Motivation, Technique

Music Keys Incentive Idea for Scales, Arpeggios, Cadences

DSC_20130701_165441Piano teacher Patti Bennett from Georgia came up with an awesome way to use the music keys printable I created back in 2013 (see this post).  She kindly agreed to let me post her photos and details about her incentive idea today!

Patti has her students participate in Piano Guild Auditions in May, so she always has a big scale push beginning in January. This year, she was inspired to use the keys printable to create an entire incentive program to get her students enthused about learning their scales, cadences and arpeggios following the Guild requirements.

Major key challenge sign

bulletin board

Patti started by preparing packets of the keys for each student, cutting them out and placing them in Ziploc snack bags with their names.  There are five little bins for the major keys: one for one octave (white paper), one for two octave (beige paper), one for three octave (blue), one for four octave (red).  She also printed out sets for the minor keys.

keys on colored paper

She also created her own additional key cards for 10 hours of practice and for 5 pieces memorized.

key cards

As students master their scales and more by memory, they go to the bins, grab out their packet, locate the key and put it on their key ring on this bulletin board.  Patti says that the parents have been coming over as well, excited to watch this part.

bulletin board angle

Patti says that everyone is all smiles and eager to work on scales, as opposed to saying “do I have to work on scales”, or “I forgot to practice my scales” (sure you did) or whatever other excuse.

What a great way to inspire everyone to work hard on those scales and more!  ;)  Great job and thanks for sharing, Patti!

Motivation

Christmas Paper Chain Fun

I saw this wonderful idea in one of the wonderful facebook groups for piano teachers (this one).   I am not sure who to credit with the original idea — I suppose it has been done many times by teachers in the past.

The idea is that when a student learns a Christmas piece, they get to add a paper strip to the chain.

DSC_20131213_133949_1

I just started the chain this week with my students.  I love how this is a collaborative (instead of competitive) project that allows the entire studio to participate.  Our chain already reaches across the entryway of my studio!

DSC_20131213_133811_1

It will be fun to see how long the chain gets by the time Christmas is over!

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!

Motivation, Practice, Teaching Piano

Forum Q&A | Keeping Teenagers Engaged

Our last Q&A Forum topic was about organization.  I loved reading your ideas — thank you all for your responses!

I had a great topic idea from a reader (thanks, Amy!) who asked:

How do you keep teenagers engaged?  As we know, sometimes they are taking lessons only because their parents want them to.  Or, sometimes they are over-scheduled.

Please take a moment to share your thoughts in the comments below — we would love to hear your ideas!

Photo Credit: easylocum

Motivation, Teaching Piano

Teaching Phrase: “I Think You Are Ready For…”

Here is a phrase I find myself use more and more lately with my students:

“I think you are ready for…”  

Imagine me saying it with plenty of enthusiasm.  This phrase comes in handy in a number of circumstances, such as:

  • “Wow, you’ve got all your 5-finger patterns learned, so I think you are ready to start scales!”
  • “You are playing each hand’s part so well…now you are ready to put hands together!”
  • “Great, I think you are ready to bump up the tempo!”
  • “I think Johnny is ready for 45-minute lessons!”

Watch your student (and his/her parent) swell with pride at that last one.  Saying that line sure beats a conversation that sounds like you are trying to justify or talk the parent into switching from 30- to 45-minute lessons.

It’s all in how you present it.  Learning scales or bumping up the tempo might at first seem like a chore, but presenting the next new challenge as an acknowledgement of their accomplishments and hard work can help motivate students for the next thing.  They’ve worked their way to this point, after all, and they should be proud of it!

So, try it!  And let me know what other circumstances you think of for using this phrase.  :)

Conferences, improving as a teacher, Motivation

NCKP 2011 | (13) Student-Centered Teaching, by Randall Faber

I don’t normally post on Saturdays, but I’m so close to having all my conference notes posted that I decided to finish up today with the last one rather than wait until Monday!  Whew, thanks for bearing with me through the long haul!  Lucky for us, the last one is a good one.  :)

I’ve always wanted to hear Dr. Faber speak since I am a huge fan of the Faber Piano Adventures method, and I’ve heard such good things about their sessions.  At the NCKP, I had the privilege of attending their publisher showcase and this session on student-centered teaching, which provided a lot of insight into the Fabers’ research on human learning and their teaching philosophy in general.  It was fascinating!

Student Centered Teaching: The Process, by Randall Faber.  F @ 11:15am.

Dr. Faber began by talking about the teacher perspective.  He shared a wonderful photo of a child sitting on the piano bench, eager and excited to learn, looking up into the camera (or into the teacher’s eyes).  The next photo was of a stern looking teacher, looking over his reading glasses from his chair alongside the piano.  Everybody laughed when they saw this photo!  This is the student perspective!

Joking aside, though, sometimes we aren’t always doing the job we think.  Sometimes we simply tend to teach the way we were taught because that’s what we know.  Dr. Faber made an argument that in order to be the most effective as teachers, we need to be as student-centered as possible.  Continue reading “NCKP 2011 | (13) Student-Centered Teaching, by Randall Faber”

Giveaways, Motivation, repertoire / methods, Teaching Piano

May 2011 Giveaway: “Fearless Fortissimo” Piano Music for Boys

Greetings!  Today I have two important announcements:

  1. I have finished all the requirements for my Master’s degree!  HOORAY!  =D
  2. Today we have a new GIVEAWAY!  Here are the details:

Andrea & Trevor Dow from yesterday’s interview have kindly agreed to sponsor a giveaway of Episode 1 of The Adventures of Fearless Fortissimo!  This pdf is a $19.95 value and contains Early Elementary, Elementary, and Intermediate Level versions of the pieces, accompanied by a three page comic.  Once you’ve purchased the pdf, you are free to print off as many copies as needed for use with your students!  Read more about The Adventures of Fearless Fortissimo piano music for boys by clicking here.

