New Practice Helper

Meet the newest member of my studio!

At our state conference a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a wonderful workshop by Betty Todd Smith titled “You Like to Practice?  Why???” As a part of the presentation, she discussed fun and creative ideas to help students learn to repeat tricky passages.  The one that grabbed me?  Mr. Potato Head!  Students start with an “empty” potato, then get to add a piece each time they successfully play the passage in question.

I had NO idea how big a hit this would be with my students.  For the last 2 weeks, they’ve been coming to lessons asking if they get to play the Potato Head game again!   With a few, I had to get creative to find a good reason to work him into their lessons.  So far, Mr. Potato Head has helped us:

  • Practice tricky passages
  • Drill our note names (for every 2 notes students name, they get to add a piece)
  • Drill interval recognition by ear (again, every 2 correct intervals and they get to add a piece)

When he hasn’t been busy helping us in lessons, he’s also come in very handy in entertaining waiting siblings.  This just might turn out to be the best $8 I’ve spent this summer!!



New Practice Helper — 13 Comments

  1. Sheryl –

    I’ve tried a ton of things, too. With the exception of the couple of times I’ve let kids earn M&M’s or Skittles for correct repetitions, this is by FAR the most fun we’ve had with a practice game! 🙂

  2. You are very innovative and I love your ideas. I’ve been teaching for years (and years …) and can still appreciate new ideas. In fact I know I get in a rut. I’m going to try the Potato Head game — as soon as I can find a Potato Head.

  3. LOVE this idea! I’m going to steal it when I start teaching Glen. He loves Potato Head, especially the extra parts we got at Downtown Disney last summer!

  4. For all of you thinking of going Potato Head shopping… it should be an easy find. I was surprised when I got to the store to find a whole shelf of different Potato Heads, thanks to the recent release of Toy Story 3. I had NO idea there were so many different Potato Head options!!!

    @Amy – Good to hear from you – It’s been a while!

  5. Mr. Potato Head has to be one of the toys with the most longevity on the market – for good reason! Got to get one! The real trick will be keeping my daughter and her neighborhood friends from stealing it off the piano. Maybe I should get two…

  6. Sounds terrific. Question tho…do you use Mr. Potato Head with one student at a time, clearing off the parts to start with a clean head for each new student? Or does the next student simply get to add their parts to whichever ones the previous student added? Also, is the goal for each “round” of play to complete the potato with all possible parts that can be used placed on the potato?

    • Cecilly –

      I’ve always used him in private lessons, with one student at a time. When we get ready to work through a passage, or do a deck of flashcards, we start with a “clean” head, then generally work until we have all of the parts on. If we’re really pressed for time, I’ll let the student pick out a designated number of pieces (i.e. 5 pieces for 5 repetitions), and make it our goal to get just those on the head.


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