Monday Mailbag – Lesson Planning

I’m wondering if you have any way of tracking or planning what you’re doing with your students from week to week.  Do you keep a log or planning book? Any suggestions on the best way to organize lesson plans for each individual student?

If you promise not to freak out or turn me over to the pedagogy police, I’ll give you the honest, short answer. No. 🙂 At least not in the way that most people think of lesson planning. I have too many students and too many other responsibilities to make detailed lesson plans on a weekly basis for every student. However, for quite a few years now I have been doing something that works fabulously for my studio! I do all of my lesson planning for the entire year during the month of August.

Since I take off the month of August, I spend lots of time traveling, thinking, praying, and planning for the year ahead. I take into consideration the feedback I’ve received from the parents and students on their Year-End Evaluations, and contemplate what to work on with each student individually and with my studio as a whole. This is when I design the practice incentive program for the year. My goal is to develop a framework that we can work within all year long that provides guided structure toward skill progress while giving each student freedom to pursue personal areas of interest. Their assignments, goals, and progress are tracked week-to-week in the custom assignment books that correlate with the practice incentive theme. This serves as a record of what has been accomplished and what still needs to be done for both the student and myself.

Our state has a 10-level Music Progressions curriculum that has done wonders to help me learn to present concepts and skills systematically. This serves as a bit of a loose guide when I’m working with students and considering what the next step should be in their musical progress.

Other than this, I think about my students almost constantly and am always trying to figure out creative approaches to challenge them or help them grasp a concept more fully. I often jot down random ideas or notes in a plain spiral notebook just to help me organize my thoughts. This may lead to a search for a new piece of repertoire, concocting a fun game to play at the lesson (this is how the 5 for Fun! book idea developed!), introducing a new technique, etc. One thing to keep in mind is always be willing to go out on a limb and just try something new. If you hear about a new series of books, try it out with some students; if a workshop presenter shares a helpful tip, put it into practice that week with a student; if you discover a way to utilize technology, recruit a student to experiment with you.

When I first started teaching and had fewer students, I did a lot of weekly lesson planning and writing down specific notes of what we covered and what we needed to work on the next week. It was a super simple sheet that I created with the student’s name and sections to write notes for each week of lessons. Music Teacher’s Helper has a great system for taking notes. You can specify whether they are for the student (visible on the student’s account) or just the teacher. And you can e-mail the student a copy of the notes. At some point I’d like to give this a try just to see how it works!

I know some of you are way more organized than me when it comes to lesson planning, so if you have some tips you’d like to share, I would love to hear them! Do you plan each lesson on a weekly basis? Do you have a system that works really well for you?

Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!

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