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.

 

Book of Student Compositions

Free Printable

Recently I put together a book of my student’s compositions to display in my studio.

When visiting my friend Joy Morin’s studio during her piano teacher retreat, I noticed a book of student compositions she had sitting in her waiting area and thought it was a fun idea! She also wrote about it in a blog post about composing with beginner and elementary students. (It mentions the book of students compositions at the end of the post.)

Today I’m giving you a free printable of the binder cover I created so you can create your own book as well!

 

Why a Book of Compositions?

A few students in my studio absolutely love composing. Luckily, our state MTA hosts a composition festival every year called “Opus” where students can submit a composition and receive feedback from a judge. The winner in each age category then gets their composition submitted to the MTNA Composition Competition for free and gets to perform their composition at the next state conference in the winners’ recital.

Students put so much time and effort into their pieces, displaying them keeps their work present and valued. It’s also a great way to help generate awareness of not only the Opus program but in composing in general. Students could sit down at one of the studio keyboards and play through each other’s music!

 

A Glimpse of the Book

Keeping it simple, I used a 1″ 3-ring binder. Each composition was printed and placed in plastic sleeve covers. Compositions that were winners got an award seal sticker on it and I wrote the year it was the winning composition.

If you happened to catch the Facebook Live studio tour series recently, I showed a peek into this book on the day 3 tour starting at 5:55 in the video.


Download the Cover

 

 

Manipulatives and Games for Private and Group Lessons

A Master List

How many manipulatives, games, and other resources do you have in your music studio?

You probably don’t even have to count to know the answer. A lot!  Am I right?

Keeping track of all our teaching resources can be a daunting task.

Lesson planning for private and group classes can be enough work in itself without having to continuously recall and rehash all the different manipulatives and games we have each time we plan.

After finding myself physically walking back and forth regularly to my game files, flashcard box and such, I decided it was time to put together a master list of every activity or manipulative I had or could use to teach a concept.

It can be very easy to lose track of what we already have. Having a document like this has allowed me to not only have an easy place to reference what activities I could utilize at any given time, but it was an awesome snapshot and inventory of what I owned.

Keeping a master list is also a great place to keep teaching ideas that may not necessarily have physical items to accompany the activity.

I thought you might find this document useful as well.

 

The Master List

Since it is a document that I update on a regular basis I decided to simply share the public link to a Google Doc. Keep in mind that it’s a working document so it’s possible I will add to, edit, and even remove items as time goes by.

There are three ways you could utilize this document

  1. If you want to keep the document as is and not risk being at the mercy of my future edits, you could download it.
  2. If you want to always see the updated version, I would recommend bookmarking the link in your browser (or in Evernote :-). This way you simply click on the link and you always see the most updated version.
  3. If you wanted to create your own list you could even copy and paste into your own document to get you started and create your own version with the materials you have!

I’m working on hyperlinking directly to every item on the list if it’s available. It’s not complete but I have a good start.

May this document help you add a little more sanity to your lesson planning and studio organizational life. 🙂

Click the link below to view the document.


Manipulatives and Games for Private and Group Lessons

 

Candy Jar Contest Printable

Building community within our studios is an important part of both growing our studios and also maintaining and marketing to the students and families we have.

The term “community” can be defined as:

A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

Our studio students aren’t going to get feelings of fellowship by simpling coming in and out of a solo piano lesson week after week.

There are a variety of ways we can build community into our studio offerings including group classes, recitals and more (see the Varsity Musician’s Playbook Series).

Sometimes though, it can be even simpler than that.

Enter the candy jar!

Continue reading

2017 Studio 88 Spring Recital 

The Magical Forest, A Narrative Suite

This year was my 6th Spring Recital teaching piano full-time. I’ve been teaching piano for around 16 years but only part-time up until the last 6 years when I opened “Studio 88” after getting my Masters in Piano Pedagogy and Performance.

Are my kids lovely or what? We were missing three this year but still had a good crew.

The last several years I’ve been trying to mix things up a bit to keep the big recital fresh and exciting. Everyone plays a solo the first half of the recital followed by a 10-minute intermission.

The second half of the recital changes from year to year. Two years ago everyone played a jazzy style and I explained to the audience before each style set what they should expect to hear. Last year we did collaborative pieces including duets, trios, and two pianos four hands (some pieces with a live drummer).

This year, we did a studio-wide collaborative project. I pulled out a book I’ve been itching to use for several years but didn’t have enough students at an early intermediate level to have performed them until now.

I’m going to share the process of pulling something like this together and also share a free download to help you plan your own production of this narrative suite.

 

The Magical Forest Narrative Suite

The Magical Forest- A Narrative Suite for Piano by Nancy Lau combines short narration with pieces. Each piece also has a representative drawing.

Pieces include: Entering the Magical Forest, Forest Fanfare, March of the Critters, Bear Dance, Waltz of the Deer, The Fairies Delight, Backwoods Bop, Woodland Farewell, and Leaving the Magical Forest. Continue reading

Year-End Parent/Student Questionnaires

A few weeks ago, I shared a detailed post on how I use Evernote to conduct my end-of-year student evaluations. The other part of my final meeting with families includes them filling out a questionnaire.

The benefit is two-sided. On the one hand, the questionnaires are about me receiving feedback to improve not only my teaching but my business.

On the other side of that, however, is that I think having parents and students both ponder through these questions, helps them evaluate their own efforts/interactions over the past year.

