Practice Sheet

Posted by: CR

Practice Sheet - 02/21/03 09:26 AM

I'm trying to come up with a neat way to design a practice sheet to send home with my students. Each week they all come to me saying they hardly got any practice in (I appreciate them telling me so) but this excuse has gone on far too long and not having practiced much is slowing down their improvement and capability of playing the repertoire. Therefore I need to resort back to sending home practice sheets, this time stating they must come back signed by the parent. My one problem: coming up with the practice sheet itself! How should I do the layout - monthly? weekly? Should it be left plain or add some graphics to make it interesting? ah, which reminds me... I'm going to request that the student gets in at least an hour a day, 6 days of the week.

sooo, anyone up for suggestions?
Posted by: pianoannie

Re: Practice Sheet - 02/21/03 09:40 AM

Originally posted by chopin's raindrops:
I'm going to request that the student gets in at least an hour a day, 6 days of the week.

I'm curious what level of students you mostly teach? My beginners are only asked to do 30 minutes 5 days a week. And unfortunately they don't all accomplish that amount, although I'm trying to get tougher. Your idea for a practice sheet sounds interesting. I do have students write down their practice times in their assignment books (although I know that # of minutes is not nearly as important as how effectively they are actually practicing and following my instructions). I get so tired of students saying "Oh, I forgot to practice that piece." I've started telling them, "I don't expect you to remember everything in your head! That's why I write it down for you! I don't want to hear that excuse again!" grrrrrr.
Posted by: Carole

Re: Practice Sheet - 02/21/03 10:24 AM

Mine record their practice on calendars. Any size, shape, computer-generated, bought or made by hand. At the beginning of the year, I try to get multiple calendars(freebies) from banks, stores, etc and hand out because they always forget into March :rolleyes:. The parents can initial. It works pretty well.
Posted by: CR

Re: Practice Sheet - 02/21/03 11:00 AM

Originally posted by pianoannie:
I'm curious what level of students you mostly teach? My beginners are only asked to do 30 minutes 5 days a week. And unfortunately they don't all accomplish that amount, although I'm trying to get tougher. Your idea for a practice sheet sounds interesting. I do have students write down their practice times in their assignment books (although I know that # of minutes is not nearly as important as how effectively they are actually practicing and following my instructions). I get so tired of students saying "Oh, I forgot to practice that piece." I've started telling them, "I don't expect you to remember everything in your head! That's why I write it down for you! I don't want to hear that excuse again!" grrrrrr.

I have an early intermediate student, late elementary, intermediate, and one adult beginner. But I most likely won't have the adult record lesson time because she's overall good at practicing. Besides, if I had any beginners, then yeah, I wouldn't require an hour a day. I've suggested that they start out at 30 minutes, then gradually increase practice time. So that's not/hasn't been an issue there... it's been a while since I've had a beginner child.

True, the number of minutes recorded isn't as important as how they're practicing as you say, pianoannie, and I realize that. Somehow I've got this crazy notion that since I'd require a signature from the parent stating their child did practice this week, somewhere in the kid's practice, effective work would be achieved. no? that's just a random thought I have out there.... Wouldn't you think the parent would make sure their child is practicing the amount they write down, and then perhaps listen more to the practicing at home? hmm... just thinking aloud here.

Not including my adult student, 2 of my students give me the impression their parents aren't involved with their music at all. It's just something done for the child, and all the parents have to do is make sure they get their kid to a lesson every week. :rolleyes: Anyhow...

Carole, good suggestion! I'll keep that in mind.

[ 02-21-2003: Message edited by: chopin's raindrops ]
Posted by: pianoannie

Re: Practice Sheet - 02/21/03 11:24 AM

Originally posted by chopin's raindrops:
True, the number of minutes recorded isn't as important as how they're practicing as you say, pianoannie, and I realize that. Somehow I've got this crazy notion that since I'd require a signature from the parent stating their child did practice this week, somewhere in the kid's practice, effective work would be achieved. no?
[ 02-21-2003: Message edited by: chopin's raindrops ]

I hope I didn't sound like I was criticizing your plan. Yes, hopefully, at least some effective practicing is taking place. I guess I was just kind of thinking outloud, that I haven't come up with a perfect way for students to keep a record of their practice. Some teachers tell their students to practice each piece "x" number of times daily, and of course that doesn't adequately address the need to stop and work extra on troublesome spots. Some of us tell our students to practice "x" number of minutes, and some students might sit down and play Star Wars 21 times in a row until the timer buzzed. ;\) It seems that no matter how hard I try to instruct my students in the proper way to use their practice time, many still seem to not be using their time efficiently. Sometimes I'll paste a post-it note right on top of a measure of their music, as a reminder to stop here and don't go past until you get the previous measures correct, or other little helps like that. Or I'll circle a trouble spot in pencil and write "10 times daily before playing the whole song" or whatever. But they still seem to "forget." arrgghhh. Actually just this week I typed up something new on my group classes' assignment sheets. We're working extra hard at keeping eyes on the music, even at the large hand moves. So I typed in "write down the day of the week that you successfully played this whole piece without peeking at your hands." I'm anxious to see if anyone bothered to read it/do it. I stressed it in class, but we'll see. I've also been known to sneak in something like "initial here if you actually read this page of instructions that your teacher took the time to write out for you."
Posted by: Lilla

Re: Practice Sheet - 02/21/03 11:41 AM

Reminds me of a job I had where memos came regularly from a top guy - but always with these god-awful vocab words that I'd have to look up. I finally bumped into him and asked what's up with the odd vocab. He said it's an old army trick to find out who's reading the memos! So - - - put strange words in there and see who notices!

BTW, when I ask for students to record practice time, I usually just place a line of boxes across the page, one for each day of the week, and just ask that they put an X in the box for each day they practice, and have their parents sign. It usually always encourages the student to practice more, but seldom do the parents sign. I also tell them to practice each item listed in their assignment book, rather than practice a set # of minutes. If they run out of time, the next day, after warming up, start where they left off the day before so that by the end of the week they have practiced everything as much as possible. Seems to work.
Posted by: Marcia

Re: Practice Sheet - 02/21/03 12:07 PM

Wow! Compared to some teachers I am really "nitpicky" about assignment sheets. Mine are a grid with space on the left to list the piece/section to be practiced, next column a specific number of repetitions on each item [this often goes by groups of 2-4 measures],a middle section of check off boxes for 7 days of the week, and a far right column for teacher comments on specifics in that piece. I use a music buck/treasure chest incentive program and they earn $1 music buck for each page or section they successfully complete. If the piece or section still needs work they review it until they can perform it well. If they "pass" I check it off with a tally mark in the far left margin. At the end of the lesson they receive $1 for each tally mark I've made. At the bottom of the sheet there are "excellent" "good" "fair" & "needs improvement" to be circled by me as an indication of their general lesson preparation. Those who consistently get excellent and good lesson ratings recieve a music achievement trophy at the spring recital. Parents sign for K-6th grade, 7-12 grade students may sign for themselves. If it's not filled out for more than one week the student and I have "the talk" about not rejecting responsibility for practice and recording their practice. More often than not, if practice is not recorded, they didn't do it. Parents get a phone call for those who need to be more diligent regarding practice or recording it.
Posted by: Jalapeņa

Re: Practice Sheet - 02/21/03 01:35 PM

I have a hard time getting most students to keep a record of their practice times; & when they do, the amount of time doesn't seem to match their level of preparedness.

