Practice Tips for Teachers, Students and Their Parents
As piano teachers, we tend to think that what happens between lessons is out of our control.
We can highly encourage but, we ultimately can’t demand that parents require their pianist to reserve time for daily practice. Maybe some teachers can, this teacher does not.
And, even if we could control home practice, we can’t manage the after school birthday party or the rescheduled soccer game or the stomach flu that steal time away from those precious practice hours…well, more like minutes…
With the odds stacked against us, it’s amazing we don’t all throw our hands up in the air and give up. But we don’t because we are passionate about music and we know that the magnetism of making music draws people of all ages to the keys.
I believe that getting students on the home bench and keeping them there IS possible. Not because we have control but, because we have power. The power to transform the time between lessons with practice strategies that guarantee progress.
As I’ve recently moved my site over to Squarespace, I’ve updated a number of posts (thanks for your patience if things look quirky and links are broken in certain posts!) In the midst of the move, I’ve noticed that I like to post about practice: the power of solid practice skills and more specifically, the steps we need to include in our lessons to help students turn practice into progress.
In honor of the importance of practice, I’ve gathered specific past posts about practice as well as downloadable infographics for you to peruse, print and share in your studios to strengthen your grip on what happens between lessons.
I still give practice pouches (made with pencil pouches and various clever tools) to all new students. I had no idea when I wrote this current post that this was my first sentence from years ago…
As teachers, we have little control over what happens between lessons. Because of this, it's essential that we make time to teach purposeful practice strategies and use powerful tools that work at lessons and empower students' practice between lessons.
As I mentioned, we may not have control but we teachers do have power with… the help of practice pouches! You’ll learn what they are and how to stuff them full of tactile tools to empower your students with practice skills by reading this post: Turn Practice into Progress with Practice Pouches.
For those of you who already use practice pouches, here are some fresh ideas:
#1 Give each student a pill box filled with a few small candies or legos for each day of the week. Every time they practice they get to eat the treat or stack a lego. Remind them to bring the pillbox back to each lesson (in the practice pouch) to record when practice happened. Every time they bring it back, have a fresh supply of “practice pills” for them to refill the pillbox.
Get these nifty pill boxes here. You get two per pack so the price is reasonable.
#2 A while back, I landed some jumbo paper clips and students love using them for link and chain practice at lessons. Now I’ve found a whole pack of them at Amazon so students can borrow and take them home in their practice pouches. You can get the jumbo paper clips here.
Link and chain practice
Play a measure correctly to earn a paper clip. Play another measure correctly and earn another clip. Then play both measures together. Link the two paper clips together when both measures are played correctly. Continue and see how many paper clips can be linked together!
Research has proven that there are specific strategies involved with motivation that result in progress. In one of my favorite blogs, I explain my own experience with tactics that motivated me and then go on to explain the science behind it. One of the quotes speaks of the power we hold as teachers:
Teacher = equips students with skills to succeed.
Progress = holds the power to motivate.
Click on the title to read The Science Behind Practice and Motivation
Click on this link to download the scientifically proven practice strategies in a format that you can share with your student families: Six Scientifically Proven Practice Strategies
And, since music was made to share, we must equip our students with strategies for rock solid performances as well as rock solid recoveries from slip ups!
Performing is not about perfection, it’s about recovering from imperfection.
Click on this link to download the infographics and share these with your students: Five Ps of Performing and Ten Tips for a Top Performance
With your expertise, these ideas and infographics in hand, you hold the cards for developing strong practicers. But, there are important allies to recruit to amplify your teacher power—PARENTS.
We want, hope for, plead for, parental support at home. Quite often we expect them to know how to support their pianist, which isn’t always the case. It’s our job (and in our favor) to train and partner with parents by offering helpful tips. So, I’ve JUST finished up infographics for you to share with student parents.
Both infographics (ideal for a two-sided card) feature questions for parents to ask their pianists.
One side includes fresh questions for parents to ask after a lesson in place of the standard: “How was your lesson?”
The other side offers clever questions that equip parents to initiate daily practice by allowing their pianists to choose when and how practice will happen.
To get your infographics for parents, enter your email address below. Yes, you’ll be placed on my mailing list. I send newsletters about once a week and they are packed with teaching tips and resources.
Here’s to a great year of powerful teaching, practice and progress!