Do you use an incentive program in your piano studio? Incentive programs can be a useful way to motivate and encourage students to be diligent and productive with their practicing. Let’s face it – most students really can be bribed into doing well! :]
Have you discovered a program that works well? I recall my piano teacher implementing a number of different programs while I was taking lessons – unfortunately, she never stuck with one long enough for me to earn a prize very often. A good incentive program must be simple enough for the students to understand, and can’t be too time consuming as to take up a lot of the lesson time. It needs to be easily attainable, otherwise students will give up on ever earning a prize. And it needs to be affordable – as teachers, we need to keep our expenses low, especially during these economically rough times.
Most incentive programs are based on the number of minutes or days that the student practices. A weakness of this approach is that the older students might be more likely to win prizes more often than the younger students, which doesn’t seem very fair, especially since the younger students are the ones who can most easily be influenced through the use of an incentive program. In addition, this approach does that guarantee that the student practicing productively – that is, troubleshooting and solving problem areas, rather than mindlessly playing through their pieces.
For the above reasons, I designed my incentive program to be based on the number of pages they “pass” each lesson. For example, if a student “passes” a three-page song from their Lesson Book, they earn three points. Each page completed form their theory book also earns them points. Bonus points are also awarded if a student memorizes his/her music, if they write in the counts (1…2…3…4…1…2…3…etc.), or if they complete any other task that goes above and beyond what was required to do. No matter what the activity, it’s simply 1 page = 1 point.
Points are recorded by placing stickers on colorful index cards that have their name written across the top. (Kids love stickers – there’s no way around it!) When a student earns 25 stickers on their index card, they may choose a prize from the the prize box at the end of the lesson.
My prize box is a clear purple, plastic shoebox decorated with music stickers. I regularly restock the prize box full of inexpensive trinkets – such as little notepads, colored pens (usually 2 or 3 rubberbanded together), bouncy balls, matchbox cars, keychains, etc. I generally limit myself to spending between 50 cents and $1.00 per item. Most of the trinkets I buy come from the party favor section at the local dollar store or at Meijers. Sometimes, it’s difficult to find items suitable for older students. For their sake, I have started keeping a few $1.00 gift certificates to the local dollar store on hand. I tell them to pick out their own prize!
I have found this incentive program to work well because it encourages the students to practice with their minds fully engaged, consciously working towards the goal of “passing” their pieces. It also is flexible enough to allow the teacher to reward any extra, miscellaneous tasks that students might complete. The goal of 25 stickers is easily attainable, even for the younger students. Having an incentive program in place has helped me motivate my students to progress through their books, rather than stagnantly staying at about the same level of playing. What kind of incentive program have you found to work for your studio?