Guest post by Natalie Weber
What if you could do one thing that would motivate students, energize your teaching, elicit gratitude from parents, and increase the value of your studio offerings? I know it sounds too good to be true, but after seventeen years of incorporating a yearly practice incentive theme in my studio, I know it works!
The idea was borne out of a remembrance of the monotony of my own piano lessons growing up coupled with the enthusiasm of a favorite school teacher who was a master at coming up with fun incentives to keep us third graders excited about school and striving for excellence. In my early years of
dreading teaching piano lessons, I wondered, couldn’t piano lessons encompass more than a sticker on a page and belabored preparations for an annual recital? Couldn’t there be joy in the journey as well as in the end result? In short, couldn’t piano lessons be inspiring for all involved – the teacher, the student, and the parent?
I started small with a “Practice Your Way to a Party” theme one semester, but then quickly branched into full-blown yearly themes that provide a framework for students to work toward specific goals while tracking their progress in various ways. They’ve climbed ladders by learning dozens of pieces of repertoire (“Climbing the Ladder to Success“), they’ve collected power cards while striving to grow in character and competence (“C2“), they’ve collected team points while developing fluent technical skills (“Go For The Gold“), they’ve decoded clues by mastering musical challenges of their choosing (“Mastering the Mystery of Music“), and much more!
This year we just wrapped up “Vanishing Voices: a musical race against time!“, where students accumulated miles each week in order to travel the world and collect composers for their portfolio before time ran out! My students strategized to figure out the best route each week, played new pieces that they learned on their own after analyzing the musical elements in them, drilled scales and arpeggios until they were fluent, counted the rhythm of their assigned repertoire without being told to do so, eagerly performed pieces for friends and family, faithfully completed assigned worksheets, and researched the lives of famous composers throughout history. They learned. They excelled. They had fun.
If you’re feeling worn out or bored as a teacher, your students are lacking motivation, or your studio parents are frustrated from nagging their children to practice, consider incorporating a practice incentive theme in your studio next year. Let’s re-energize our teaching and embrace the inspiring calling that has been entrusted to us as piano teachers who are impacting the next generation one lesson at a time!
Natalie Weber is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music and has operated a private music studio in Derby, Kansas since 1998. She teaches a wide range of ages in private lessons and loves dreaming up creative ways to motivate and inspire her students. You can read more ideas and check out all her studio practice incentive themes in the store at MusicMattersBlog.com.