Written by & under Program Development.

By Patrick FritzSecret Weapons for Productivity

Every teacher has his or her favorite method of helping students keep track of what they are supposed to practice every week.  The trick is finding something that works for the student, family, and the teacher.  My favorite tool is a weekly practice list.

My early middle and early high school kids often receive a weekly practice sheet that I fill in for them.  They are (hopefully) becoming more independent of their parents and are beginning to practice under their own supervision.  The weekly practice sheet compiles everything in to one place.

You can see that the idea is simple.  Several subject areas are included on the list:  Sight Reading, Time Spent on Review (the major review point for the week), Time Spent on New Music (the major new repertoire focus), Scales/Technique, Chords, Music Theory, and Listening.  Below is a chart of blank spaces to write in specific review assignments and a few lines for additional comments.  Columns containing the days of the week are placed to the right of each assignment row.

I like using this method of accountability because it not only helps a student who is very organized and loves keeping track of their musical tasks, but it is equally helpful for the student who is hopelessly unorganized and needs a little nudging in the right direction.  Depending on age and personality, students will use checkmarks, stars, or colored stickers to fill in their boxes.  Some write the amount of time spent on each activity and some merely check it off.  Some students design and decorate their own practice sheets to suit their personal needs and tastes.  As students get older, I try to have them fill in their own practice sheets.

Practice sheets also help me remember all of the topics I need to cover in a given lesson.  A 30 minute lesson evaporates in no time.  Oftentimes, I look at the weekly assignment sheet and remember that even though we are having a wonderful lesson working on music, I need to make sure my student gets a theory assignment, a listening assignment, knows exactly what scales they need to work on, etc.  The review section reminds students that even though we might not get to cover every review piece, or play every scale during this particular lesson, they are still responsible to maintain these skills.  I will also put vocabulary terms in the review section.

Using these sheets led me to some interesting discoveries.  You never know who might really like the sheet, and who might hate it.  I usually avoid using the sheet with elementary school children, but a small number of elementary students in my studio absolutely LOVE it.  They enjoy being organized and get satisfaction from having physical proof of how hard they worked.  This also provides their parents with an organized list of weekly expectations.

Take a look at our weekly practice sheet and maybe something similar can work for you!

**Like all of my best ideas, this practice sheet is inspired by an outstanding colleague of mine, Andrea Cannon.