Over the next few months I’ll be offering a series of blog posts that look at the piano TRACKS project in detail and explain what practical help it can offer to piano teachers and their students. This first post will explore how the project came into being, and uncover the four main areas within it.
Background: The shift away from graded music exams.
Some of my students take graded exams, but there are many do not choose to go down this route. In these cases we build skill and knowledge by exploring lots of different repertoire, and for the right person this can often result in well rounded musicianship. However, I noticed that there were a number of learners in my studio who needed something of a middle ground. They required a sense of semi-formal structure that would keep on track towards their goals but also be responsive to their changing needs. These were the students I originally had in mind when I started to design the piano TRACKS curriculum and checklists.
Once I started testing and using the checklists with my own students I found that they actually had a range of uses. Firstly, I found they were a real boost to my planning. I could easily see exactly where the student was and what area they needed to work on next. This meant I could plan both efficiently and effectively to ensure they made progress.
The checklists help students to stay motivated as they can see tangible results, and have a physical record of how far they have come. Of course, the ideal student wouldn’t need any external motivation, but how many of us can say we are the ideal?! This method gives them an extra incentive to keep learning. Students have a reminder to go the extra mile when practising so they can tick something off in their next lesson.
The piano curriculum gave me a simple structure around which I could tailor personalised activities. A core tenet of my teaching practice is that lessons are geared to each individual student. It can be tempting to stick to an area or activity that a student excels at, and avoid pushing them to do something more difficult. Our piano curriculum provides an outline of the musical concepts that most students should get to try during their journey, ensuring that every student builds a thorough foundation at the piano.
How often have you had a student transfer from another teacher who isn’t able to tell you where they got to, for whatever reason, or perhaps has Grade 3 but needs more help with the theoretical understanding? These books can help with this problem. Although it is not an exact science, they can provide an idea of the level the student has achieved so far, and the new teacher can avoid taking too many steps backwards.
Curriculum, Checklists, Teaching Ideas, and Worksheets
There are four main areas of the piano TRACKS project. I have already mention the piano curriculum which is at the heart of everything. This curriculum breaks learning down into progressive stages and content modules. It is free to download so teachers can use it as the basis of their own teaching curriculum.
The piano TRACKS checklists come as a book or a PDF. These checklists can be used in a variety of ways, and are designed to help students and teachers monitor progress and visualise achievement.
The website website contains a ‘Signposts to Resources’ area, which contains different teaching ideas for each element of learning in the checklists. In the early stages of my career I often struggled to find ideas for teaching, so I wanted to create this area of the website to help those teachers in particular. But, even now, I am still on the lookout for new techniques and resources so this area of the website is ever expanding!
I design bespoke worksheets and flash cards that follow the piano TRACKS curriculum. These are included in our the ‘Signposts to Resources’ section of our website, but you can also find them by looking directly at our Payhip shop.
Where to start
This is a large project, and it can be difficult to know how to get in to it. I would recommend starting with the curriculum, to familiarise yourself with what we have included and make sure it fits with your own beliefs about a strong music education. The piano TRACKS project is designed to complement your own teaching methods, and provide a basic skeleton that you can flesh out with your favourite activities, repertoire, and ideas. I hope that within it you can find something of value to bring to your students.
Don’t forget to sign up to our mailing list for updates on new blog posts, material, and website additions.