As we all know, one of our top challenges as music teachers is motivating our students to practice. Happily, some students are intrinsically motivated and will come to lessons well-practiced and well-prepared. When this happens I can hear the angels in heaven singing and can see the planets aligning in orbit. 🙂
But most of us need a little push. The best way to reinforce a behavior is to reward it. Fortunately, with a little planning, some excitement from the teacher and a prize basket stocked by Amazon, we can reinforce a healthy practice routine somewhat easily.
This year my practice challenge was modeled on last year’s challenge. As I evaluated last year’s challenge, I felt the students had responded well to the challenge and achieved a rhythm of weekly practice because of it. This point became a criteria I use in developing a practice challenge: “Can the student develop a weekly practice rhythm?” This means, does the practice challenge help students develop practice skills which can be consistently maintained.
Other criteria I ask when developing the practice challenge:
- Will the reward be sufficient to encourage practice? How often will the student be rewarded?
- What happens if a student exceeds my expectations? Are there extra goals/prizes to work for?
Since the challenge was based on last year’s challenge, the plan was very similar to what I had used last year. It went like 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 line or space on the staff 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 prize in 500 minute increments: 500, 1000, 1500, etc.
A special prize (Dairy Queen gift card) was awarded when the student reached the top of treble clef. This was 2300 minutes practiced, or 115 practice sessions for younger students.
Some students have already completed the board once and are starting over. They were awarded the DQ gift card and given a colored ribbon to designate the fact that they have completed the board and are on their second round.
Results so far
So far most students have been motivated to practice at least 100 minutes a week, or in the case of younger students, 5 practice sessions. The students seem to be enjoy earning a small prize, even if it’s just a cute little eraser or pencil. Having practice goals help to define their practice sessions, and we talk a lot in the lesson about what to do in practice. The best part about practicing is…you get better! In the end that is the best and most fulfilling reward of all.
The treble and bass clef cut outs are from Susan Paradis. The magnetic push pins are from Amazon.
Other Practice Challenge Ideas
If you would like to read about other practice challenges from previous years, follow these links:
2013-14 The Wall of Wow and recap
2014-15 Bead Chains
2015-16 Brag Tags
2016-17 Practice Challenge