Monday Mailbag – Planning a Comprehensive Curriculum for Intermediate Piano Students

I have been thinking a little more about curriculum. My younger students typically work through a method book with additional repertoire and activities added. My older students  choose several pieces to work on through the semester/year, discuss theory/musical concepts in their pieces, work through a theory book, and typically do scales or other technical exercises. Do you have any set “curriculum” you follow as far as what you expect students to learn/cover over the course of a year?

Last week we dealt with one aspect of this question – 5 Essential Resources for Selecting Repertoire for Intermediate Piano Students. This week we’ll look at additional resources for planning a comprehensive curriculum. It’s important, first of all, to understand that “comprehensive” does not mean “exhaustive.” You will never be able to teach any student everything there is to know or learn about being an excellent pianist. (Not that that keeps some of us from trying, but I digress… :-))

Music Progressions – I have mentioned our state piano curriculum before, but this is easily the most helpful resource to me in knowing what skills students should be working on at different levels. Music Progressions outlines a systematic approach for teaching keyboard facility (scales, arpeggios, etc.), applied theory (intervals, chords, etc.), rhythm, sight-reading, listening, and written theory.

The Brown Scale Book – I don’t use scale books with my students, but as I was referring to this wonderful reference book for some inverted arpeggio fingering for a student a couple weeks ago and trying to figure out how to help my more advanced students remember the correct fingerings, it occurred to me that I should just have them each purchase this book for their own reference. Duh. So I ordered four of them that afternoon from my local music store. This is way easier than writing down fingerings in their assignment books!

Practice Incentive Themes – Many of you are familiar with the yearly practice incentive themes that I develop for my students. These are particularly helpful for older students because they provide a framework for us throughout the year to ensure that they are receiving a comprehensive music education. It’s easy to revert to a repertoire-based approach to teaching/learning piano, so developing and using the structure built into the  practice incentive themes helps make sure we include other important skills like playing by ear, improvising, composing, memorizing, etc. Plus it keeps the whole process more fun!

Theory Books – I’ve mentioned several times that I rarely use theory books with my students. For written theory work, I often have the students use their Music Manuscript book, develop a program like Kick it up a Notch!, or use the Just the Facts II theory series from Music Bag Press.

If you have resources or tips for developing a comprehensive curriculum for intermediate students, please share!

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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