I would like to say my memory has gotten worse over the years, but that wouldn’t be completely accurate.  I have always been the teacher who walked up & down the aisles saying student names under my breath for the first few weeks of school.  (This always led to strange looks until I explained why they kept hearing their names.)  In my personal life, my memory has not really fared much better.  While I can remember which student is competing in a spelling bee, whose dog died between lessons, who just lost a tooth, & who would love to talk about the latest Skylanders game, the nitty gritty of what exactly we did in lesson … not so much.  So, I keep detailed anecdotal records of every single lesson.  I’ve tried high-tech & low-tech methods, but my best method turns out to not be anything fancy.

At a MusicEdConnect conference, I was hugely inspired.  Hearing Lelia Viss talk about having a paperless studio got me wondering if it would be possible in my studio as well.  I researched options & began using an app that allowed me to type in notes for each student & automatically tagged them with the date & time.  My binder was much thinner & my work bag was lighter, but I ran into a pretty big, but unexpected, problem.  Since many of my student (at the time) didn’t have their own iPads, either I was able to write my anecdotal notes OR students could use my iPad to review concepts.  If I wrote notes, students got less iPad time.  If I gave students iPad time, I was scrambling to get my notes down while they were fresh (and probably leaving late for the next house).   Perhaps in the future I’ll switch back to a tech approach, but it just wasn’t working.  So, I researched for a new solution that would allow me to move to a lower paper studio, if not a paperless one.

I created a simple outline that solved my record keeping vs. student engagement problem.  These anecdotal records make it easier to track of what students have mastered, which concepts need more review & planning notes for following lessons. Seeing at a glance if a student is truly getting a well-rounded program makes planning more efficient, so I included tracking for ear training, sight reading, composing, technique, etc.  The categories match the sections of their binders so I can, at a glance, see where we might be slacking off & where my student might need a breather.  After all, too much of a good thing is still too much. This outline is the result of taking all my research & picking what best fit my situation.  But, the best part?  I get comprehensive notes AND my students get time on the iPad.  It has increased our productivity in lessons which allows us to focus on the fun stuff, rather than admin.

What to do with all these records?  I keep all anecdotal records in a student file.  They have been hugely useful in expected & unexpected ways.  For example, one of my student’s wanted to play the same Christmas song her dad did last year but neither could remember the name of the song.  He isn’t a student this year so checking his binder was out of the question.  A quick check at the office in his folder let me know “Silent Night” was her song of choice this year.  The records also come in handy for student-led conferences since I am able to pull some of the exciting news I’ve written in the previous months.  (October 13th: Mastered his 5th song!  Awesome!)

What method(s) do you use to track student progress?  I would love to hear what has worked best for your studio!

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