Before the School Year Starts

Organization and communication are key, and there are a number of administrative tasks that, when and where possible, should be taken care of before the students are even back to classes in the fall.  

Here’s a checklist to consider.

Dates for activities or events 

  • Where possible, well in advance, pick dates for major performances and other activities that will occur outside the regular school day.  
    • Be sure to consult with other departments in the school and be mindful of the school calendar.  
      • If you need to use the school’s gym, theatre or other area, make sure you first check for availability. 
      • Try and avoid planning events on dates when you know your students will have major academic exams, are involved with a drama production or a school sports tournament, etc. Band kids are often very busy, high-achieving kids that are involved in many things at the school. Considering and negotiating dates with other departments to accommodate students is valuable in avoiding conflicts and creating a good working relationship with colleagues.  
    • Make sure venues like camps and performance spaces are booked well in advance. Typically these venues book up early, so be that “early-bird” to avoid needing to choose less desirable performance dates and locations.  

Instruments, method books, handbooks, course outlines

  • If your school or organization maintains an instrument inventory, make sure that school-owned instruments are accounted for and in good working order. Take care of necessary repairs/maintenance before the school year starts. 
  • Maintain an up-to-date inventory of method books, instrument supplies, theory books or any other materials that will be issued to students and where possible, order materials in time to get them before the school year starts. 
  • If possible, get class lists and obtain contact information for incoming and returning students and their parents well in advance. By doing so, a number of necessary information items will likely be determined. 
    • Confirm what instruments students play and your subsequent instrument inventory and rental requirements may be addressed. 
      • If this is done before the summer break you may be able to encourage some students to get a head start on playing a new instrument based on instrumentation needs for the fall.   
    • Confirm instrument-specific method books that you may require. Knowing what you need early on allows you to order and ideally, receive required materials in advance of the students needing them.
    • Through hard copy or email mail-out you may provide things like a “welcome to the new school year” message along with information that could include a student handbook, an outline of student expectations, a listing of tentative dates and activities, a request for parent volunteers, etc. 
  • Based on curricular outcomes, create course outlines indicating what general concepts students will be learning, what skills they will be acquiring and how they will be evaluated. Students (and their parents) appreciate structure and by demonstrating that your plans are conceived beyond learning how to perform a few tunes for a concert or festival this gives your instruction more credibility. 

Year planning

  • Develop a ‘big-picture’ idea on performance expectations, repertoire to choose, units of study, skill development and student evaluation.
    • Begin with the end in mind and what you plan on having your students learn based on curricular expectations, potential performances and the repertoire you choose for your students to learn.  
      • Choosing effective and appropriate repertoire needs to be your first consideration. What we choose for our students to play defines what we want them to learn. Read more about considerations on choosing repertoire.  
      • Plan how often you will evaluate your students and how evaluation will be implemented. 
        • Will you test them once a week? Once a month? Only before reporting periods? Only at year end?, etc. 
        • Will you assess them individually? In small groups? In the front of their classmates?  In private? By electronic means?, etc. 
        • What will you evaluate them on?  
          • Evaluation could and should include a measure of their basic technical skills like their ability to play scales, intervals or various scale patterns.  
          • Evaluation could and should include an assessment of their ability to perform various rhythmic elements or their even ability to sight read. 
          • Evaluation could also include an evaluation of their ability to perform their repertoire.
          • Evaluation could be a measure of their knowledge of various theoretical concepts.  
          • Evaluation could be a measure of their effort and attitude in their demonstration of their personal responsibility for their learning. 

The point is that you have an understanding of the curriculum you are teaching and have a plan for student learning. By providing some checks along the way with  assessment, you will gain a better understanding of whether your students are actually meeting learning expectations. Regular evaluation allows us to provide students feedback on their learning and allows us to adjust our teaching to meet their needs.

It goes without saying that structure and routine go a long way in ensuring that our students are being supported in their learning.

Get more ideas on student assessment.