For example, a PA1 student logging in a total of 430 minutes for the week (signed by parent), but not having all of his/her pieces prepared (I usually assign 3-4 pieces, so if this bright student really practiced 430 minutes, his/her pieces would be mastered & memorized. It's not acceptable, IMO, to practice 430 minutes & still be struggling to get through the pieces. Either someone is fudging the practice times, :rolleyes: or the student is not using his/her practice time efficiently (is not following directions, because I provide all students with detailed practice directions so they can make the most effective use of their practice time).

I find it's best just to hold students to 1 measurement of progress: PREPAREDNESS. I expect the student to come each week with his/her assignment fully prepared; doesn't matter to me if it takes a student 15 minutes to learn the assignment, or 150 minutes, or 300 minutes, or more. Just spend whatever amount of time needed to learn the pieces. The time will, of course, vary depending on student's level of study, natural abilities & intelligence, & (of course) on the level of parental involvement (if parents don't care, student most likely won't care; acorn doesn't fall very far from the tree). If asked how long I think a student should practice, my answer is always the same: However long it takes for him/her to learn his/her assignment.
Posted by: Lilla

Re: Practice Sheet - 02/21/03 01:47 PM

Marcia, my son took lessons for a short time from a teacher who did just as you do. He became panicked within the first day or so because he didn't have all the boxes checked off. I told him don't worry, just do as much as you can. Each day he saw how far behind he was and panicked more. He quit within three weeks and I attribute it solely to the over-expectation of accomplishing and recording a myriad of practice tasks. Not that it wouldn't work wonderfully for certain students - it just didn't work for my son (an honor student and very responsible kid).
Posted by: Jalapeņa

Re: Practice Sheet - 02/21/03 04:38 PM

I just recently quit sweating bullets about such things. A few weeks ago, my Asian student's mother told me that her son was afraid that if he didn't have his entire assignment ready, I'd "fire" him. While I wish that all my students cared that much about arriving to lessons prepared, his reaction made me stop & think about whether or not I as a teacher should make a major big deal about whether a student completes his/her assignments or not. I turned to my student & told him that I only "fire" the lazy students who never work on their assignments, ;\) then I told the mother not to worry--that if any part of his assignment needed more work, I'd simply help him & give him more time to prepare. They both looked visibly relieved after I said that. This week, the boy came to lessons with 1 piece in need of work because he didn't practice enough. He also apologized for not logging in his daily practice minutes (he usually does log them in; he's the only student of mine who does). I assigned the piece again, & told him that it needed more work. I also told him that I'm not as concerned about practice times as I am about how well he prepares his assignments. I don't know what his parents thought, but I'm going to quit worrying about how long it takes a student to get through a level.

[ 02-21-2003: Message edited by: Jalapeņa ]
Posted by: Marcia

Re: Practice Sheet - 02/21/03 04:39 PM

Sorry I have to disagree, Lilla. [And maybe I didn't communicate my ideas very well.] My students are not expected to practice a bunch of assignments that will be overwhelming to accomplish each week. They have a manageable number of assignments according to what they say they can each handle individually. They all understand that each practice day they need to check off only 1 box per assignment, working their way down the sheet, thereby completely practicing their whole assignment for that day. It is the marking off of their practice on each piece that enables them to focus on what they *have* accomplished, not on what they *haven't.* They are not lectured in their lesson for not practicing 5 days a week. They usually know when they are not well prepared and end up saying to me, "I need to review that this week." In this way I am teaching them to practice, which, in my opinion, is what all students need to learn to be functional and independent musicians. For many of my students I don't need to be this specific because I've had them for years and they know how to practice. For the young ones, or transfer students, though, they need to have manageable practice units that they can complete on 5 days of the week. I do sympathize with the problem your son had. Theoretically, you could look at the grid after 2 days of practice and say, "I have so much to do, I'll never accomplish it." OR You can look at the grid after two days of practice and say, "I did my assignment exactly the way my teacher wants for 2 whole days and now my pieces are so much easier. I know I'll be able to play well at my next lesson" i. e.: "The glass is either half-full or half-empty." BTW, I just started doing it this way this year and the parents love it. I find the students are focusing on doing their very best in at home practice so they can play well at their lesson in order to "pass" their pieces. Good musicians know the wisdom of "divide and conquer." I'm just helping them understand and experience exactly how to do this. After a while they start dividing their own pieces into phrases or practice sections on their own. It sure is exciting to see them do this! I do feel strongly about this issue because the discipline of a method like this helps them experience a great deal of progress in a short time and feel good about all they are learning. I'm satisfied that for my students (52 and counting ...) this approach has been very successful.
Posted by: Lisa Kalmar

Re: Practice Sheet - 02/21/03 04:51 PM

I think that having the family get a handle on the child's entire weekly schedule is much more important towards establishing effective practice habits, with or without a fancy assignment sheet. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!)

Having a child illustrate a weekly schedule of everything on their plate and how piano practice is supposed to figure in on that can be quite eye opening to all. Especially the parents. :rolleyes:

To do this, take a half sheet of poster paper and divide into 7 days. Then give the child a box of markers and let them go to town. You can help them block off hours of the day is necessary. Students like to draw beds or moons, etc. for nightime as well as TV's and cookies for when they come home from school and have a snack! It's quite fun to watch parents and children interact on this, especially when the professional soccer mom figures out that all of those extra activities and car rides to them add up to zero opportunity for practice! When I start my new studio, I hope to incorporate this hands-on activity BEFORE lessons begin.

Now if I could just figure out how to make piano practice as rewarding as even the earliest levels on Nintendo games I think I would be set! \:D
Posted by: Jalapeņa

Re: Practice Sheet - 02/21/03 05:00 PM

Great suggestions, Lisa, though I believe that should be done before the student is enrolled in the studio... not after.

