Forum Q&A's, Motivation

Forum Q&A: Incentive Prize Box Ideas

Our last Forum Q&A topic was about keeping teenager students engaged in their piano study!  Check out all the great responses to this topic by clicking here.

Our next discussion topic comes from a reader (thanks, Donna!):

What kinds of items do you have in your “music store” or incentive prize box?  It seems some items are a hit with students, and other items just sit there.  What are some items that have been a success with your students, particularly for the older students who are always harder to shop for?  (Please also share about the requirements for your students to be able to win or buy items.)  

Two years ago, I published a blog post with a few pictures of items in my prize box at that time.  (Read the full details about my current incentive program here.)  It’s about time I took another peek in my box to see what is in there now!  I’ll try to take some photos soon — in the meantime, please take a moment to share about your students’ favorite prize items in the comment section below!

Update: Here are some photos of the items currently in my piano prize box!

Announcements, Group Classes, Motivation, Music Camps

A Peek into the Incentive Program Prize Box

Here’s a peek into the prize box I use for my incentive program.  In case you haven’t read about my incentive program before, here’s the lowdown:  I create an index card for each student, and when they pass a song, they are given a point/sticker for every page of the song learned.  They can also earn points/stickers for doing theory worksheets, memorizing their pieces, etc.  When they earn 25 points/stickers on their index card, they are allowed to choose a prize from the prize box.

I recently restocked the prize box with some cute new items.  Take a look!

The purple prize box.

It’s decorated with some cute music stickers!

Continue reading “A Peek into the Incentive Program Prize Box”

improving as a teacher, Motivation, Music Camps, Performances

30 Theme Ideas for Music Studio Events

Here’s a list of 30 theme ideas for music studio events!  Themes can be used as the studio theme for the school year, or for summer music camps, or for studio recitals.  If used for the studio theme for the whole year, there are a number of ways the theme can be incorporated: the incentive program, group lesson activities, worksheets, games, food, decorations, dress, recital repertoire, etc., can all be coordinated to fit the theme.

  1. Medieval Times | castles, knights, princesses
  2. Fantasy | same as above, plus dragons, wizards, etc.
  3. Mystery |detective, private eye, clues, magnifying glass, footprints, fingerprints, evidence
  4. International / Around the World | choose a specific country, or give a survey of a few different countries  (Egypt, Africa, etc.) world music, cultures. For example……
  5. Fiesta | sombrero, maracas, dances
  6. Tropical | surfing, luau, grass skirts, steel drums, Caribbean/hawaiian music, palm trees
  7. Winter | snow, icicles, skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, cold, mittens, scarves, snowmen
  8. Carnival / Circus | ringmaster, tightrope walker, elephant, tickets
  9. Art | colors, brushes, make connections between art and music. Activity: compose songs named after colors.
  10. Roller coster park | use this theme to study musical forms (e.g., ABA), or musical styles.
  11. Animal Planet | animals galore!  Activity: try matching animal characteristics to how different music sounds.
  12. The Great Outdoors / camping | campfire, singing, woods, lantern
  13. Under the Sea | ocean, waves, fish, jellyfish, dolphins, sharks, seaweed, treasure, sunken ship, scuba diver
  14. Barnyard | farm, farmer, animals, fields, crops, harvest, tractors, seeds
  15. Construction | bulldozers, dump trucks, CAUTION tape, hard hats, orange cones, STOP, GO, workers
  16. Jungle Safari | lions, giraffes, jeep, binoculars
  17. Wild West | cowboys, saloon, ghost town, cowboy hats/boots, bandanas, sheriff, horses, saddles, lasso
  18. Pirates | pirate ship, pirates, buried treasure, treasure maps, scavenger hunt
  19. Desert Oasis | cockroaches, oasis, palm trees, sand
  20. Olympic Games | fitness, games, exercise, practice
  21. Going Green | recycle, be efficient (with practice time)
  22. Splish Splash | water bottles, droplets, river, brook, ocean, puddle, rain, hydration, summer, squirt guns, pool.  Listen to Debussy’s La Mer.
  23. Outer Space | stars, moon, sun, rocket ships, astronauts, aliens, ufo’s.  Natalie is doing a space theme in her studio this year and it looks fabulous!
  24. Futuristic / Time Travel | contemporary music, technology in music
  25. Race cars | finish line, car, tires, gasoline, checkered flag, trophy.  Activity: do timed worksheets for naming note on the staff.
  26. USA / Patriotic / Stars & Stripes | USA history, fireworks, wear red, white, and blue, or wear stars/stripes! Activity: learn about American composers.
  27. The magic of music | magician, magic tricks, deck of cards, top hat, magic wand, rabbit, gloves. Activity: discuss how music has the power to affect your emotions, change your mood, influence you to do something, etc.
  28. Blast from the Past | choose an era of music history: Classical, Romantic, Baroque, etc.  Dress old-fashioned, eat popular treats from back then, etc.
  29. The Great Composers | choose a specific set of composers, and focus on one each day/week/month.
  30. Musical Instruments | learn about the parts of the piano, or the instruments of the orchestra.  Discuss timbre, register, range, tuning, etc.

Please share any additional ideas you have, or any resources you’ve found to be helpful for planning a themed event for your music studio!

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/peasap/ / CC BY 2.0
Motivation, Practice

3 Ways to Motivate Busy Students

I believe students today are busier than ever before.  They are involved in everything you can imagine — art, karate, gymnastics, swimming, sports teams, church activities, 4-H, and more.  And this is all on top of their regular homework assignments from school.  Sometimes the student gets stretched too thin, and something needs to go.  Other times, the student may just need a little extra incentive to motivate them to consider piano lessons to be just as important as everything else.

  1. Make a practice contract. A practice contract is basically an agreement between the teacher and the parent/student that they will complete a set amount of practice each week.  Most (young) students cannot remember to practice piano each day on their own.  They need a parent to remind them and keep track of their time spent practicing.  In most cases, both the parent and student (and the teacher) are much happier when consistent practice takes place, because the student can feel that they are progressing, and the parent feels they are getting their money’s worth.
  2. Teach the student how to practice. It’s not enough that the student is playing piano for 15 to 30 minutes each day.  They need to be using that practice time effectively.  To ensure this takes place, the teacher should essentially be teaching the student how to practice during the lesson.  Help the student troubleshoot problem spots and give them specific ways to fix the problems.  Guidelines for practice ought to be written down in an assignment notebook, so that the student can refer to it each time they sit down to practice.  It may be helpful to give young students a set of specific steps to follow.  For example, you might write in their notebook: 1) Point to the all the dynamics in this piece. Find the hand position change and draw a star by that measure.  2) Tap the rhythm of the whole piece on the wood of the piano, counting out loud. 3) Play the piece through as written.
  3. Create an incentive program. Some positive reinforcement (paired with the parents’ help in the consistent practice department) goes a long ways for some students.  Create ways for students to earn points for completing certain tasks, like passing their pieces, memorizing their assignments, completing theory assignments or extra credit worksheets, learning their scales/five-finger patterns, etc.  Get together some prizes to award once the student has earned a certain amount of points.  Click here for a description of the incentive program I have used for the last couple years.

These are just three ways to further motivate students and encourage increased progress.  There are many more.  Please share your ideas below!

Motivation, Practice

Incentive Programs for Piano Students

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. More importantly, an incentive program can help emphasize the behaviors or goals the teacher expects from the student. Below is information about how I designed an ongoing incentive program for my students.

20150407_095528 APPLE web with text

Growing up, 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 cannot 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.   Continue reading “Incentive Programs for Piano Students”