The new school year has officially begun! After a couple of weeks of much-needed vacation, my students and I started fall lessons last week… which meant it was time to unveil our new studio theme for the year:
For the last couple of years, we’ve tracked student progress using themed visual syllabus sheets that slide into the cover of each student’s assignment binders (you can check out our previous syllabus sheets here and here). Each syllabus includes a variety of musicianship goals (sightreading, ear training, rhythm, repertoire, performance, creative projects, etc.) that coincide with the state-based curriculum syllabus we use in our studio.
Here’s a peek at this year’s Shoot for the Stars syllabus:
As students work toward and complete their goals, we have fun adding stickers and doodles to the sheet. It becomes quite colorful by the end of the year!
I’ve found that I really like using syllabus-based incentives for several reasons:
- Keeping a visual record of their accomplishments is a great motivator for students (much like checking things off a check-list is for many adults).
- The syllabus gives parents an idea of the many skills we work on through the year, and an at-a-glance view of their child’s progress.
- It’s quick and easy to use in lessons – we simply add a sticker or check mark as goals are completed (no tallying points, counting out music money, etc.).
For a little extra motivation, in addition to working on their individual syllabus sheets, students will also be working together to earn three fun studio rewards. Each week that they meet or exceed their practice goal, they’ll get to add a sticker to one of the musical “constellations” that have appeared in the studio (at left). When each constellation is complete, it’s time for a little fun! Here’s what we’ll be doing to celebrate our accomplishments:
Challenge #1: Piano PJ Week – Pajamas, funky bedtime hairdos and stuffed animals are welcome at group lessons for a week
Challenge #2: Kid’s Choice lesson – students will get to choose their own pieces and select from a “menu” of games and activities at a private lesson (if they’ve been dying to work on the song at the back of their book, it’s the week to try it!)
Challenge #3: End of Year Ice Cream & Music Game Party (last year’s party was such a hit, it just may become an annual last-week-of-school event)
I’ve included a group element in my incentive program for a number of years now, and find that it can be incredibly motivating for many of my students. Adding a star to the wall gives them a non-competitive, public way to display their achievement – something to point to and be able to say “I did that!” I’ve also found that opportunities to build camaraderie and have fun with their piano peers are just as rewarding for my students as earning trophies or other awards (they’re also less expensive and more fun!).
You can download the syllabus sheet from the Studio Aids page. It’s available as a PDF file, and also in an editable MS Publisher version, for those of you who have Publisher. The sheets print on 11 x 17 (tabloid) paper. (Note: My home printer doesn’t accommodate tabloid-size pages, so I always have my syllabus sheets printed at a local print store.)