Using Teaching Tools in Lessons

Using Teaching Tools in Lessons

Written by Susan Lawrence 

As you know, there are so many strategies used in effective teaching. Recognizing the student’s lifestyle, schedule, and learning style is important in knowing what I can set for expectations. Students teach me about themselves. I am constantly adapting my teaching approach in order to keep the lessons moving in a positive direction. It is important to me to use as many tools as possible to assist the student in learning and gaining a sense of accomplishment so they will spend the rest of their life learning.

iPad & Other Tech

The one tool I love using in my lessons is technology, specifically the IPad. Much to my delight, many families own one and purchase the apps I use which encourages more practice.

Some students need more time than others to grasp a concept or work on coordination. They may have the desire to accomplish a task but it can get frustrating reaching the goal. I find technology to be a great asset in my lessons. I am able to redirect a student if they are getting frustrated and give them a mental break by working on the IPad. Students love the technology and use of the IPad and their interest is rekindled when they use it. There are wonderful apps that reinforce skills that I teach. Working on the IPad excites them and directs them to reaching my goals of reading music and playing the piano.

Students who are very young and have a short attention span benefit by trying out a variety of Apps. Even the use of the IPencil drawing the staff or treble clef etc…Students build their skills and have a renewed spirit of accomplishment. 

As their skills develop and they improve on their reading and playing, I find we use the IPad less and less and we are on a wonderful path of playing the piano.

As a teacher I feel we need to stay up to date with the use of technology because that is the direction of our future generations. The return on the investment into an IPad is worth it. From a business perspective, it’s tax deductible. I also keep my calendar updated, track mileage, banking, invoices and receipts. I have it loaded with music and I use it at my gigs. I am sure there are tablets that are just as functional. I just happen to be an IPad user. I recognized the value of this tool when I was teaching in the classroom.

Projecting from a computer, laptop or iPad involves the entire classroom in the learning process and captivates their attention.

Post-It Notes

Another tool that I find important to use is Post-it notes. I typically break down the learning of a new song into several stages; right hand first, left hand, hands together, practice hands together, to a fine-tune, fine-tune. I will write that on the top of the post it note and stick it to the song that they are working on so that the post it is slightly sticking out of the book to remind them where they need to practice. By breaking down the learning process for them, they will see progress week to week.

Each week they get a new note with the next step written on it which shows them they are progressing. It also reminds me what they are working on. As they mature in their learning I will give them the choice of what to write on their note. Sometimes they write fine-tune when I would have written more practice. So now, they are setting their own goals, living up to their expectations and learning what they can reasonably expect of themselves.

I can also fold a Post-it note into an arrow or use an already made one to point to a specific passage of music where they need to focus their practice on. They are starkly reminded about my instructions without having to look it up in a different book. I also avoid the forgetful student forgetting what they were expected to do.


With parental permission, you can also take a video of a student playing a song. When they get discouraged you now have a recorded version of their progress to show them how well they have done. Remember how difficult that first scale was; see how smooth circle of fifths is now…

Most importantly, students need encouragement along the way and a sense of accomplishment. The gold star stamped on an accomplished piece of music is just as valuable today as it was many years ago. I use a stamp and a stamp pad and allow the student to stamp that song as finished.

To cap this off; my philosophy to teaching piano lessons can be used in any setting. Use whatever tool works to set the student on a path of learning whatever it is they came to learn. And always find ways to show them their progress.


Want more tips? Check out the rest of our Educator Resources.

Susan was raised in a family of singers and piano players. She started traditional piano lessons with a focus on classical music at the age of six from Richard Ouellette of Salem Massachusetts and in high school from Alicia Pocharski of Marblehead Massachusetts. Susan got married at 19 and started a family at 20. She always practiced and played the piano in the evening. It was through neighbors listening and word of mouth that she started on the path to teaching piano over 30 years ago. From there, she went on to teaching in a private Catholic elementary school where she developed a music program consisting of general music, recorder class and beginner band. Susan volunteered her piano skills in church and eventually secured a position at her current parish, The Parish of the Transfiguration, as the music director. She has branched out private instruction from her home to Music & Arts. She has a love for learning new instruments. Along with piano she has worked with Organ, fiddling, flute and currently Celtic harp. She is most proud of her five children and four grandchildren but must mention my fifth child became a music educator. 

Her students three most favorite apps for lessons are: Rhythm Cat by LMuse, LTD – Piano Learning Games by Petnik, LLC -Sheet Music Treble Game by Bidbox

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