How to Create a Curriculum Plan - Part 1: Know What to Teach In Your Studio

How to Create a Curriculum Plan – Part 1

One of the hardest parts of being an independent instrument teacher is creating a curriculum plan. When you know what to teach, it is so easier to guide students throughout the year so they make consistent progress.

Unlike teaching in a school system, there is no governing board that determines what you will teach each year. Unless you teach from a particular set of method books. But, more on why you should expand beyond just one method book below.

So, how do you create a curriculum plan? Especially if you have not gotten any training in curriculum development beforehand?

Method Books 101

There are some really great advantages to using method books … and some big disadvantages as well. Like many things in life, too much of a good thing quickly becomes limiting.


Method books typically have:

  • Researched which concepts are necessary for students to learn
  • Leveled those concepts
  • Repertoire from a variety of sources to (hopefully) give variety

The leveled books often let you know what to teach … and which order to teach it in.

In my studio, I use over 10 different method book series with my students. This doesn’t mean that every student will play songs from every single method books series. But, it does mean they are available to each student throughout their time in the studio.

While this may seem excessive, this was done quite deliberately.

Why spend hours upon hours researching:

  • Childhood development?
  • Repertoire from across many genres and parts of the world?

Especially when an organization has done the hard work!

We do not need to reinvent the wheel. We just need to use it effectively and efficiently.


Not every student learns the same or has the same interests. Rarely does a student have one style of music they like throughout their whole life.

“As an effective teacher, you are a chameleon. To be effective, you need to know what tool to use to get the job done.”

(Nick Ambrosino, “Coffee With Ray”)

Using the same method book series for every student for the entirely of their piano lesson just doesn’t make sense.

Using just one method book series assumes every student will need to:

  • Learn concepts in exactly the same order
  • Need the same amount of repertoire to master the concepts

It also assumes that every student in your studio will respond the same way to the layout and repertoire in your favourite method book series. And, that just isn’t true.

You need to choose the right tool for each student. And that means having a larger tool box.

Know What to Teach

The first step in creating a curriculum plan is … know what to teach at each level.

While it sounds easy, I understand this is a little like saying “Improvise a new melody.” to someone who has never improvised. It’s too big of step.

This is where method books come in.

When I decided to move away from just starting at the beginning of a method book and getting a student to play to the end, I was rather stuck. What on earth was I suppose to teach then?

Over the years, my husband’s engineering approach has rubbed off onto me. And, I did something shocking (at least if my 20-year old self could see me now).

I did an analysis of all the method books I had.

Did you know that the majority of method books tend to cover the same concepts in roughly the same order?

1. Make a Plan

For this initial step, make a plan that covers the main concepts at a particular level. While we teach individuals, there will be a lot of overlap in what students at each level will cover.

In order to individualize, you need a general plan first.

2. Determine Appropriate Repertoire

Look at the books you already have. Which songs cover the next-step concepts your student needs to continue progressing?

And, which concepts are perhaps a little light in current repertoire choices?

3.andnbsp; Budget for Additional Repertoire

There is no reason to not continue using your preferred method books. But, they will not meet the needs of every student in your studio.

Budget to expand your collection over the next years. Yes, years.

You need to have a profitable studio. And, spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars on new repertoire will blow your budget right out of the water.

Better to start with small changes than have a lot of books collecting dust on your bookshelf.

4. Research New Repertoire Options

Write out the songs that are hands-down student favourites. Not your favourites, but student favourites. This will give you an idea of what types of songs your students will absolutely love.

On YouTube, there are multiple playlists of all the songs within each level of the majority of big method book series.

Before purchasing, listen to a few playlists to determine whether the songs included will be a fit for any of your students.

If the answer is yes, purchase away! If the answer is no, you have saved yourself money and bookshelf space.

Make each book purchase count, knowing that your students will want to play the songs and you will be teaching the concepts that matter.

A Plan Going Forward

Once you have a general plan of what concepts you will cover at each level and a list of books to purchase to fill out your bookshelves … the next step is to individualize that plan for each student.

What questions do you have about creating a curriculum plan?

Let me know in the comment below!


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