Jump-Start Your January!

Do your students need a little extra motivation this time of the year?  Christmas (and Christmas break) is over, back to school means back to homework, the days are short and the weather is cold.  That can all add up to a case of the “blahs”… and not much desire to practice with a lot of heart or effort!

Excitement by joncandy

Excitement by joncandy

Whether you use a long-term incentive program with your students each year or not, the winter and early spring months are a perfect time to try out some short term incentives with your students.  Are there practice habits you want your students to establish (or re-establish)?  Do they need a little extra motivation to remember their theory or listening homework?   Would some extra sight-reading help to spice up their weekly repertoire?  

Set a goal that’s easy for your students to attain, and give them a short time-frame to achieve it.  Your goal is instant success – something that will give them a sense of accomplishment and get them hungry for more.  Then change it up and try something new.

Be sure to find some way to reward your students for their achievements – an extra page of stickers or piece of candy, the opportunity to borrow a pop book or sheet to play for the month, extra music money or incentive points (if you use a yearly program).  Use your imagination!

In my studio, we’re mid-way through our year-long This is Your Brain on Music incentive.   For the most part, everyone is on track with their personal goals, and we’re nearly half-way to earning a class party at the end of the year.   All good, except right now the end of the year feels like it’s a looooonnggg way away.  To keep things interesting, I’m giving my students an extra credit challenge each month between now and the end of the school year.  

In January, we’re kicking off the New Year by making sure everyone is in the habit of writing down their practice minutes in their assignment binders…. before they come to lessons (and NOT hastily scrawling them down as they walk in the door or trying to convince me that they can recite their minutes to me out loud without writing them down! :)).   Every week that they come to lessons with their minutes record (no matter how many or few those minutes might be), they get to drop an extra Cranium Coin in the tank that’s accumulating coins for our class party.   Sound simple enough?  It is.  Are they excited about it?  Absolutely.  Most of them are already wondering what’s coming up next month! (I’m keeping it under wraps until then, but feel free to leave me a comment and ask, come February…)

Do you have your own tricks for keeping your students motivated all year?   Feel free to share your ideas in the comments section below!


Jump-Start Your January! — 5 Comments

  1. This year, my wife and I scraped the piano points for Bach Bucks. The kids are four times as motivated as they were before. In addition to that, we started the 5 day club to encourage consistent practice throughout the week instead of cramming the day before. There are no rewards for minutes practiced, just for being in the 5 day club. There’s an extra bonus for getting 6 or 7 days of practice. It’s working really well so far!

  2. Love the ideas! For the first time this school year I helped each student set a personal goal. At the Christmas recital I recognized all those who had met their goal (passing off a level, or a certain number of songs). Only about half of them met their goal because I was too ambitious with some of them. We have set new goals from now til May, and I told each of them that I only want them to improve on themselves – so each of their goals is to pass off a few more songs than they passed off in the fall. I’m hoping for a much higher rate of success this way!

    Also, I color their practice time on a big chart every week (1 square = 1 hour) and the winner gets a trophy at the May recital. They also get a candy bar for every 10 hours they practice, and each week at lessons they have the chance to earn a small candy/prize if they’ve done everything they were supposed to during the week: practice, theory, etc. It’s especially motivating for the younger students… the kids I have who are in Junior High don’t seem to be motivated by much of anything anymore!

    I like the idea of the 5-day club as the commented above suggested. Great ideas everyone!

  3. I bought some inexpensive 3 minute timers. The kind with the sand in them. They are brightly colored and fun. I give each student at least one “3 minute challenge”. It may be to go over a certain section, play everything staccato, slow, etc. It’s been working out great and so far they’re meeting the challenge.

    • How fun! I can imagine you could find a ton of ways to use those. I’m going to keep my eye out for some timers the next time I’m at the teacher supply store. Thanks, Tiffiny!

Leave a Reply