Today we’re joined by Di Burt who teaches piano in Brisbane and Bribie Island, Queensland. Di is an active member of the Music Teachers Association of Queensland and has been a member of the AMEB advisory committee. Di piqued my interest in a comment she left here at A Tad Bit Creative about her own diaries she has her piano students use. And so she’s very kindly offered to give us some more information!
1. What prompted you to start using your own diary formats for your students?
I wanted a stimulating means of communicating – specifically how to practice and reflecting my teaching strategies. A blank notebook didn’t do it [too much to write] and neither did someone else’s diary [usually too expensive and with parts I wouldn’t use].
2. Do students buy these diaries or do you have templates you give them to stick in their notebooks?
Students buy them for whatever they cost me to make – usually about $5. I:
- make my own templates and have them copied.
- collate pages into individual diaries using a Comb binder [available from Aldi for less than $30].
- use a strong clear plastic front cover and an A4 coloured backing card to keep the diary sturdy.
- include pages for:
- a personalised cover with the student’s name and space for stickers earned to be displayed
- goal achievement for the week rated by colour – both teacher and student to complete.
- actual lesson info including theory, practical aspects, sight reading, aural etc
- current repertoire
- scales – written up by the student as required pictorially using a keyboard diagram and on a grand staff.
- general knowledge
- manuscript pages
- suggestions for scale practice, ways to practice
- motivation idea for the year – this year it’s a passport and a world map. Students travel to as many countries as possible by learning a new piece. The piece/composer is written into the passport and a country is selected on the world map. The passport has 40 entry possibilities to fit in with the 40 piece challenge put out by the Piano Teacher magazine, a free initiative from firstname.lastname@example.org
NB.The piece doesn’t have to be at the student’s level – it’s to encourage reading as much as possible and is purely an individual challenge.
3. What do you feature in your diaries?
I have different lesson pages for beginners and advanced students. The lesson page detail for the latter includes:
- date of lesson, time/date of next lesson [to confirm in case there has been a change for any reason]
- Repertoire piece [or improvisation, showoff bars, ‘passport piece’, composition] to be performed [student’s choice]. All my students are expected to perform something for me at the start of the lesson by introducing the work, playing and bowing at the end J]
- Technical focus – a technical aspect or particular scale to be focused on for the week – and how to do this.
- Technical work covered in the lesson – space for comments on what might need attention, what went well
- Practice points – this allows space to list what the work is and exactly what/how we agree to practice to achieve aims
- Practice focus for the week –we decide together the biggest challenge and how to go about knocking it off.
- Theory concepts/work required/ grand staff
- Comment space for me, student parent – whoever……
- Book purchases needed
- Beginners’ pages have a less detailed layout but do have a picture of a full keyboard and a larger grand staff.
- I have a little card inside the back cover made out in the style of a loyalty card [thanks Vistaprint] with ten spaces to be stamped. When the goal achievement for a student is exceptional [purple] a space is stamped – 10 stamps bring a reward which I decide on. It’s amazing how students of all ages love that little card and strive for a purple rating! Bribery and corruption did I hear someone say? Sure is – but it works!
4. I understand your diaries are a non-negotiable part of your lessons. What has been the response of students towards using the diaries.
As for any strategy – some use it better than others but the most important way for me to ensure success with the diary is to always expect it to be given to me first up. Students soon learn that the lesson moves along best when the diary is there because my expectations for progress for the week are quite clear when I can see at a glance how their week went. I then know if there is a hurdle that was too much of a challenge, if practice wasn’t effective for whatever reason, which things I need to accept responsibility for and vice versa.
The first thing my students do at their lesson after giving me their diary is perform a repertoire piece for me or do a little ‘show off’ performance of a bar to two that’s been giving them grief! While they do that I look at their diaries – I can quickly see if they’ve been in there and it tells me alot about what happened since I saw them last! They write comments besides tasks, tick off things they’ve worked on, vent their frustrations – whatever.
I never ask them how their practice went or how many times they practised – they tell me what they’ve achieved and how. I find it very useful both in terms of giving me a glimpse into what they do on the other six days of the week and helping them develop useful practice behaviours. In actual fact I rarely have a student leave their diary at home and if they do – they know the first few minutes of the lesson will still be centred around goal achievement.
5. Have you had any students who have been slack when it comes to filling in the diary? And if so, what is your response to this?
Sure have but there are consequences. Since ‘I can’t remember’ what I asked them to do we work on something of my choice [usually something that student would put at the bottom of the list] which will depend on the student concerned!
6. Any final comments?
It might all sound time consuming but it’s actually not. And I’m happy to send copies as a word attachment to anyone who emails me.
Di can be reached via email email@example.com or phone 07 3410 7414 or mobile 0403 216 686.
Jan 27 2013 | Posted in Piano Teaching
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