Steps to Success

Today was the first day of summer lessons for my studio. I forget how much I LOVE teaching in the summer. Not only do I get to trade in long, crammed nights of teaching for some welcome daytime lessons, but, in a way that doesn’t happen during the school year my students and I get to be mentally “all there” for our time together. Without the stresses of the school year, summer lessons always seem to be more focused and productive.

Each year, I ask students to pick a goal for their summer lessons. Some explore a new genre of music, or get a head-start on learning repertoire for events in the fall. Others might choose to record an album of favorite songs, or create orchestrations of their music on the Clavinova. A really popular goal among my younger students is to finish their current level of method books.

With lots of extra free time to fit in practice, it’s not uncommon for elementary students to work on more pieces at home than we can cover in their lessons each week – particularly if they’re motivated to finish their books!    I’ve found that the beginning of summer is a great time to review what my expectations are for “finishing” a piece.  If students have a checklist of every skill that must be mastered, it helps them to grow their own teacher ears for practice!   This summer, I made up this mini-poster to slip into their assignment binders:

If we don’t have time for them to play a piece for me, I can just ask what “step” they’re on.  As long as the student can tell me what they’ve already mastered, and what still needs done, I have a good idea that they’re doing a good job of guiding themselves at home.    (If not, that pieces gets flagged for follow-up at the beginning of their next lesson!).

This is also a handy tool for students who are in and out of town over the summer and have to be able to come back to a piece and figure out where they left off.     That way if they have a few days to practice between arriving home and having a lesson, they don’t have to wait to see me before they get back on track.

The pdf file is available for download on my studio site.     If you’re looking for another tool to evaluate student progress, the Smile-O-Meter cards (that can be downloaded from the same page) use the same criteria and similar wording.

Steps to Success
Steps to Success
Steps to Success.pdf
41.1 KiB


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