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When you hear the word practice what is the first adjective you usually think about? Is it work, fun, boring, tedious, joyful? Practice, is usually a word that is usually dreaded among students. Yet, it is an important word. It’s what allows us to grow, get better at, progress and improve. So what can we do to make practicing more fun and efficient with our students?
I wanted to share some creative practice tools and ideas. Hopefully there is at least one that will inspire you and help motivate your students to enjoy the process of practicing!
Back in 2011 I shared a blog post about my practice kits that I give to students when they begin lessons. It was about 8 or 9 years prior to this after reading Philip Johnston’s, The Practice Revolution that I started giving practice kits to my students. You can read the original post here.
Many things that are included in my practice kit are practice games. The reason I love practice games so much is it’s a perfect tool for a more focused practice session. A lot of practice games are repetition games. Students need to make sure they are doing their sections/pieces correctly before they can move on. Time flies when practicing with a game!
I recently made a practice game resource that includes all the tools to use the practice games. (directions, dice, cards, spinner, tokens, etc.) Everything is ready to go!
What do you do if a teacher needs to go on an extended break like maternity leave? About a month ago Corrine Aronhalt, a teacher member of the Piano FunMakers Facebook group shared what she did with her students while she was off for maternity leave. I loved the idea and with her permission wanted to share it with all of you.
Corrine shared, “Each student’s packet contains 8 envelopes (labeled “Week 1”, “Week 2″, etc.). Inside each envelope is a mini lesson introducing a new concept, a practice assignment for the week, a theory worksheet, a prize of some kind, and a music joke or cartoon or a quick note from me.” Corrine explained that she charged 50% of what she normally charges for tuition. Here is a picture of her practice packets.
I really loved this idea and since I will never use it for a maternity leave, Corrine made me think that practice packets can really be done ANYTIME for ANY REASON. And especially useful for the summer time if students have a break at all.
Since I subscribe to a lot of online resources which allow me to reproduce piano pieces, games and more I thought this idea would be perfect to offer Digital Practice Packets for the summer. To simplify this idea even more, I would create packets in levels. This way I can use the same packet for multiple students.
My plan is to offer a summer practice packet that would include about 4-6 weeks worth of practice tools. (I am thinking of offering two options). Each week would include 2 pieces, a practice and/or theory game and a link to a brief video message from me. The video message will highlight their pieces and games.
Because I hold summer camp early in the summer, my students have over 6 weeks of a break before they start back in the fall. I do some other things to keep encouraging practicing (will share next…), but the idea of practice packets is the ‘cherry on top’ if families decide to take advantage of it.
Practice Prop Project
Have I mentioned how much I love Philip Johnston’s resources? I believe it was on his website, PracticeSpot.com many years ago that he wrote about practice prop projects. I took this idea and ran with it with my students and hold a Fall Kickoff when students return from their summer break and share their practice prop projects.
Here is my first post about our first practice prop project summer back in 2011… We still enjoy doing practice prop projects each summer!
If you want to see more posts related to this subject just search for “Fall Kickoff” or “Practice Prop Projects” in the search bar.
A couple times a year I like to hold practice contests. I usually hold these when we are on a significant break like December and summertime. With practice contests I like to choose a “mystery minute” where if students reach that many minutes of practicing they will receive a treat regardless if they are the “winner” or not. I’ve chosen the mystery minute a couple different ways. First, I’ve chosen a number that I felt was reasonable and would like students to have done. Second, I’ve added up ALL the students practice times and divided it into an “average”. Whatever that average was ended up being the mystery minute.
One of my favorite workshops that I have done several times with my students is a practice workshop. I highly recommend doing this with your students every few years. I found that even when students have done it before a few years prior it is a brand new experience because they are older, they have forgotten and they are in a different level than they were back then. So what do we do in a practice workshop? Here is an old blog post that will explain!
Practice Incentive Programs
Well if you have been reading my blog for awhile then you know that I LOVE to do yearly practice incentive programs with my students. Frankly, holding these programs in my studio keeps me from burning out. I look forward to them I think just as much as my students. I’ve shared a bunch on my blog but you can also find some of them here. We are finishing up our magical quest this year. It’s been quite the ride! Now it’s time to think of what I will be doing next! The fun never ends!
If you haven’t heard of Tonara, you must check it out. It is a practice app that connects teachers and students. Teachers can send assignments, record (audio and video), message students, student practice support chat groups, student practice points and more! I’m a huge fan and supportive affiliate. Which means if you decide to try it you can save your first year when you use the code: MER20. Check it all here.
There are so many books that are relevant to practicing. I thought I would share a few of my favorites.
- The Practice Revolution
- Shhh… your Piano Teacher thinks this is Practice! (Read my review here)
- 101 Practice Tips (Read my review here)
I came up with this practice steps checklist after a student was coming to lessons that was a good practicer, practicing daily at home but wasn’t getting through what I felt like he should have been. I asked the Mom if a checklist would help and so the practice checklist was born. Shortly after that I realized this same checklist would work well for another student of mine who has a hard time focusing. Soon enough I was sharing this checklist with all my students.
Combine a checklist with a fun practice game and students are sure to practice with a more focused and enjoyable practice session.
If you have a student who is really tactile, practice charts would work well for these students. Sometimes just getting to color or mark their practice days is enough to motivate them. You can download the summer practicing chart above for free by clicking on the picture. I made a set of practice charts for the entire year specifically with coloring in mind. I felt that if the practice charts were screaming for color and fun it would motivate them to want to practice more so they can have the chart completely done. Do you use practice charts?