In reflecting, they will feel either a good sense of accomplishment and realization of the quality studio in which they are invested (good I hope!) or awareness that maybe some things need to change. This is a good point for further discussions on practice habits, etc.

I’ve always simply sent a pdf to parents or linked to a pdf in Dropbox so they can download and print the form. This year, I finally got around to doing an online form on my website. My site is built on WordPress and the plugin I use is just a basic form builder – Visual Form Builder.

I wanted to share the form with you today in Word format so you can download and make any modifications you need.

 

Updates

Every year I tweak the forms just a bit depending on what I want to know. I will often include questions at the end of the form regarding special classes I’m thinking about offering to gauge general interest or ask for feedback regarding a specific event I hosted that year.

Writing Student Evaluations Using Evernote

Change.

I thrive on it. I love the seasons, re-arranging my studio annually, and re-doing my student schedule each summer and fall. The latter of course takes time but for me, the idea of never changing my lesson schedule is suffocating! LOL.

Clear start and endpoints to me, give a sense of relief and rest and in a way, a mental break. When I used to be a choral director I would frequently get sick the week following school being out as my body was letting go of the stress!

The end of the school year for many independent studios is the time take a step back and celebrate the culmination of student’s work and progress through recitals. Not only that, but it’s the perfect time to turn our heads and reflect on the last 30 to 40 lessons and 4,000 plus hours of practice. Did we use our time wisely? Did the student make progress? Did they participate in studio events? Does the student feel they put in their best effort? There are so many questions that can be pondered and progress assessed, that conducting student evaluations has become a part of my annual schedule.

My recital is always the Sunday before Memorial Day. It does get a little crazy having it that time of year, but I love the feeling of having that culminating event where the whole studio comes together to celebrate and make music. The week following the recital, students and parents come to the student’s normal lesson time, but there is no formal lesson. We sit down and hash out the past and the future of the student’s piano studies together. (The last week of May my studio is closed for a semester break then we return for summer lessons the first week of June).

My part of that meeting time is giving the student a formal evaluation and the parent and student’s part is filling out questionnaires I give to them ahead of time. Today we’re focusing on the former.

Many teachers, after seeing my extensive tutorial on how Evernote can help you organize your studio, got a peek at my evaluation form and have been asking if I would be willing to share. Not only am I going to share the form, but I’m going to explain in detail how I use Evernote to organize and track evaluations from year to year.

Seeing how far we’ve come is only possible if we remember where we started!

Continue reading

Recital Preparation Timeline and Checklist

It’s that time of year for many when preparations for year-end recitals are in full-force. The first year I had a recital in my studio, I kept detailed records of what needed to be done when, food needs and amounts, and more. I’ve continued to do so every year and this habit has turned out to be a planning life-saver.

This Recital Preparation Timeline and Checklist keeps me sane, saves money (by tracking food purchases vs. actual usage), and saves time by not having to think through every little detail again from year to year.

I hope this checklist will show you how to keep good records of your recitals and make planning a breeze.

Continue reading

Student Practice Schedule Cards

student-schedule-cards

At the first lesson in August every year, my students are asked to fill out a practice schedule card and return to me the following week. It’s quite simple. I tell them this is an exercise in thinking through their day and the time they’ve been given to use wisely. It’s not that it has to be set in stone or that it can’t change, it’s simply good practice to go through the act of writing out their weekly schedule.

All my students are expected to fill out the card – whether they’re in the 1st grade or a senior in high school.

I was inspired by a similar card we were given in college that mapped out the day in 30-minute increments. I lived by that card found it to be very beneficial.

Why not use it for my piano students?

Page one is a blank schedule for them to fill out and page two is an example. The first year we did this, I was getting enough “how do you want me to fill this out?” questions I figured an example was in order for the next year. While they’re told to fill it out however they want – it’s for their benefit – they still seem to need a more concrete example.

Printing on card stock works well. Print the blank page on one side and the example on the other.

Of course, there are always one or two students who never turn it in. Some bring them back colorful and others quite sparse. They’ve been hanging on my bulletin board for six weeks. I just took them down and plan on bringing them back out in January to talk to the students about their initial plans and see if they’ve stuck with it or if they need to re-think their practice time.

The first year the schedule only went from 9 am-8 pm, but when I realized some students practiced before school, it got expanded from 6 am-9 pm.

Announcing Piano Pantry’s First Big Resource!

One of the first posts I wrote on this blog back in March 2016 was about my addiction to designing assignment sheets.

Since I’m a one-woman show here on Piano Pantry, it’s taken me until now to figure out the technical side of how to make this resource available to you in the best way possible. I like things to look clean, well-laid out, and organized.

I spent last weekend setting up “Assignment Sheet Central” here on Piano Pantry.

There are 15 assignment sheets of all kinds of sizes, shapes, and colors (well, not exactly, but the phrase seemed to work here). 🙂

The best thing? There are MORE to come! I have at least another ten sheets ready to be added to the page on top of the 15 already there. It takes me about 20 minutes per sheet to get it onto the website, so I didn’t want to have to wait until I got all 25+ up to make it available to you!

Hopefully, 15 choices are enough to get you started!

Swapping up assignment sheets every 6-12 months is just one way I keep things fresh.

The resource page can be accessed from the main menu at the top or click here:

Assignment Sheet Central

Let me know what you think!