Each year I try to develop a new studio-wide challenge to reward and support my students to excel in one or more main aspects of musical development. Some of the reward challenges from previous years have been The Wall of Wow, Bead Chains, and Brag Tags.
This year my main goal was to promote healthy practice habits. My simple plan was to count and reward practice minutes throughout the entire school year (middle of August – middle of May) of piano lessons.
I bought magnetic boards, drew straight lines on them and hot-glued them to the inside of the closet door; printed out and laminated keyboards to count minutes; and made magnets for each student.
The simple plan was this:
1. Beginning and young students were asked to keep track of their practice sessions, or how many times (not how many minutes) they practiced.
2. Students in approximately second – eighth grade were asked to keep track of their practice minutes.
3. Students older than fifth grade were given the option of whether they would participate (most did choose to participate).
4. Students older than eighth grade did not count their practice minutes.
Younger students moved up a level (we called it leveling up 🙂 ) for every five practice sessions. They earned a prize from the prize bucket for every 25 practice sessions (or five levels on the magnet board).
Older students moved up a level for every 100 minutes they practiced. They earned a prized in 500 minute increments: 500, 1000, 1500, etc.
A special prize (Dairy Queen gift card) was awarded at the 2500 minute/125 session level.
The top of the magnet board was 4300 minutes of practice/215 practice sessions. Eight students were able to achieve that goal and received a special bag. Many of those students chose to start climbing the board again and were thus designated with a special blue ribbon.
The plan worked well. Most students were able to move up a level every week. I think it’s encouraging, motivational, and community-building for students to see the progress of their peers, which is why I always have the challenge results hanging somewhere in the studio.
Here are the stats from the end of the year:
There were seven younger/beginner students who counted their practice sessions. Collectively they practiced 753 times from mid-August to mid-May.
There were 23 students who counted their practice minutes. Together they practiced 87,555 minutes (that’s over 1,459 hours!).
Not only was the time spent practicing impressive, the results were impressive too. At the end of the year, I discussed with each student how their practicing directly improved their skills and applauded them for time well spent!
I believe it is invaluable to point out and reward practicing, or any other skill you as a teacher are seeking to improve upon in your students. When you draw attention to good behaviors, practices and skills, your students will begin to value those as well.