JWY! Teacher Resource Blog

No-Sweat Student Assessment

Posted by Merrily James on May 18, 2018 2:19:45 PM

Playing Through Time: A No-Sweat “End Of Year” Student Assessment For Parents

JWY-0817-1-84Lessons are coming to a close for another year. In the next few weeks most families will decide if they are going to continue on with lessons… so it is really important that piano teachers give them every reason to keep on, keepin’ on. 

And there’s no better way to communicate the importance of piano lesson participation than by sharing with parents the progress their children have made this year.

Keep reading below as we share a simple and effective end-of-year assessment strategy called, Playing Through Time (idea from Andrew and Trevor Dow). 




Nothing demonstrates a student’s progress better than a visual and aural demonstration. When demonstrated, even the most “non-musical” of parents can gain a good understanding of their child’s progress and development. But demonstration is not just for the parents; you can say goodbye to hours of report-writing time!

“Play Through Time” is a simple and effective way to show parents piano student progress. It takes just a week or two of in-lesson prep by going over tunes your students should be playing anyway.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Prior to Demonstration Day have your student select four pieces to prepare: 1) the first should be a very early piece he learned as a new piano student (dig back into your primer method books and have him select a piece that he remembers with fondness), 2) the second should be a piece he learned at the start of the current teaching year (seek out a “September favorite”), 3) the third should be one that your student was playing mid-way through the current year, 4) and the fourth should be one that he is currently working on, but that is ready for a “mini-performance”. If your student is brand new and only began this year, decrease this list by one piece.
  2. During lesson time, help your student review and prepare each of the four pieces. It’s important for your student to do some self-assessment during this process by noticing the changes in difficulty from piece to piece; remembering any struggles he had with the older pieces, and calling attention to his current abilities and how the pieces he learned in the past have contributed to his playing abilities.
  3. Send a personalized email to your student’s parent(s) asking them to attend the first half of their child’s lesson at a specified date (you can use my email template below):
  4. When Demonstration Day comes, welcome parents to their child’s lesson. Working in order of oldest to newest piece, have your student introduce each piece and, before playing it, discuss when he first learned the piece, what he liked/likes about it, and what used to be difficult about the piece.
  5. When all 4 pieces have been performed, ask for feedback from parents. Enjoy the warm-fuzzy sharing that will ensue. You can then continue the lesson as normal after saying, “goodbye” to Mom and Dad or you can invite them to participate in a rousing piano game!


Hi Janet and Steve,

It’s the end of our teaching term (already!) and Aidan and I would love to invite you to attend the first half of his next lesson. I like to provide piano parents with a good snap-short of their children’s progress and I’ve found that the best way to do this is with something that I call a “play through time” demonstration. This will give you the chance to see (in-person) the wonderful progress that Aidan has made on the piano this year.

He’s very excited to share his accomplishments and I can’t wait for you to be amazed by how much he has learned!

Could you let me know if you will be able to attend?

Thank you so much,