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Switching to online lessons during the pandemic has forced a number of changes about how violin lessons work. One significant change has been to shift the responsibility for taking notes from the teacher to the students and/or their parents. Here are some thoughts on that change, followed by specific advice for students, teachers and parents, to help you to take effective notes from your lessons.
I'm a teacher who has written a lot of notes for students. During Before Times, when teaching in-person lessons, I furiously scribbled notes and directions on a practice chart for students, trying to write down as much information as I could while simultaneously listening, teaching and demonstrating. Students and their parents were grateful - one parent even said, "I just realized, you do this for us every week - but you also do that for every single one of your students." It amounted to customized, handwritten, personal practice plan for each of my 25+ students, every week.
Sometimes this backfired, though. If I asked why something hadn’t improved, or why something wasn’t practiced a certain way, a parent or student might say, "You weren’t clear in how you wrote it on the practice chart," or even, "I guess I didn’t look at the chart when I practiced."
When we converted to online lessons, I decided to hand the task of taking notes over to my students and their parents. It was an enlightening decision. I asked my students to email me their notes before each lesson, so I could refer to them during the lesson. What an eye-opener! A number of different interpretations emerged: the lessons I thought I was teaching, the lessons my students were having, and the lessons the parents were observing.
Through all of this, I’ve learned a lot about note-taking, both from my own experience and from experience with my students. Here are some guidelines and strategies to help you or your students take effective notes during lessons that will help guide practice throughout the week:
For Students or Parents Taking Notes:
For Parents Coaching Children To Take Their Own Notes:
This is a labor-intensive process at the beginning, but it will ultimately save time during your week of practice and will result in greater progress as the students take more ownership and remember more details about their lessons!
For Teachers Transitioning to Parent Or Student Note-Taking
Here are two PDFs that I’ve created to help with note-taking, please feel free to print them out.
Lesson Notes Chart: This is a straightforward chart that a student or parent could use during a lesson.
Detailed Note-Taking Outline: This is a detailed template for taking outline notes. It can help you think through what kinds of things to look for and write down from your lessons. (Shoutout to my AP European History teacher, Mr. Kelly, for making me learn this in 10th grade. As you can see, it’s stayed with me all these years!)
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