3 Non-Piano Books That Changed How I Teach

Teachers should be lifelong learners, right? One of my favourite ways to learn is through books – and I don’t mean just piano-teacher books.

These three books all made a big difference to my teaching in ways that I might not have predicted before starting them.

Note: I happened to listen to the audiobooks for all of these, too, so I’m happy to recommend that medium if you enjoy audiobooks.

Book 1: ‘Practice Perfect’ by Doug Lemov, Erica Woolway and Katie Yezzi

I was a bit torn between including this book and ‘Make It Stick’ by Peter C. Brown. I read Brown’s book first, but I’m recommending ‘Practice Perfect’ in this article because it has a lot of the same ideas but I think it’s more directly applicable for music teachers.

Many of the “rules” in this book will be things you already do. But you’ll find many new ideas as well.

One of my favourites is Rule 29: “Call Your Shots”. Having students say out loud what they are trying to do with their next repetition of a scale, piece or section is extremely powerful. It makes them honest with themselves in a way that gives them instant feedback.

Book 2: ‘How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen’ by Joanna Faber and Julie King

This second book in my list is aimed at parents. You’ll have to tweak the advice based on the situations we’re encountering as teachers (e.g. we’re not trying to get our students to cross a shopping centre carpark).

If you’re having trouble with behaviour in your studio, this is a great read. The audiobook for this one is particularly fantastic with multiple voices that make it a fun listen.

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Book 3: ‘Punished by Rewards’ by Alfie Kohn

Controversial, this book may cause you to scowl as he questions things you’ve been doing in your teaching studio for a long time. But sometimes, that’s exactly what we need.

Our teaching doesn’t get revolutionised by reading books that we can nod along with. That may feel nice…but it’s not always what the doctor ordered.

In ‘Punished by Rewards’, Alfie Kohn questions the use of rewards in education. And by “rewards” he doesn’t just mean candy, gold stars or prize boxes. He’s including many forms of praise and incentive charts, too.

Did I end up agreeing with everything he said? 


But it did shake up many beliefs and practices in my studio. And I love a book that really makes me think.

Fair warning: This book is a bit dense and, in my humble opinion, could’ve been edited to about half the word count. Listening to the audiobook is how I’ve gotten through this hurdle twice.

What non-piano books have changed your teaching?

In the comments below, I’d love to hear where you draw inspiration from.

For more professional development magic, check out the Colourful Keys hub page devoted to Your Music Studio Business.

2 thoughts on “3 Non-Piano Books That Changed How I Teach”

  1. These are great recommendations! I love Alfie Kohn’s work. It has caused me to balance my rewards with more intrinsic reinforcements! I’ve read “How to Talk” and will have to pick up the Practice book. Thanks!


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