Springtime Doldrums

Posted by: Michelle Gordon

Springtime Doldrums - 04/13/00 11:17 AM

This is a time of year when some of my students can feel a little "strung-out" because of Final exams and Standardized testing in school. Because of that, practice time suffers, and the learning curve begins to straighten out. It is also a very busy time of year in my studio, with Spring recital right around the corner in May, and Guild Auditions coming up. What do you feel is the best way to deal with all this? This year I have ended up slowing down in the Method books, and working exclusively on Recital and Guild pieces in order to get them polished and memorized without having students feel stressed to push on to new concepts. But is this teaching them that I don't expect them to be learning new things?
Posted by: Lisa Kalmar

Re: Springtime Doldrums - 04/13/00 12:20 PM

A few years ago, after reading an article in Keyboard Companion, I borrowed someone else's great idea and started hosting a "Spring Fling Practice Contest". Students have to practice X number of minutes a day (depended on level they were) a minimum of 5 days a week, record the practice in the assignment notebook, and have their parent sign each week. They get a point for each day, so if they are under one week they can make it up the next. The prize is a medal engraved with their first name on the back. EVERYONE can win one if they only show up to practice. It's cost me a little over the years, but worth every penny for the motivation it creates. I'm not one for stickers and prizes and the like, but this really provides a much needed shot in the arm!

I always ease off on them a little at this time of the year and make sure everyone has at least one popular type book. Since I am starting over with a new studio I am thinking of ending my school year calendar in April, resuming with June Summer Fun Piano Camps to avoid this. (School starts here the beginning of August, making it sort of feasible.) What's your reaction to this idea - I'm still toying with it!
Posted by: Eric

Re: Springtime Doldrums - 04/13/00 12:45 PM

Lisa's suggestion of a "Spring Fling Practice Contest" is fantastic! Here's an idea that might work well with it: Have the students record their practice on 60-minute cassette tapes. Both sides must be filled with their practice. Keep a record of which student hands in the most practice-filled tapes! The advantage is that by recording practice in this way, the students are not keeping one eye on the clock, but rather, they are practicing intently with an awareness that I may be listening to the tape later. The tapes (which I recycyle after they are filled) become a wonderful teaching tool. Part of the lesson can be listening to the tape and analyzing the effectiveness of their practice technique. I can't wait to combine my Tape-recording practice with Lisa's "Spring Fling Practice Contest." Thank you, Lisa!
Posted by: Lisa Kalmar

Re: Springtime Doldrums - 04/13/00 02:52 PM

I absolutely LOVE the idea of using tapes and plan to steal your idea, Eric! I am positive that some of my parents fudged on the truth for the little rascals as we came down to the wire. This would put an end to that! I have something to add: I would assign extra points somehow (unsure how-need to think about this, but maybe their medal would come in a special case or something)for theory pages completed on their own. It drives me crazy when they don't finish those, and, of course, most of them don't because they forget. Aside: does anyone have a simple solution for this little problem area? Lisa
Posted by: Randall FaberGlobal Moderator

Re: Springtime Doldrums - 04/13/00 11:06 PM

Great ideas! We have had success in posting the student practice graphs. (Some positive competition usually ensues.) You can vary the type of graph each year: One year use a "thermometer" to show cumulative hours, another year use a standard grid, etc. Students respond to goal setting, making their target goal early, etc. Ultimately the student's sense of personal achievement is the motivator, but these motivational activities help the student build discipline and can be a lot of fun as you mentioned.