The Practice Cake Assignment Sheet

Have you ever heard of “The Practice Cake?”

The analogy was first brought to my attention by Dr. Lori Rhoden, who I studied with in the graduate piano pedagogy program at Ball State.

Recently, I saw an article on The Practice Cake and it made me remember that I have an assignment sheet that is based on this idea!

It’s a simple idea really, but a great visual for how to teach students to build their practice.

1) Rhythm and notes/fingering

2) Articulation

3) Dynamics and tempo

4) Pedal

The image is flip-flopped, however, like a layer cake! The foundation is the rhythm/notes/fingering the top of the cake is the pedal. You can’t get to the top unless you have the foundation!

One of the assignment sheets I created in my early “assignment-sheet-creating” days included a small image as such.

However, after a reader asked if I could tweak it because it looked like *that* emoji, yeah, you know, the poop emoji, I decided to simply switch the analogy to a stairstep. (I was working from Microsoft Word, and didn’t know about things like Canva at the time, OK? 🙂 LOL)

It doesn’t really matter the graphic, right? The idea is the same.

If you like the idea of having an image as such on your student’s assignment sheet each week, check out Assignment Sheet #15: Practice Steps 2 on Assignment Sheet Central or just download it right here!

 


Interested in reading a little more on this idea?

Check out this article by Chrissy Ricker on Tonara.com:  The Practice Cake: A “sweet” approach to teaching beginners how to practice

 

An Assignment Sheet for Piano Safari

There are a whole lot of assignment sheets on Assignment Sheet Central – 21 to be exact.

I thought it might be nice to highlight one, in particular, that was designed around the Piano Safari method.

 

Download Now!

As you can see in the image, it uses clip art images of each of the safari technique exercises so you can simply circle which exercise the student is doing that week.

Weekly sightreading cards are also a big part of the Piano Safari method so there is a section specifically for that as well.

One of the things I learned from the mini-essays from Piano Safari is the importance of having students continue to play and review pieces they’ve already mastered.

Not all pieces are “reviewed for fun,” just the ones the student loves and wants to keep playing. That’s their choice! (Check out Piano Safari’s Mini Essay 4: Assigning Pieces for more on this.)

New Semester, New Assignment Sheet!

The beginning of a new semester is the best time to break out a new assignment sheet! It’s an easy way to shake things up and make the new semester feel refreshed.

Can you believe that Assignment Sheet Central has seen a total of 23,586 downloads in the past 3 years?! Yowzah!

The top downloaded sheets are the first five listed on Assignment Sheet Central. Literally, the further down the numbers go, the less the download numbers are.

Those numbers make it blatantly obvious that you simply don’t want to scroll through all 21 so you take the best of the first five. I get it!

You might be missing out, though!

Guess what? The assignment sheets are ordered (roughly) from the oldest I created to the newest. So, #01 is the first one I ever created and #21 is the most recent.

In my opinion, the final ones are the best. Try one out!

Continue reading

Finally! A Music Lab/Assignment Sheet for Piano Explorer Magazine

For years, I’ve seen teachers in Facebook groups asking for some kind of assignment sheet to accompany Piano Explorer Magazine published by The Instrumentalist.

Well, today I am posting my version as part of the Music Lab Series on Piano Pantry!

 

What’s Piano Explorer Magazine?

Published once a month, this fun student-focused magazine covers topics such as composers, technique, practicing, instruments, and more. There are also puzzles, quizzes, student compositions, and the 100-day Practice Challenge!

At the time of this post, teachers can purchase a single subscription for the studio ($12), or a group subscription of five or more copies ($6 each). (Keep in mind that a group subscription would be mailed to one address.)

If teachers wanted to have students receive a copy of the magazine in the mail at home, you would have to purchase multiple individual subscriptions and set them up to mail to separate addresses. Kids get “real” mail so infrequently, it could be a fun addition to your studio for students to receive these!

For the purposes of using this as a music lab, it would be possible to use only one copy of the magazine for all students at your studio. That being said, the benefit to each student having their own copy is not only that they could take it home after completing the lab, but that they could actually complete the written puzzles and/or activities in the magazine.  (If students have their own copy of the magazine, they could complete it as an assignment at home as well!)

Continue reading

New Sheets Added to Assignment Sheet Central

(Including My Favorite!)

Do you get tired of looking at the same assignment sheet week after week?

I do!