Am I the only one that wonders why so many folks have a problem with time management?
Posted by: Amily

Re: Practice Sheet - 02/21/03 08:16 PM

What my piano teacher did, and what I did for about five years with my students, was just a simple spread sheet with 9 columns, and enough rows to fill the page. The first column is for you to write the date in, and the next seven columns are for the days of the week, which they check off or write in amount of time they practiced for each day. The last column was for a lesson grade, A+ to F, depending on the amount of practice, how well the pieces were played, and attitude at the lesson. (You could use the grade column for a parent's initials).

The only problem is kids who forget to practice will also forget to mark their practice sheet, and kids who don't forget to practice almost always forget to mark their practice sheet. I remember when I was a kid that I would go into my piano lesson, whether I practiced or not that week, and before I saw my teacher I would check off several of the days on my sheet. I was such a liar \:o .

I quit using the practice sheets with my students because I got tired of always grabbing their folder and finding that once again they hadn't marked anything (or the occasional liar like myself who marked off all the days even though it is obvious to me that they haven't touched the piano at all.) Instead I just ask them at the beginning of the lesson. I find that I get more honest answers when they tell me to my face, versus them writing it down on a sheet.

The only time it really went well was when, for about a year, I let them cover every checked day with a little sticker. They loved that, and some would practice to get up to seven little stickers each week. But I'm not interested in buying that many stickers all the time so I quit doing that.
Posted by: Jason

Re: Practice Sheet - 02/21/03 09:15 PM

The sheet I use looks like this - credit goes to Joanne Smith; we used this in the prep program where I did my graduate work.

The teacher writes down everything the student is to do that week in the boxes on the left. On the right, the student puts a checkmark for each day they practiced that particular piece or exercise. At the bottom, they record how many minutes each day they practiced. This way you know what they worked on and when.

If you have a laptop, you could simply use this as a template and fill it out during the lesson and print the student a copy at the end. This way you'll have a saved copy for yourself which can be helpful in planning the next lesson. Or, the low-tech way we did it was to simply use carbon paper and keep the carbon copy.

For younger students, you could always put clip art and dress it up a bit, too...

[ 02-21-2003: Message edited by: Jason ]
Posted by: Piano lady

Re: Practice Sheet - 02/22/03 02:24 AM

Oy! The gimmicks we come up with. I never had a teacher who did all this stuff. You were given an assignment and did it. Of course parents were involved a bit then, but I remember riding my bike to my teacher's house for a lesson, and taking a taxi during the winter.

I think there's way too much spoonfeeding these days. Of course we had two or three television stations that had soap operas on until 5 p.m. Now we've got cable with 200 channels. TV is the downfall of civilization.

I also don't know of a single family that doesn't have a TV in every room (except for mine).
Posted by: Jason

Re: Practice Sheet - 02/22/03 07:25 AM

If it makes you feel any better, I only have 1 television, and it's only been on for a grand total of 90 minutes in the last 2 weeks. \:\)
Posted by: Lilla

Re: Practice Sheet - 02/22/03 08:47 AM

Marcia, thanks for clarification (not a disgreement!). My son's chart was more like: do CM pentscale 10 times, do this 5 times, do that 3 times, for a total of about 10 items each day. So it wasn't just a checkmark for the assignment, but rather a set of items to be done so many times. He would sometimes have it done 5 times, but not 10 - so the next day he would add the 5 and think that he had to do it 15. It was a hopeless situation (primer student, 6 yrs.) If he came to the lesson with the grid completed he would receive $1, but since his was never completed filled he would feel failure. Maybe this is something to take into consideration when creating assignment charts.

BTW, my husband and I were quite proudly TV-free for over 5 years. It was wonderful (except I never knew what people were talking about). Somehow the TV snuck back into the front room (with baby #3), but I am aiming to GET IT OUT!
Posted by: alidoremi

Re: Practice Sheet - 02/22/03 09:52 AM

by PianoLady:
I also don't know of a single family that doesn't have a TV in every room (except for mine).

Dittos here! My kids (a teen and preteen) will also suffer the horrible fate of NOT having their own TV in their room. We have only one TV in our house, that's it.

Lisa made the point about parent involvement and I think that's a key. In my group classes the parents are required to attend with their child, and so they know exactly what's expected as far as practicing at home. They know how the song is supposed to sound, they know if their child has been practicing correctly or not, and they can help their child when he/she gets stuck on something. With my younger students (4-6 year olds), it's unrealistic to expect them to practice on their own on a daily basis, and so if the parent isn't taking the initiative to sit and practice, then chances are it doesn't get done.

In my private lessons, again, if the parents just drop them off for lessons, they're more likely not to know what's expected of their child than if they actually sit in on the lesson. That's why I prefer for parents to be at the lesson. It just makes for a more committed and successful student, IMO.
Posted by: tomuch2do

Re: Practice Sheet - 02/22/03 11:47 AM

I remember being a kid and having my mom set the timer on the stove for 45 minutes. I'd shuffle through my books, look our the window, play a song, look through my books, look out the window, play a song, etc. Just to waste the 45 minutes.

When I decided to become a teacher (3 years now) I decided that the pressure of trying to fit in 30-60 minutes of practice so many days a week was just to hard on families (it shouldn't be, but it seems it is). So I require me students to practice songs a number of times.

Each student receives a spreadsheet with their assignment on it and checks off what they do on a certain day. And they are not required to practice everything everyday, so if they have 10 minutes they can sit down and play a technic excersise 3 times and do their notespeller, etc. They then check off that box for that day.

I don't get rid of students for lack of practice, I get rid of students for bad attitude, parents for not paying, or not following studio policies.

While my kids may not be getting through their levels as fast as others, they are all enjoying learning to play, they are learning to read notes and the parents are pleased.

It's working for me.
Posted by: Jalapeņa

Re: Practice Sheet - 02/22/03 02:31 PM

Originally posted by tomuch2do:
I don't get rid of students for lack of practice, I get rid of students for bad attitude, parents for not paying, or not following studio policies.

While my kids may not be getting through their levels as fast as others, they are all enjoying learning to play, they are learning to read notes and the parents are pleased.

It's working for me.

I do get rid of students for lack of practice. IMO, it's a big waste of $$ & time to work with students who only practice during weekly lesson time. Usually, the lazy students are the very same ones who are frequently absent & whose parents expect make-up lessons no matter what. :rolleyes: It all adds up to a totally miserable teaching/learning situation. My motto is the same as Lisa's: Why suffer if I don't have to? I teach the students who want to learn badly enough to practice once in a while. The lazy students are free to go somewhere else.
Posted by: Bontempo

Re: Practice Sheet - 02/24/03 04:53 AM

Two questions:

There are kids who DO want to learn badly enough how to play the piano but simply don't have what it takes to voluntarily get up from the computer and step into the piano stool to practice. But they are talented and perform well in class. So do you force them to move elsewhere too?

