When I was a new teacher, I experienced a particular dread that I can still recall quite vividly: that of not remembering which song one of my students was working on. The student would come in, perhaps after I had already been teaching for 5 hours straight, and my mind would suddenly go blank as I tried to recall what we had worked on in the previous week. “Are they on Allegro, or did we start Perpetual Motion?… Have we started learning shifting yet?…Have they played the C Major scale yet?” The whole time while these thoughts were swimming through my head, I was also trying to listen to my student playing their warm-up and think of something helpful to say. You can imagine that this was not the most productive scenario!
I would try to take notes on each students’ lesson, but as I am sure other teachers will appreciate, trying to write anything coherent while also managing the transitions between lessons, while a 4-year-old student may or may not be having a meltdown or an 8-year-old student may not understand the concept of hurrying, well… you get the idea. I needed something quick and easy that I could reference at each lesson to get a good overview of what I had covered with each student. Introducing: the student progress charts. Armed with a decent working knowledge of table tools, I created a progress chart for each Suzuki book, which could be used for the entire semester.
Here is a sample of what it looks like for a Book 1 viola student:
I have a key that I use to quickly fill out the chart every week. A check mark means we have played the entire piece. For new pieces, a “P” will mean preview, or I may be even more specific and write “1/2” meaning we have learned the first half. If there is a particular song or exercise I want to make sure we get to in the next week, I will mark that week’s square with a circle.
There have been several unanticipated benefits to using these charts, but the greatest has been peace of mind. I no longer have to wonder if I have been consistently teaching vibrato, or doing enough review, or progressing to new songs in a reasonable time frame because I can see the entire semester at a glance. Because I have this “bird’s eye view” of that student over a longer time period, I can also spot red flags. If a student has been on Minuet No. 1 for 10 weeks, I know we have a problem. Before it was difficult to spot those kinds of long-term trends.
A few months ago, in a discussion on the ISTEX Suzuki Facebook Group (if you’re not a member, join now because the discussion is awesome), I shared how I use my excel-like tool and was surprised to have a large number of teachers ask to see it. To make my progress charts readily available, I recently added them to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. For either viola or violin books 1 through 4, you can download a file for $3 and can print as many as you want for your whole studio. Here is the product listing for viola and for violin. The charts are not currently editable (that may take a while, because there are so many fields to fill out), but that is a long-term plan of mine and for now there are blank fields in each chart so you can add your own songs or exercises.
I very much hope this will be a help as you begin the New Year and new semester. Please let me know in a comment if you find this to be useful, or if you have any tips and tricks for keeping track of your own students’ progress.