Yesterday I taught 8 lessons. Of those 8 lessons I believe two students practiced this week. And I spent 15 minutes of one student’s lesson watching the student search the room for any trace of her books (we were online). Mom joined in the fun and was also unsuccessful in finding them. The lesson started with the student telling me she had practiced … but I have other suspicions.
I was already tired, and this did not make for a pleasant day. Now I tell you all this because I’m sure you can relate. As much as I love teaching, there are bad days. And bad days remind me that I need to be constantly adapting and working towards what each student needs most.
This can change depending on the student, but there are also over-arching needs that each student has. And although simply sitting at the piano and practicing is one of those needs, today I want to focus on the need of knowing HOW to practice.
Let’s face it … the tendency (even for myself) is to sit at the piano, play through some pieces that I already love and know how to play, gloss over the sections I need to work on, and move on to dinner. Whatever is cooking smells good and my thoughts have been more on food than piano the entire practice anyway!
At first glance, this looks like an unproductive practice session. But there is so much more going on behind the scenes. First, no progress was made. Which means motivation is being squelched as we speak. Second, bad habits were reinforced instead of being addressed. More frustration is ahead. And third, as frustration builds, the student is systematically working towards quitting lessons … without us or them even realizing it!
What?! Who knew?
Teaching our students HOW to practice truly is the key to keeping everything running smoothly. If good practice happens, less frustration is present, and the whole process runs like a well-oiled machine.
So how do we get there? Because it has been my experience that knowledgeable practicers don’t just appear overnight.
I’ve said it before and will say it again … “Repetition is the mother of learning.” And this is where our resource for the week comes in. This year I committed to working hard to enable my students to be better practicers. To fight through and conquer problem spots even when they’re at home without me looking over their shoulder. This means repeatedly reminding them how to practice well.
Jenny Boster of The Playful Piano has created a great Practice Pack resource that has everything you need to get started in a fun and non-threatening way! She includes explanations, trading cards, coloring pages, 5×7 framable sizes, bingo, and more! There is no end to the possibilities of using them in your studio, and the funny titles and graphics add life to the monotony of repeated reminders.
I created personalized practice packs for my student’s Christmas gifts last year. They came with a highlighter, pencil, sticky notes, erasers, and some Christmas candy. This year we have been putting a practice tip a week in their pack. I love this because they are held accountable for everything we’ve talked about! Parents also now have a resource to refer to quickly in the thick of everyday practice.
The back of my door is also decorated with the 5×7 size so each tip can easily be referenced in the lesson.
To top it off, I put the weekly practice tip up on our studio Facebook page and in the newsletter I send out to parents each week.
If repetition is the mother of learning, then the more we talk about smart ways to practice, the more accomplished my students will be! Let me encourage you to branch out and use this fantastic resource in your studio. What are some other ways you can incorporate these practice tips into your student’s learning?
Check out today’s fun resource HERE 🙂
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