Second, why is your name displayed as JAPALEŅA instead of JALAPEŅO?????
Posted by: Jalapeņa

Re: Practice Sheet - 02/24/03 06:12 AM

I don't think computers or televisions have much to do with it. We have 2 TVs (I never watch either one, but Dr. Pepper luvs his big-screen TV & it's nice to have a small TV for the kids to watch videos) & a computer. There's not a day goes by that Piano Kid & Little Pepper don't gravitate to the piano (without me asking or telling them to) to sit & play. On weekends, Piano Kid manages to fit in several short practice sessions per day. She's always liked the piano, & I think she always will. It's too early to tell, but Little Pepper seems to be just like her. It takes a lot of nagging to get CD Kid to practice, but she's that way about homework & exercise & other things as well. She's just cut out of a different cloth, & I have to handle her differently. I don't think that getting rid of the TV or the computer, or nagging the kids to practice, is the way to go.

Piano Kid & Little Pepper practice more when I go to the piano & start playing. They luv bumping me off the bench. :rolleyes:

Performance opportunities seem to be what motivate Piano Kid. Dr. Pepper just recently bought a camcorder (it's about time), & Piano Kid wants to do a solo recital of Melody Bober pieces, then send a copy of the tape to MB. \:\) I'm sitting there thinking, "Yeah! After the Melody Bober recital, she can do a Faber recital, then a Timothy Brown recital, then..." ;\) \:D It's very difficult to motivate her to practice during the Spring, (I think all kids are this way; weather warms up & they just wanna be outside) but she usually practices a lot during the Summer, so I think taping recitals may be a nice Summer project for her. It'll keep her busy in LC (a new town where she won't know anybody) until school starts in the Fall.

Regarding my username: I had a little problem with my computer the other day & could not post as "Jalapeņo" (long story I don't wish to repeat in this post), so I reregistered as "Jalapeņa."
Posted by: Bontempo

Re: Practice Sheet - 02/24/03 06:34 AM

Allow me to disagree? I DO think computers and TV sets and all the works have a lot to do with it. That's what kids start getting used to in their early years.
Sometimes you want to go to the piano but you just can't stick out from the other things you're doing.... I also feel, as you, that nagging is surely not the way to go.

These kids just need a different type of stimulus to really learn how to find time to practice. And practice sheets, for example, are one of the easier stimulus. Not talking about rewards because, really, practicing is the DUTY of the student. If s/he accomplishes the duty well then rewarding can be an interesting issue.

But there ARE those talented kids who need the stimulus. Either because they're "lazy" (if you want to call it that way) or because they do everything so easily that they actually don't learn to put their effort in. Just my opinion.

About the username:
I was just confused, it could be that someone else was trying to impersonate you and THAT we could not allow! Besides, you're one of a kind. \:D \:D
Posted by: Jalapeņa

Re: Practice Sheet - 02/24/03 06:49 AM

I think PARENTAL INTEREST is the key. Some folks have such screwed up schedules &/or lives, & piano takes a back seat. It's hardly fair to expect a child to take an interest in something that the parents aren't interested in. A few years ago, I gave piano lessons to a little 7-year-old girl who never practiced & who didn't make it to piano lessons unless her mom (an LISD school principal) was in town; if her mom was on a business trip, the father was supposed to bring her to lessons, but most of the time he "forgot." After the first few weeks, when I saw that this girl was not coming to lessons prepared, I approached the mother about whether or not she was practicing at home. The mother's answer was, "I guess she is. I don't know. We're not home to see to it that she practices." :rolleyes: For 11 months I worked & worked to try to motivate this girl to practice, but to no avail. When I finally terminated her lessons, her mother said, "Well, you tried. We've enrolled her in many different after-school activities, but she doesn't seem to be interested in any of them." Poor kid! \:\( She was an overscheduled child who needed less after-school activities & more parental involvement.
Posted by: Musica

Re: Practice Sheet - 02/24/03 08:56 AM

This topic is in perfect timing. I had two parents this past telling their boys that if they spent as much time on the piano as they do playing video games then they'd know their pieces. My thoughts were "why are you not putting a time limit on video games" but those were my thoughts. I agree and don't agree, I think parents should allow their children on the tv, on the computer, and on video games however I'm a big believer on limited time. My son 5 does watch tv, and does play on the computer (no video games, hopefully never, but not yet anyway) however he has limited time. When his time is up and yell out "time up" he moand and grunts but too bad. I have not started lessons with him yet but I can see myself nagging him to practice.

I hate the question how much does my child have to practice. How many time should he be playing his song? My response is that the quality of practicing is better than the quantity. I explained that I'd rather have the child come to lessons with half the piece learnt close to perfection than playing a whole piece with mistakes everywhere. However a time limit seems to be needed to satisfy parents. So I give them a time limit, but I also tell them that they should spot check their child to be sure they are practicing what is given not flipping through the book or playing pieces they learnt two years ago.

As for assignment sheets I use the one from Wendy's piano studio, just because I haven't had the time to make one up yet. Wendy's Piano page

Most students don't record their practice time nor do they read my practice suggestions. C'est la vie! :rolleyes: Frustrating as it may be.
Posted by: Jalapeņa

Re: Practice Sheet - 02/24/03 09:50 AM

When I was growing up, there were folks at my church who were against TV. My parents' response was always the same: "Be selective about what you watch, set a time limit on how much you watch it, & turn it off when your time limit is up. It has an OFF button." And that's exactly what they did with me. I was permitted to watch TV, but only certain programs, & only for a certain length of time. After that, it was OFF." I do the same with my children. Of course, my parents were home to monitor what I did with my time, & I'm home to monitor what my children do with their time.
Posted by: GeeTee

Re: Practice Sheet - 05/31/03 11:41 AM

I am in the process of revamping my practice/assignment sheets, and after reading the Practice Revolution book, I'm considering adding something other than a practice log for recording practice times. That something is actually a set of statements, one of which is to be checked by the student prior to the lesson. Here are the statements. I'd like to know what you think...I'm looking for more accountablitly on the student's part beyond just recording times. (Most of my students are in Jr/Sr. high too).

1. I have worked hard, accomplished the goals of my assignment, and am prepared for my lesson.

2. I have worked hard but have not accomplished all of my assignment goals; I will need more time on some parts of my assignment.

