leaving anything at home
    *having a great attitude
    If you were absolutely exceptional in lessons, you may be able to keep the poster!
  • STICKERS
    Each song you finish beautifully following ALL directions = you may pick out an amazing sticker from your teacher’s special collection… be quick to pick and don’t think about it too long or you may miss your opportunity, but have fun.  🙂
  • TOP PRACTICING STUDENTS
    Remember to add your practice time to the website log-in… your parents know how to do it (remind them).  ?  I am keeping an updated list each week of the top practicing student in each level.  The prize for this contest is simply the joy and excitement of seeing your name up there!  ?  – the list will be updated each weekend.

Practice Requirements in the Studio:
30-minute lesson = 20-30 minute practicing each day (following the CEDA outline)
45-minute lesson = 40-60 minute practicing each day (following the CEDA outline)

CEDA

  • Concentration = eliminate distractions, be alert and awake, pay attention to what you are doing and listen to the beautiful music you are making!  🙂
  • Effort = if you take time to practice, you will get better… if you do not take the time and do your best, you will fall behind and your teacher will notice
  • Diligence = have you ever studied or tried really hard at something and strained over it and worried about it and worked on it for hours… and the teacher gave you a bad grade?  Sometimes we can work really hard at something and not do well… it is all about the details we pay attention to and how we work on the problems.  When we are learning the piano, it is very important to not miss or skip over anything.  Fingering, notes, timing, dynamics, beautiful musical tone and shape, hand and sitting position, performance and stage presence, and much more are equally important.  If you leave anything out, you have not been as diligent as you could be… and are missing out on something amazing.  How diligent can you be to cover everything and be careful about everything in your music?
  • Attitude = that says it all… smile.  Above all, remember that God has given you this special gift, your parents are loving the fact that you are learning piano, and I can’t wait for you to come each week!  If you come in with a bad attitude or are not fully attentive and excited to be at your lesson, it is hard on your parents, hard on me, and hard on yourself.  If you have a bad attitude about practicing or just don’t care, I will help you figure out the reason, but it is your responsibility to have the best attitude in town!

Thank you, teachers!  You all have been amazing in comments and suggestions.  As we enter this New Year, we can remember that great piano teachers make great students.  How can we improve our studios and teaching abilities?  How can we make lessons more enjoyable and knowledge-saturated for our students?

Have a wonderful 2009!  🙂

About the Author

Kristin Phillips
Kristin has been studying piano since the age of 6 and with the guidance of her family and teachers, began teaching others by 14. After pursuing pedagogy in piano and business administration for a short time - to be continued at a later time, she transferred to studying church music ministry at Portland Bible College. She enjoys editing her website, writing in her spare time, teaching piano stud... [Read more]

7 Comments

  1. Chris Brown

    Thanks for another great posting, Kristin! Happy New Year to you, too!

  2. Stengel99

    Wow! Lots of great info here. Enough for a book!

    I can especially relate to your goal “Look in eyes, let them know I am glad to see them, be ‘up-beat’, smile.” I’ve felt the same way, but you articulated it in a way that solidifies the concept.

  3. Amy Chaplin

    Thanks for all the tips. It’s good to hear of other teachers doing things similar to yourself. I laminated “Music Bucks” and my students earned money for certain tasks then could buy things from the “store.” I also like the idea of posting your goals next to you so you never forget!

  4. Kristin Phillips

    Thank you for your comments! 🙂 Already, many of the ideas I wrote have come in handy and help everyone enjoy music and lessons to a greater point.

    Amy, music money of any kind and prizes have worked for my own studio (and I know many others). Enjoy and please keep us posted on how it works in your studio! My students never let me forget to give them points for the lesson when they have done a great job.

    My favorite memories with teachers are when they obviously were glad to see me. 🙂 I couldn’t help but work hard to please them.

    Have a wonderful week!
    ~Kristin

  5. Amy Gould

    You mention a Theory outline, is that something you can share? I’m curious to see what you have in your theory outline.

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