Assignment Pages – Whose needs are they fulfilling?

{Nothing Era.} My student’s assignment sheets have evolved quite a bit over the last decade. When I began teaching, I wrote nothing down for both myself or for my student. This is probably because I was emulating my childhood teacher.

{Notebook Era.} But as I took on the role of the piano teacher, I realized that I needed a record to glance at and know what needed to be covered in the lesson. It was supposed to also help the students know what to practice. Thus, it led me to my “notebook” era. The idea was to write which book, the page number, and title of song the student should practice. But my notes were never consistent – I’d forget to write the page number, or the book and the formatting was never the same.

{Internet Era.} I knew I needed something more concrete, so I started looking on the internet for examples. I found some, but they just didn’t fit my style.  Most just were too cumbersome. I needed something simple but effective.

{Teacher-Centered Era.} I stayed the longest in this era, and I am sure I will return at times. I created a paper that fit four weeks at a time on one page so it was economical. It was a simple table as shown in this picture.

Over the past couple of years I have routinely asked students if they use these assignment sheets. Unfortunately, most of them did not. But as I teacher I loved it. It was simple to fill out, economical to print, and it allowed me to see quickly all their assigned pieces, and the specific issues they were to work on throughout the week.

{Brainstorming.} I finally realized that perhaps students weren’t using them because the papers were teacher-centered and not student-centered. I diagrammed what the purpose of a student-centered vs. a teacher-centered paper would be, as well as what each would include.

{Student-Centered Sheet Era.} I came up with this document. It includes the following. “MY” refers to the student.

  • Title of the Piece
  • My goals for improving this piece THIS week
  • A journal section to write in the measure numbers, the specific issue, and a check box for when this problem spot is mastered.
  • My goals to improve this piece for next week
  • Questions to ask for next week
  • My rating of practice on this piece

My hope is that this paper will teach them how to direct their practice, and to honestly evaluate how they did. I hope it will help hold them accountable. Because our goal is not to just have students who can correct a problem when we tell them to. It is to have our students be self-directed in their practice and then come to us with the most difficult problems.

You can click here to download the practice log PDF. If passing along this document, please direct them to this blog and do not directly send them the PDF.  {Practice-Log-Assignment-Sheet-Version2.1}

EDIT: Since I started writing this blog, I began reading The Practice Revolution by Phillip Johnston. Even after just two chapters, I feel like I will be altering this sheet even more to fit his suggestions. But for now, I’m going to let this particular assignment sheet serve its purpose.