Keeping Track of Music iPad App Assignments

Since I began teaching piano in 1987, all students have come not only for a piano lesson but also a lab session. Two students arrive at the top of the hour, and one begins the lab assignment while the other works with me at the piano. They switch places after 30 minutes. High school students move into a 45-min lesson with a 15 min lab session. Planning assignments for the lab is an ongoing commitment that morphs from year to year. With the arrival of the iPad, there will be some HUGE changes, yet again. Here's a brief description of the various phases of lab plans over the past 25 years (I'm really not that old, started teaching when I was two.) Phase One

While in grad school I visited a studio that offered a computer lab for each lesson. I was hooked! She created a file for each student where assignments were listed and scores recorded when complete. I continued this tradition and each week a new assignment was written in every student's assignment folder. Overall, this plan required a great amount of planning on my part and tedious work from week to week to update records.

Phase Two

Michelle Sisler of "Keys to Imagination" boldly went where no one had gone before in the world of music software and lab programs, and published Double Click Curriculum which correlates software with piano method books. She meticulously weeded through all major software programs and matched appropriate games/lessons to every page of several popular method books. I know the dedication of this series as I co-wrote the Celebrate Piano! Double Click Curriculum books. I continue to use these books with my students and am SO thankful for this major contribution to the world of lab assignments.

Phase Three

As my older students move beyond method books, I decided I need to develop new sheets for them to record assignments. So, I began creating my own once again. This time I accumulated  all programs with CHORD assignments on one sheet (s) and all programs featuring exercises with SCALES on another sheet, etc. Here's a sample  Scales. Although this is helpful, it is still not perfect. At this point I almost prefer to keep track of anything assigned for high schoolers on a general lab sheet such as this--Gen Lab Chart. FYI: If you are looking for programs to prepare students for an  AP theory course look into Musition and Auralia. As technology continues to change, so will the ways in which to record student progress. While writing this blog, I learned that Auralia and Musition now offer "cloud editions" where all student results are tracked and accessible on the web.

Phase Four

As I continue to use my sizable library of software programs-quite the investment, I might add--I have become a huge iPad fan and find myself drawn to collecting more iPad apps. The price and accessibility of these "units" of software" make them irresistible. With a tap and swish, a specific lesson or drill can be accessed. No software to load, no waiting for the computer to reboot--it's just SO easy!

However, I am making concerted efforts to "go green" and I really don't want to start creating more sheets for each student to record app scores. (The Double Click Curriculum does not include iPad app assignments). Tracking iPad assignments on General Lab sheets is a possibility, but this week, I tried something new. I created a sheet (Note Squish) for Notesquish (an arcade-like note-naming app) and assigned all students of every level to play it. For beginners, I customized settings to as little as two notes--middle C and D (to drill line vs space notes), while others worked on portions of a their "weaker" clef (usually bass clef!). Advanced students reviewed ledger line notes and one drilled the alto clef. They all recorded their settings, their highest speed and their highest score. This week, the students with the top scores of each speed--turtle, rabbit and car--will find their name on the hall of fame sheet (Notesquish Hall of Fame) and earn $100 in music money. My plan is to do this at least once a month.

Even if my system of tracking scores is somewhat archaic, the opportunity to immediately assign exercises that reinforce concepts is priceless. I strongly believe the extra time to drill essentials is far more important than finding the perfect system to track scores. I  highly recommend adding a lab to lesson time and the iPad has just made it that much easier (and affordable) to find the perfect drill, lesson or exercise for any student.

Do you offer a lab time for your students?

How do you track app scores for your students?

Do you want to learn more about adding a lab to you lessons?


I'd be happy to help!