3. I have not worked as hard as I could have and am not adequately prepared for my lesson.

4. I was not able to practice much this week and expect to repeat my assignment.


[ 05-31-2003: Message edited by: GeeTee ]
Posted by: NancyK

Re: Practice Sheet - 05/31/03 03:03 PM

Hi, this thread has been very intereting to read today. I have been thinking about a new practice record for my students. Come Sept. with all the other new things I am doing I am also going back to using assignment binders that I put together myself with 5 sections, one of which is where I write the assignment. As far as the student recording what they've done I've had the experiences that all of you have shared to one degree or another. Mostly nobody records anything! I'm thinking about all that was shared here but I have to say I agree with Piano Lady!!! I got sick to death of coming up with gimmicks to motivate students. I quit all of it some time ago. I hate all that cutesy stuff and I find it takes precious lesson time to worry about all those stickers and charts!!!!!! AUGH! Needing to spoon feed a student makes me crazy. I do use a few stickers and I do make sure those who are doing their job get recognition. My recital is tomorrow and one student, who I wrote about before, suddenly made a 180 degree turn around after our last discussion concerning her. Something finally clicked with her after a year. She's excited again and practicing and progressing. She is ON HER OWN marking in her assignment book, how many days she is practicing and though she doesn't write down minutes, she has shared with me. She does not know it but tomorrow she is being given a MOST IMPROVED award! Her practice and recording of it will be mentioned. I have others who do practice well, but they never mark their books so I never know when and how often they are practicing. I have found with kids, all kids, that when you reward them unexpectedly, especially publically, and do it sincerely it goes a long way! Much further than nagging the others. I have chosen to ignore them sort of, and give all the attention and praise to those who deserve it. Instead of telling them "if you do this you get that" I just do it undiscussed. Which means they did it without any bribery! If they did it on their own because they were asked to or know they need to then that holds a LOT more weight with me. If they do it for a sticker or some other "prize" well yes they did it BUT.....that doesn't teach the same priciple. Anyway....even feeling this way, I am going to incorporate a few incentives again this summer and next year so those who need spoon fed will stop whining! Including a few parents! BUT....there will be no big deal over it, just the carrying out of it, with certain "rewards" and it will be made known to others through charts or the newsletter I will be sending quarterly. MAYBE when the slackers see that others are doing things,getting ahead and being rewarded for it they'll jump on board a bit. But I will NOT be announcing.."You do this,you get that". Some won't care anyway. But when some shine or are being praised then others may decide they want that too! Today's world seems quite different from when I was a child (I am 46) or even when my children were growing up (ages 24, 21 and 19 now). I just get crazy over all the TV, movies, spoonfeeding, spoiling and rewards everyone expects or "needs". It is not a good thing in my opinion. Someone doing well because they have chosen to and have done a good job and then being recognized for it is one thing... but giving rewards for every little thing, and for nothing except so they can have an award too just gets to me BIG TIME.
Thanks for letting me spout off.

[ 05-31-2003: Message edited by: NancyK ]
Posted by: NancyK

Re: Practice Sheet - 05/31/03 03:12 PM

My Dad taught me moderation in everything. So Yeah....turn the TV off and turn the computer off when time is up. And as for the parents who sometimes are after me about reward charts and prizes etc. They can do all that in their own homes!!!! Why don't they set up those things regarding practice if they want it so badly? Like I wrote above...I will try my way.
Posted by: Dolce

Re: Practice Sheet - 06/01/03 02:06 AM

My kids know that Nintendo will never be in our home, and neither will Instant Messaging. I know kids whose parents are crazy over how much time they spend on Nintendo, and some kids spend entire afternoons IM each other. I decided this was not how I want my kids to spend their time. No Nintendo or IM is not a popular rule in our house, but it's a rule.
Posted by: pianoannie

Re: Practice Sheet - 06/01/03 10:43 AM

Originally posted by GeeTee:
Here are the statements. I'd like to know what you think...

1. I have worked hard, accomplished the goals of my assignment, and am prepared for my lesson.

2. I have worked hard but have not accomplished all of my assignment goals; I will need more time on some parts of my assignment.

3. I have not worked as hard as I could have and am not adequately prepared for my lesson.

4. I was not able to practice much this week and expect to repeat my assignment.


[ 05-31-2003: Message edited by: GeeTee ]

I do like the 4 statements, and their potential for causing a student to really think through their own degree of effort and preparation. Of course, I'm not sure that all students would take it seriously, but it's worth a try. Could you elaborate on how you will actually use these questions--will you make your own assn-sheets to put in a binder, and these questions would be at the top of each page? Or would they simply have one copy of these questions with verbal instructions to think through them each week, and verbally tell you which most closely fits for that week? Or....?
BTW, I think I need to order the Practice Revolution after reading so many favorable comments here.
Posted by: GeeTee

Re: Practice Sheet - 06/01/03 02:00 PM

Ok, here's where my assignment/practice sheet stands currently...

I've prepared a table with 5 sections as follows:
1. Warm-up/Study piece
2. Pieces to cont./review
3. New Pieces to learn
4. Theory/written work
5. Pick-up music

To the right of each section are 2 large blocks for writing out the assignment, book, title, and specific pages, sections, measures, etc. to be practiced, and then for writing specific assignment objectives (as recommended in the PR book). To the right of these areas is a grid with 7 smaller boxes marked M T W T F S S for checking the day(s) each part of the assignment was worked on.

Below all of this are two small boxed areas: 1 called "take note" for any reminders I want to make to the student (ie trim nails, bring Christmas book next week, etc.), and the other labeled "Dear Parent(s) for notes to them.

Now, at the bottom of the sheet, where I've usually had M T W... and lines for them to record their practice times, I've instead listed the 4 statements with a small box next to each for them to check. I've modified these statements a bit:

I have worked hard, fulfilled the assignment objectives, and am adequately prepared for my lesson.

I have worked hard but have not fulfilled all of the assignment objectives. I will need more time.

I have not worked as hard as I could have and am not adequately prepared for my lesson.

I was not able to practice much and expect to repeat most, if not all, of the assignment.

Right above these statements is the instruction to "please check one of the following statements that best describes your practice week."

I do use binders and give them a new assignment sheet each week, so they will mark a statement each week. If a student arrives without marking one, then we will discuss the practice week at the start of the lesson and s/he can simply make a decision as to which statement best reflects the week and mark it right then. Because they already are recording what they've practiced on each day in the table, I can at least see at a glance where time has been spent practicing. BUT, they will have to commit to marking one of the statements before the lesson will continue. Then I will better know the quality of the practice and what to expect in their performances at the lessons.

Does this make sense? I have this sheet on file and would be happy to email a copy of it as an attachment to anyone interested. Just email me privately at

I may still make some other changes to it tho down the road. \:\)

[ 06-01-2003: Message edited by: GeeTee ]
Posted by: Lisa Kalmar

Re: Practice Sheet - 06/01/03 04:30 PM

This is JMO, but it would seem, to moi that is, that if someone has taken lessons long enough to read through all of that verbociousness, then they probably a) don't have time to mess with it cuz most students successful enough to find meaning it it are probably mega busy with other stuff anyway, b) aren't going to take time to wade through all of it, or c) don't care.