You no longer have a good excuse to use the same-old boring assignment sheet week after week, year after year.

Why?

You now have 21 – yes, that’s what I said – 21 different assignment sheets to choose from in one location here on Piano Pantry as I just added six new assignment sheets to Assignment Sheet Central.

To make it easy for you, I just copied them here!

Psst…the last one (#21) is my current favorite. I’m using it for the second year in a row (after tweaking it of course! :-))

 

Assignment Sheet-16 | Sticker Boxes

Assignment sheet for younger students includes a fun clip art images, six practice items, and an area for additional assignments all with sticker boxes.

Includes:
  • 6 Practice items
  • 4 Extra activities
  • Sticker boxes for days practiced
  • Student and parent practice reflection with sad face or smiley face

 


Assignment Sheet-17 | Piano Safari

This assignment sheet is for students using the Piano Safari method. Includes clip art of animal technique exercises as well as sticker boxes for practice.

Includes:
  • Clip art of technique exercises
  • Sticker boxes for practice days
  • Area for other activities
  • Student and parent practice reflection with sad face or smiley face

 


Assignment Sheet-18 | Easy as 1-2-3

This assignment sheet is great for adults. 10 practice tips included as well as an area for warm-ups, songs, other items, and notes.

Includes:
  • 10 practice tips
  • Warm-up, songs, other, notes

 

 


Assignment Sheet-19 | Student-Driven

This sheet is great for older teens. It serves not as an “assignment” sheet but a “what did I do” sheet where students take charge of their own learning.

Includes:
  • Student goal(s)
  • Practice-focused accomplishments from most to least
  • Smart practice tools
  • Practice reflection

 


Assignment Sheet-20 | Versatile

This assignment sheet is very versatile and could be used for students of any age. It includes practice tips, an inspiring quote, and daily practice boxes.

Includes:
  • Smart practice tools
  • Inspirational quote
  • Open-ended practice items
  • Daily practice boxes
  • Practice reflection

 


Assignment Sheet-21 | Practice Rating-Scale

This sheet includes indicator for the status for pieces: new, in-progress, review, memory as well as a practice-rating scale for both student and teacher.

Includes:
  • Status of pieces: new, in-progress, review, memory
  • Practice goals for each piece
  • Daily progress
  • Practice reflection with rating scale from both student and teacher

The Assignment Sheet You Love the Most…So Far

Assignment Sheet Central has been live on Piano Pantry for close to two years now. At the time of this post, there are 15 assignment sheets of varying types available. Whether you’re looking for a sheet to use for group classes, adult lesson, or preschool lessons, there will be one for you.

I’m working on adding a few more sheets this week and, in the process, thought it would be fun to share with you the assignment sheet that has been downloaded the most thus far – over 1,000 times to be exact. Funnily enough, it’s the first one on the list. So either it’s a super awesome assignment sheet or ya’ll are lazy and just don’t want to scroll down the page! I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and say it’s the former. 🙂

assignment-sheet-01

 

All in all, readers have downloaded over 10,000 assignment sheets so far. I hope you find them refreshing. Think about it – you could use a new one every year for the next 15 years of your teaching – I would call that refreshing!

The one I’ve been using this past year is definitely my favorite thus far! I’ll let you know when I get it and a few others up.

 

Assignment Sheet Addiction

It’s Small, White and Written All Over…

The iconic spiral-bound notebook. 

Is there a piano student in all the world who can be found without one?

One of the first, if not THE first one I had was small (approximately 3″ x 5″) with a red cover and side spiral. I kept it for years but cannot seem to find it in my old memorabilia. Knowing me, I probably threw it away during one of my “reduce and minimize” streaks.

As a teacher, I used notebooks for years, but in my effort to grow and manage the structure of lessons better I started making my own assignment sheets. I distinctly remember this as a period of intense growth and scrutiny of myself as a teacher as I was in the early stages of my graduate studies.

During this time, I was trying to figure out how to be a piano teacher as opposed to a classroom music teacher. Although I had been teaching piano part-time for years, it felt like a whole new world as I learned about true piano pedagogy. I had no idea there was so much that should be incorporated into the lesson!

For years, I relied solely on method books to guide me and tell me what I was supposed to be teaching. It took several years and even some graduate pedagogy courses to truly have a deeper understanding of the big picture. Some of that growth came from simply studying and teaching from different methods, understanding the philosophy behind the progression, and experiencing what does and doesn’t work for certain students.

