One of my favourite features of Music Teacher’s Helper is the Lesson Notes. I imagine that teachers use this feature in a variety of ways. Perhaps you use the notes as a practice reminder for your students, as a way of communicating with their parents, or as a reminder for yourself. I use them in all three ways.
When I first started using Music Teacher’s Helper, I was surprised at the number of parents who commented on how much they valued the weekly feedback (despite the fact that I had been sending lesson notes home in a notebook for years prior!). I suppose the ease and immediacy of an email is decidedly better than relying on the parent to find & read the student’s notebook on a weekly basis.
As a teacher, I enjoy having a record of a student’s progress (and occasionally lack of progress). Having a record of lesson notes allows you to show the student that they have been dragging their feet a little on that one piece (should it really take 6 lessons to learn the exposition?), or that they have worked diligently and consistently to make a marked improvement in only a few short weeks.
For the student, I like to use the lesson notes for positive feedback and to highlight the most important concepts that they should remember from their lesson. I keep the notes brief to ensure that they are read and often provide more detail on the music (for example I might have put a general reminder about dynamics in the lesson notes, but on their music I have circled the relevant places that need attention). Depending on the age of the student, I also like to choose one or two main things that the student should focus on each week. I find that giving the student too many things to concentrate on often distils their focus. So this week they might be concentrating on refining their pedalling technique, even though there is some clumsy phrasing going on also. Let’s fix the pedalling first, and once that is happening automatically we can concentrate on the phrasing.
A great way to get students thinking is to ask them in the last minute of the lesson what they think needs to be put in the lesson notes. This reinforces the important points of the lesson in the students mind, and helps the teacher to know if there is something the student doesn’t understand. Always check that the student knows how to fix something (not merely that it needs fixing).
If you are struggling for something to write in your lesson notes I find the following template very useful –
- What has (or hasn’t) the student achieved since the previous lesson?
- What is their attitude to the goals set the previous week (diligent & hard-working or lazy & unmotivated)?
- What is the aim for this week and what steps need to be taken for the student to achieve this?
If you have specific ways that you use the Lesson Notes feature in Music Teacher’s Helper please share your ideas with the teaching community in the comments section below.