The thoughts and thinking behind it are great, but it can really be edited down a bit:
1. I practiced enough
2. I almost practiced enough
3. I didn't practice enough
4. I didn't practice.

What I got out of The Practice Revolution was that I should probably move away from as much written verbosity in assignment giving. Unless it's extremely specific thangs related to each piece, that is... But perhaps that's just me!!! \:D
Posted by: GeeTee

Re: Practice Sheet - 06/01/03 05:11 PM

Lisa, I appreciate your comments. What I'm after is not just "practice" per say, but a higher quality of practice with the intention of working toward specific objectives. What I've encountered thru the years (with the varied types of ways to track practice and practice times I've used) is that either a student will put in their time and "think" they've truly practiced when in fact the objectives I have painstakingly set forth have not been met or even attended to, or they put in a rather minimal practice week and then wonder why they aren't moving past the current assignment.

I'm confident that after they become familiar with the statements & their meaning, they'll know quickly which one to appropriately mark without getting continually bogged down in the verbiage.

Because most of my students are at the Jr. & Sr. High levels (and what I consider ages of practice accountability beyond merely recording times), I was seeking a way to help them think more critically about how they're practicing themselves. I don't want this responsibility to lay solely with me.

I will use my regular assignment sheets with my elementary students btw. This new one is only for my J/Sr Highs.
Posted by: Lisa Kalmar

Re: Practice Sheet - 06/01/03 06:06 PM

Ya, I get what you're saying as a teacher. I don't know, however, that it translates to the student as such, this after running it by a couple o' teenage musicians zooming through the house today btw.

It's striking me/them as rather, for lack of a better word, church-like. Like they're going to confession or something, the horror. I would personally rather be set on fire, or have a warm barium enema even, than be humiliated by filling out a confession form each week, not to mention be subjected to a conversation about it! At least that's how the teenage moi would have felt about it!

I think what I'm saying is that putting it into a form/document is a very passive way of getting them to learn. Just another way of teaching by telling, I mean. My opinion would be that they can indeed figure out how to practice in the objective way you want 'em to, but that there are many, many more ways to involve them and teach them (or, much better, have them teach themselves) in a more active (i.e. the opposite of passive!) fashion.
Posted by: GeeTee

Re: Practice Sheet - 06/02/03 07:26 AM

Lisa, I'm beginning to see what you mean. I appreciate your insight (and that too of the teens passing thru). So, I suppose I'll go back to a simpler M T W... kind of thing where they record their times.

I just wish there was some way to keep at the forefront of some (not all) student's minds when they're practicing, that the goal is not just to put in time. Esp at the intermediate levels. And I try to drive this point home to them repeatedly. I also pour a lot of energy into preparing & laying out clear and specific practice objectives that often (with some students) are consistantly ignored. Then they come to the lesson, perform poorly, and yet can't seem to understand why since they practiced a lot this week!! I guess I was just wanting to get some of these kids to be more aware of how they are practicing. And deep down, unless they're too mentally passive or non-intuitive as Jala describes to be aware, kids really do know how they're practicing; "confessional" type statements aren't going to help. I see that now.

It's good to have a place where we can "think out loud" (kind of). Put's things into perspective. Thanks again. \:\)
Posted by: Lisa Kalmar

Re: Practice Sheet - 06/02/03 07:45 AM

Why have them record their times then? If we all say that we want quality mind spent over time spent, then why do we make them record it? Just thinking out loud here myself....

Why not develop different very simple systems of recording for different sections of pieces each week? Something as simple as a checkmark on a mini post-it note would work. I think the less fancy schmancy the better.

For students of the age you have, I think I would have them all buy a digital timer. Remember that part in the book where he talked about setting it for three minutes to work on, for example, a two measure trouble spot? This has revolutionized my own practice! I had NO IDEA how long 3 minutes was. I fixed something that had been plaguing me for WEEKS using that method.

The other thing I liked in the book for this age kids was his back-needs-scratching analogy. I think kids that age could really relate to it. An assignment for one week could be JUST to find the spots that need scratching. Just imagine: an assignment where they get to circle what's WRONG with thangs and not worry about fixing it! For many, it would probably take longer than the actual fixing. :rolleyes: ;\)

The other thing I would do with older kids like you have is spend more lesson time on supervised/guided practice, using the little tricks you've picked up. I think it would be empowering to them.

I'm gonna re-read this book again, probably several times, this summer. Maybe we should start a new thread on it. I would like to figure out how to involve parents from the start in the practice process this fall for my beginners, for example. He gave some ideas, and I want to make it interactive vs. legalistic and wordy, for lack of a better description. We can all put the blah-blah-blah speech in our policy or deliver it at the interview, but getting them to interact from the first lesson would be waaaaaay better.
Posted by: GeeTee

Re: Practice Sheet - 06/02/03 09:18 AM

Originally posted by Lisa Kalmar:
Why have them record their times then? If we all say that we want quality mind spent over time spent, then why do we make them record it? Just thinking out loud here myself....

Lisa, you are so right. I have vacillated between kids recording times vs simply placing a check on the days they've practiced. Either way you run into situations where time doesn't always = accomplishment, or a check might = 5 min. or less time at the piano! Far from adequate.

Ok, I've been hammering away at my assignment sheet all morning betwn peeks at this site, and here's something more workable & meaningful to both me and the students... (I hope)

To the far right of the sheet for each area of the assignment (warmup, review pc, new pc, theory) are 2 small columns marked "ready" and "not ready". Here the student can place a check to indicate how they feel their progress on the assignment is coming. This is NOT for me to necessarily comment on, just for an "at a glance" peek at where THEY think they are with the assignments. Then, at the bottom of the sheet there is a M T W... kind of thing with lines for them to simply check the days they feel they spent adequate time working on the assignment. Not times! Then, finally to the left at the bottom, I simply have placed a little shaded text box for their own reflection. It says:

For you to think about...
This week did you:
> Practice enough?
> Practice almost enough?
> Practice not enough?
> Didn't practice?

Again, this will only be for them to ponder. I'm sure after awhile, they won't even see it, but from time to time, as I reiterate various practice tools, etc. I may lift these questions up for them as reminders. And, btw, my kids are all used to marking SOMETHING on their sheets. They've been doing in from the start and know I don't allow them to neglect this.

What do you think?