 

Methods are to Recipes…

I’m an avid cook. I grew up watching and helping mom out in the kitchen. Mom is a good country cook who raised her family through the 80 and 90’s – a time of Campbell’s soup and casseroles. Although she had her trusty favorite recipes, we often called her MacGyver in the kitchen as she could make a meal out of nothing.

When I was first married, I used all her recipes, but when the poundage began to add up on both my husband and I, healthy cooking  realized I needed to learn to cook healthier and incorporate flavor through herbs and spices instead of butter and sour cream. Thus, I embarked into the world of cooking shows and an endless recipe obsession.

Stick with me…

One of my favorite shows, when we lived in Australia, was Chef at Home, hosted by the Canadian chef from Prince Edward Island, Michael Smith. He advocates using your instincts and what you have at home to put together simple, easy, and delicious meals. At the time, I thought “yeah right!” I can follow a recipe and make an amazing meal, but I don’t have a deep enough understanding of food to come up with something on my own – I’m no MacGyver.

Stick with me…

A few years down the road and one day it suddenly dawns on me that I’m cooking something for dinner with complete confidence – NO recipe in front of me! What an intense and rewarding feeling that was!

Do you see where I’m going with this? Method books are a recipe. They help us know what musical concept to introduce in what order. However, when we understand pedagogy, how children learn music, the foundations of healthy technique, and more, we’re understanding the flavor of the ingredients and how those ingredients come together to make a pianist. It’s kinda like knowing how the ratio of flour, sugar, butter, and egg make a cookie as opposed to a cake.

There is a connection to my assignment sheet addiction, I promise…

While I still use and rely on the sound progression and solid pedagogy of several methods on a regular basis, I was freed the day I realized I could teach a student without a method in front of me if I wanted.

 

Why the Addiction?

My assignment sheet obsession started out somewhat as a way for me to write out my own “recipe instructions.” Their role became a way for me to help guide my lessons, to remind me of what I needed to incorporate. Each one tells a different story of the goals I had at the time and things I was focused on as a teacher.

I create a new assignment sheet at least once to twice a year, and sometimes I trial a third through the Summer before I decide if I want to use it in the Fall.

They range from simple one-page sheets to a two-page spread that includes incentive program instructions.

I’m not going to weed them out and present you with my favorites because, at one time or another, they were each perfect for me. Who am I to say which one will work best for you?

There were times in the early days when it almost felt that if I could just make the perfect assignment sheet somehow, I would be a perfect teacher. Bahahaha yes, we’re all laughing, I know! Looking back now I realize that is ridiculous.

I’ve learned to let it go and honestly, the main reason I switch assignment sheets now is completely out of boredom. I get tired of looking at the same sheet day in and day out. Plus, I start thinking things like, “Gee, maybe if I add a new joke or quote to the sheet each week I’ll get some of them to fill it out more regularly.” Bahahaha, a laughing matter once again, I know!

There are always students who fill it out diligently and others who don’t bother no matter what I do. I’ve called them anything from “Weekly Learning Guide” to “Assignment Sheet” to “Assignments for the week of…,” to “Piano Homework” to “Daily Practice Steps” and more. Does the title make a difference or inspire them more? Nope, not one bit.

I have a few students who hate it when I switch in the middle of the year, so I just use the same assignment sheet for them all year. Others find the switch refreshing as I do and some don’t care either way.

There were times where I’ve used the same sheet for everyone and times I’ve used a different sheet for adults, preschoolers, elementary level, and high schoolers.

They’re kept in color-coded hanging files next to the piano, and I just pull a fresh one out and place it in the front of their binder on top of last week’s sheet.

Most have been designed in Microsoft Word and Microsoft Publisher but have also experimented with Canva.com.

 

Assignment Sheet Central

You can access all my assignment sheets on Assignment Sheet CentralTake your pick! You name it, I probably have it.

 


Do you still have or remember your first notebook? What did it look like? Do you use a spiral notebook for assignments, binders with printable assignment sheets, or are you 100% digital? Share your memories in the comments!


Did you enjoy this post?

Consider subscribing to the Piano Pantry email list. You’ll get my once-a-month “Secret Letter” which includes what’s been going on in my studio that month, new posts on the blog, books I’m reading, favorite Instagram posts, and other fun things like that. 

Sound good?! Subscribe here.