HS Piano Lab Curriculum for various levels

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    My high school recently purchased a 20-piano Roland lab and will offer a piano class for the first time this year. That is great news, but I’m at a loss when it comes to curriculum for various achievement levels and how to teach to each level. According to our state standards (NC), I must evaluate each student according to a rubric of my design and classify each student as either beginning, proficient, intermediate, or advanced. Their curriculum must be tailored according to their level. The course design is completely up to me as well as the curriculum. The admins would prefer that I use a consumable book which each student would purchase, similar to our band programs. Any suggestions on curricula and how to teach 4 distinct levels in one 90 minute course?



    Wow, that’s a challenge!! In terms of assessment I’ve always just made simple checklists of skills I’m assessing. These can easily be made on Word, then results entered into an Excell file to show student growth (one column for preliminary test, another column for 1st MP test etc). In terms of classifying students this will take time. Do you have a general idea of which / how many students can read music or have ever played piano before? If not, start the first class. Do your intros – rules, procedures etc. Then give the class a simple intro to piano worksheet (read an article, answer questions + word puzzle). You can either make this yourself or copy from a website. The word puzzle can be made for free at discoveryschool.com/puzzles

    While your students are doing this, pull them aside one by one: have them sit at the piano and ask a series of questions. Have a checklist in your lap / on your computer nearby. Explain that this is not part of their grade, you just need to know what they know before they can start learning pop songs!! (This may or may not be a joke.) Once this is done thank them and promise that the next time they come in you will have them grouped according to abilities so that nobody will get bored. If you have any students who have taken private piano lessons have them be your assistants – help students.

    I’m honestly not familiar with piano method books. Search Amazon, but ideally walk into a sheet music store and explore the options for yourself. Then ask for school pricing. Ideal would be a neighborhood music store which would give a special price for each book if the students / parents mention the school. Sadly these are few and far between these days.

    As for teaching 4 levels in 90 minute classes … it can be done. I’d say each day give each level a list of things they must practice / accomplish. This should range from piano practice / perform for a friend to written theory and history practice. It’s a ton of planning on your part, but it’ll keep things rolling. Decide how you will divide your time – 15 minutes with each group or 30 minutes with two groups twice a week. You might build assessment days into your schedule where you have students come up to your piano one by one and play, answer questions about theory etc. When you work with groups, you may have them gather around one piano and you demonstrate or have a student demonstrate the skill. Use small marker boards for these groups (Pinterest!! my professional and personal favorite inspiration site). One idea I recently picked up from Pinterest is using plastic plates as small marker boards. Give a plate and a marker to each student in the group and play a lightning round with three questions to practice theory. Each has 5 seconds to write down their answer, then ask the next question.

    You should bring the class together for the last 15 minutes of class (give or take). Have a member of each group share what they worked on / learned during class and what you helped them with. This is also a great individual performance time!! Break them in slowly – don’t force students to play and promise them that this time is not graded. Everyone needs to get comfortable performing and in a friendly environment (encourage only positive comments, respectful clapping etc). You migth have the advanced group teach the lower group a mini lesson about a skill, then have the lower group perform (together or one by one) for the advanced group.

    There was another question of this variety some time ago – someone asking for ideas re: piano lab. Read that thread too.

    Good luck!!

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