To enter to win, leave a comment on this post!

  • Ask Andrea & Trevor a question you still have after reading yesterday’s interview.
  • Tell us about how you would use The Adventures of Fearless Fortissimo in your studio!
  • Or, share any tips you have about keeping boy students motivated in their piano studies.

You may earn one additional entry in the giveaway by sharing the link to this giveaway on your blog or on your facebook page.  Be sure to leave an additional comment on this post to let me know you’ve done this, so that you get your extra entry.

The winner will be chosen via random number generator.  Enter before Thursday, May 19, 2011 @ midnight for your chance to win!

improving as a teacher, Motivation

Teaching With the Student’s Goals in Mind

This week I gave a few first lessons to some new students.  One of the things I always ask during the first lesson/interview is:

What are some of your goals in taking piano lessons?

Here are some examples of answers I’ve received from students:

  • I want to be able to play classical pieces that everyone knows (i.e., Fur Elise, Moonlight Sonata, Bach’s Minuet in G, etc.)
  • I want to be able to play hymns and hymn arrangements for church services.
  • I want to be able to play from chord charts to play with my church’s worship band.
  • I want to record a Christmas CD for my family.  (This was a fun project! We worked on Christmas pieces over the whole summer.)
  • I like to play by ear but but I want to learn how to read music too.
  • I just want to get better at piano just because I enjoy playing for my own enjoyment.

I’m always surprised at the variety of answers I receive when I ask this question.  Not all students have specific goals in taking lessons, but it’s always worth asking because you may be surprised at what you learn.  Knowing the student’s goals can help the teacher make the piano lessons more relavent to them.   Continue reading “Teaching With the Student’s Goals in Mind”

improving as a teacher, Motivation, Teaching Piano

Teaching Tip: Engaging the Emotions

I read something this week that mentioned in passing the benefit of engaging the emotions for learning.  This idea really stuck with me, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.  It makes perfect sense, but I just never thought about it much before.  I think this idea is worth some consideration.

Neurologically, humans learn best when their emotions are engaged.  Various research has been done that suggests the benefit of learning when the emotions are engaged (see “For Further Reading” below).  An effective speaker will appeal to the listeners’ emotions in order to affect and influence them to agree with the points made, support the viewpoint, and maybe even motivate them to do something about it.  Similarly, an effective teacher will connect with the students’ emotions to make the student interested in the topic and motivated to learn.  When the emotions are engaged, the learning moment becomes both meaningful and memorable.

The art of music is very close to the heart and the emotions.  We music teachers are very fortunate!  And yet, how often do we encounter students who seldom practice?  How about unmotivated students who quit after just a few years?  And how often do we hear completely unemotional performances?  These things do happen, unfortunately.  We can help prevent this from happening.  Perhaps through engaging the emotions we can help students connect with the music and be interested/motivated. Continue reading “Teaching Tip: Engaging the Emotions”

Motivation, Resources, Reviews

Book Review: “Red,” “Purple,” and “Blue” by Dror Perl

A few weeks ago, I received a friendly email from composer Dror Perl asking if I’d be willing to write a review of his music books.  I, of course, said yes, and so Dror sent me complimentary copies of the Red and Purple books.  Here is my full review of his wonderful books!

Summary

improving as a teacher, Motivation, Studio Business

9 Ideas for Motivating Piano Students

I’m sure we have all had students who are low on motivation at one point or another.  It’s not always easy to keep students practicing week after week.  To make matters complicated, every student is different: something that motivates one student might not work for the next.

Here are some ideas for increasing motivation among your piano students:

  1. Take lessons yourself. Put yourself in their shoes – literally.  Remember what it’s like to have a busy week and have a hard time finding time for practice?  Remember what it’s like to when your pieces don’t play as well in the lesson as they did at home?  You can be more genuinely understanding and make better suggestions for solutions if you are taking lessons yourself and going through the same situations that they are.  Think you don’t have time for lessons?  Try to find someone who’s willing to take you on every other week or even once a month.  Continuing your own piano lessons will probably benefit you in more ways that you think!
  2. Be sure to give them a good variety of repertoire. Make sure there is plenty of variety in the music they are working on.  Find out what types of music they like.  Supplement their method book(s) with new age piano (think Jim Brickman), hymn arrangements, jazz/blues, pop music, soundtrack/music theater music (think Disney, High School Musical, or Twilight – whatever is currently popular!).  No matter the student, however, I always make sure they are working on something classical too.  There are so many different types of great music within classical music – I truly believe there is something for everyone! Continue reading “9 Ideas for Motivating Piano Students”
Announcements, Practice

Dealing with Frustration: Be Okay with Mistakes & Keep it Fun!

At a piano lesson this week, I observed my student grow increasingly frustrated with herself whenever she made a mistake.  She would “growl” at herself and start back at the beginning of the phrase.

After observing this continue for a few moments, I decided to stop her and address the issue.

There were three reasons why I decided to address this issue:

  1. She was growing increasingly frustrated with herself.  And frustration doesn’t usually yield positive results.
  2. I could tell this was becoming a habitual response.  When she is practicing at home, she is obviously doing the same thing there.
  3. We were sight-reading.  She had never seen this piece before, and there was no reason that she should expect to play it perfectly upon first try.  She is only 7, and hasn’t had much experience with sight-reading yet anyway.

Continue reading “Dealing with Frustration: Be Okay with Mistakes & Keep it Fun!”