[ 06-02-2003: Message edited by: GeeTee ]
Posted by: NancyK

Re: Practice Sheet - 06/02/03 09:44 AM

I like the idea of using the 4 statements better than checking off days or writing down minutes. I like way they are stated in pianoannie's post above. One thing my policy says is that quality of practice is more important than the number of minutes or days practiced, HOWEVER too little time or too few days of practice is not sufficient for musical growth and progress. Quality requires time. If a student got in one real good day of quality, well great, but that is not enough. Frequency and sufficient time IS important and I don't want them to think it is not. I think frequency is more important than the actual length of time at each pratcice so I do like to know how many days they put in more than minutes. Still, I like those 4 statements best and think I will adopt that on my new assignment sheets.
Posted by: Arlene Steffen

Re: Practice Sheet - 06/02/03 10:56 AM

My experience: most kids don't even look at their practice sheets. If they have things to check off, they simply take a pencil and check them off without even knowing what it is they are checking off. I can't tell you the number of times a student has said (even after going over it in the lesson by practicing parts and all), "Oh, that piece was on my assignment? I forgot!"

My response: "There is no excuse for forgetting. It's written right here in your assignment book."

"My Mom forgot to tell me to practice it."

"It's not your mom's job to practice. It's YOUR job, your responsibility."

I find that most of my students practice what they are to practice and more when they are involved in practice in the lesson, help set goals, mark things in their music themselves and then summarize what we covered at the end of the lesson.

Some of them ask for specific things written in their assignment books and I do that. Most just get page numbers and piece names, maybe a short reminder note.

I think my students practice pretty well because we practice together in the lesson and they are learning what practice and problem solving is.

I used to be big on forms and tracking things, but no more. Occasionally, just to bring home a point, I will have them track their practice time for a week, but that activity is limited and effective for its purpose.

I do maintain records of materials we have covered and I check off their CM skills, but that's about it.
Posted by: John

Re: Practice Sheet - 06/02/03 07:24 PM

Does anyone use Nancy O'Neill Breth's "The Piano Student's Guide To Effective Practicing"?

Probably not for younger students, but I may use its 34 "tips" in my assignments in the Fall, as well as providing a space for metronome mark progress.

RE: Questions ~

How about:

I met all of my goals.
I met most of my goals.
I did not meet any of my goals.

Better yet, a column where this question could be answered for EACH piece (a simple check in box 1, 2, or 3).

Of course this assumes that the student and teacher have set realistic, specific goals!
Posted by: pianoannie

Re: Practice Sheet - 06/03/03 06:17 AM

Originally posted by John:
RE: Questions ~

How about:

I met all of my goals.
I met most of my goals.
I did not meet any of my goals.Of course this assumes that the student and teacher have set realistic, specific goals!

John, you beat me to exactly the kind of comment I was going to make. I was thinking that the aforementioned suggestions of "I practiced enough/I practiced almost enough, etc" are pretty vague for students. A student's definition of "enough" can certainly be different than ours! But if there are specific goals for each piece (ie complete 1st page HT, be able to play 2nd page HS with met 112) then hopefully the student will see that he clearly did or did not meet that goal.
But back to the topic of recording minutes, which seems to be falling out of favor these days (I've been reading some of the excerpts of Practice Revolution over on, I'm not convinced a minimum daily practice time is a bad thing. Now granted, 30 minutes a day (or whatever) may not be enough time to meet the weekly goals, but I don't think it's wrong to tell a student that, in general, they should plan to practice "x" number of minutes.
I read somewhere recently (perhaps Keyboard Companion?) that in general, it takes 10,000 hours of practicing a skill for a person to become a master of it (not talking about only piano, but anything). Think about Olympic gymnasts or ice skaters--it's not uncommon to hear them say "My daily routine includes 6 hours of practice daily" or whatever. They don't say "Well, I just practice on Monday until I can nail the triple toe loop, and then my teacher says I've met my goal and I can go home." It does take long-term committed practice to become proficient at anything. I plan to continue assigning a suggested "minimum daily practice time" (and that is exactly what I call it), because I believe students need it to continue progressing well. They do know that they are to meet the goals we set together, which may take longer than their daily minimum practice time. They also know that if they have finished everything in their assignment book for that day (which generally includes sightreading from a lending library book in addition to the specific pieces that were assigned) and their is still time left in their "mdpt" then they should play personal favorites as well to complete their time. But they should never spend less than 30 minutes (45, 60, or longer for my intermediate and advanced students) at the piano each day. (well, 5 days a week is what I assign).
Posted by: GeeTee

Re: Practice Sheet - 06/03/03 06:29 AM

Pianoannie, well said. I too recommend (5 day/week) minimum practice times based on level. However, I have this one boy (13) who never puts in a full 30 min. a day, BUT, he does practice 20 min. EVERYDAY! And it shows. While he's not the most talented player, he has made great progress this year with this practice routine. On the other hand, I have this other boy (15) who practices 4 days usually (anywhere from 30 to 40 min. at each sitting). This is also been verified by his mother who sits in on the lesson. Well, this boy (same approx. capabilities as the other) is stalling out. He is rarely ready with his assignment and we end up spending most of the lesson in supervised practice. Both boys are ADD, rather passive in that they spend more time in front of an electronic monitor of some type, accademically bright, and non athletic. For the first boy, the shorter but more frequent practice sessions are working. The second boy hasn't figured that out yet.

Aside from minimum practice recommendations, I just tell all my students to practice every day they eat!! ;\)
Posted by: NancyK

Re: Practice Sheet - 06/03/03 01:34 PM

LOL GeeTee....if they practice as often as they eat, well they'd be getting somewhere!
I sometimes tell students that practice should become a daily habit just like brushing their teeth. And since most watch TV a certain amount of time everyday, I suggest they choose the show they can most give up and then use that time at the piano.'s a matter of choice for everyone. They say it takes 21 days for something to become a habit so sometimes we set that goal and once they are in that habit it IS so much easier to do it. Also..sometimes the difficult part is just getting to the piano. Once they are there they enjoy practicing and playing music. I know for myself that sometimes it is an effort to stop whatever I am doing and just get to the piano but once there I do not want to quit. Some students have shared the same thing with me.
WELL....I interrupted my own practice to read here and now I have only 25 minutes till my first student of the day arrives, so I had better get back at it so I can practice what I preach!!!! ;\)
Posted by: Jalapeņa

Re: Practice Sheet - 06/03/03 08:42 PM

Originally posted by John:
Of course this assumes that the student and teacher have set realistic, specific goals!

You ought to assume that the student & teacher have set the ***same*** goals. If the student's goal is to goof off & come to lessons unprepared, or to practice as little as possible & slide by... & the teacher's goal is for the student to practice & come to lessons prepared... then there's a conflict, no?

For the record: Whenever a student asks how much s/he should practice, time should not enter into the picture. The teacher's answer should be, "As long as it takes for you to complete the assignment." Some students won't need to practice much, while others will have to practice a lot.

[ 06-03-2003: Message edited by: Jalapeņa ]
Posted by: Vivace'

Re: Practice Sheet - 06/05/03 06:23 AM

I send home a calendar each month with studio activities and space for students to record their practice time.
During the lesson, goals are set for each piece and HOW to practice. These are written in the assignment book and often sticky notes are placed on the page with notes on "fixing" the problem areas.
It's pretty irrelevent what you put on the practice sheet....after 30 yrs I've tried it all. You either have a motivated student, or not......if they don't get the job done,
they either Can't or Won't. We can help the Can't ones, but let's not waste our valuable time on the Won'ts.
Posted by: Jalapeņa

Re: Practice Sheet - 06/05/03 10:01 AM

I don't know if this would work in the States, but in Costa Rica each of my students received at least one 60-min. weekly lesson. Only half of the lesson time was spent on instruction. The remaining time was a supervised practice session. Students were given the choice of going home after their 30-min. lesson or staying an extra 30 mins. to practice on my piano (with me listening & coaching when necessary). The tuition was the same no matter what, so most students stayed for the entire 60 mins. By the time they left to go home, their pieces were 99% mastered. The result was that my students came to each & every lesson fully prepared. Those who took two 60-min. lessons per week made even faster progress. Other than giving my students a general guideline of the # of times they needed to go over each piece at home, I didn't provide them with any sort of written practice guide or chart. The practice tips they received from me during their weekly supervised sessions sufficed.

[ 06-05-2003: Message edited by: Jalapeņa ]
Posted by: GeeTee

Re: Practice Sheet - 07/05/03 08:53 AM

[QUOTE]Originally posted by GeeTee:
[B]To the far right of the sheet for each area of the assignment (warmup, review pc, new pc, theory) are 2 small columns marked "ready" and "not ready". Here the student can place a check to indicate how they feel their progress on the assignment is coming. [B] [QUOTE]

I started using my new assignment sheets for my summer session and have discovered some very interesting things...

Even after going over specific practice goals, writing them on the sheet, etc., some students don't seem to understand what constitutes "ready". Two students (not my brightest and best either), both had several items checked "ready" yet, to me, it was quite apparent that there was still quite a ways to go to reach "ready". For the one boy who's working on Lion Sleeps Tonight from Funtime Popular, the goal was to be able to move from section to section in time. He is to be aiming to be able to play it fluently with the cd accomp. We worked on practice technics in the lesson to help him reach this goal. Btw, he's had this piece for 5 weeks (3 of which were during my summer break and he was working on his own). Well, anyway, at his last lesson, he had this piece marked ready, but there was no noticable improvement in the fluency between sections. He is not able at all to stay with the cd.

I failed to ask him directly how he practiced the moves (I will next time), but was quite curious why he marked ready.

Like Arlene mentioned previously, perhaps some students will just mark whatever withoug really considering the meaning of what they're marking.

Also, this means I must take a more direct approach to making sure students know exactly what "I" mean by ready, and then give them the tools to get their. This may be a good way to find out more clearly how aware the students are of their practice accomplishments.
Posted by: Marcia

Re: Practice Sheet - 07/10/03 06:01 PM

I hit on an idea for a summer assignment sheet that has had *amazing* results so far. I changed to a super simple design with space for about 10 assignments and to the right of each assignment a line of 10 stars. The instructions are to color in one star each time you play 3 *good* repetitions of the assignment. I don't know what the difference between marking a box with an X and coloring in 1 star is, but I'm not complaining. Everyone is marking their practice down and is actually practicing during the summer. Of course, it helps that 1 star = 1 music buck! This new simplified sheet has solved nearly all of my major problems with practice. Funny thing is, no great amount of thought was put into this idea. I put it together on a whim! The elementary, jr. high, and sr. high are all responding well to this idea.
Posted by: WenBee

Re: Practice Sheet - 07/11/03 03:50 AM

I have never had students complete a chart illustrating that they practiced each day... I don't want to be legalistic, and I don't want this to be a source of stress and focus. What I want is for them to want to practice for its own sake and to practice well. What I have done which has worked very well is type-up on red paper (in order to stand-out from all other papers) my practice tips. I discuss how much to practice at different levels/ages. I suggest different methods of practices. I discuss how to sightread a piece before even playing it the first time. I discuss how to practice. I don't have the sheet here but is something like this:
1. Focus only on notes, rhythm, and fingering until is really good. Practice slowly.
2. Add articulation (legato, staccato, accent...
3. Add dynamics
4. Add pedaling
5. Speed-up to appropriate tempo.

Besides having this on the sheet, I also drill it in the lesson by pointing it out while working on pieces. When they get new songs, I tell them only focus on ... this first time. And remind to add other features through the week... I also write practice notes in their notebooks about measures and details they are having trouble with such as practice measures 10-11 over and over until correct 5X in a row each day before playing the whole piece...

I have noticed since I gave my students these red handouts to take at home, that their performance in lesson has improved greatly! over the past when I found myself verbally reminding them and writing in notebook over and over. This is less and less necessary as students get use to their red sheets. I occasionally ask if still have by their piano and refer to... Until as is now the case, most are so in the habit of practicing this way and no longer need it.

I rarely have students play their songs too fast. They usually correct themselves and their own mistakes... \:\) \:\) \:\)
Posted by: pianoannie

Re: Practice Sheet - 07/11/03 07:02 AM

This brings up some interesting points for, ah, shall we say, lively debate? I'm curious how many of you agree with wenbee that students should learn only notes/rhythm/fingering first, then the other details ie dynamics and articulation later? Or who thinks that working on all of the above from the first read-through is the most effective? Or perhaps different strategies for different students?
Posted by: Lilla

Re: Practice Sheet - 07/11/03 07:22 AM

It depends doesn't it? Ideally, they would work on all of it at once. But sometimes a student is struggling so I might not mention the dynamics, for example. I would not say, "forget the dynamics for now". But I might not fuss over them and focus instead on perhaps a difficulty with the rhythm or hand position - and begin comments on the dynamics at a later lesson. It's a matter of how much that particular student can take in at that particular time and what's more important for securing success with that particular piece.
Posted by: Marcia

Re: Practice Sheet - 07/11/03 10:04 AM

Most students respond better to a "layering" on of items to focus on when learning an assignment from the beginning. Most of us perform so much better when not trying to think about everything at once. For instance, I particularly like when students can play good legato without the pedal first, then add it for *effect.* Some aspects have to go hand in hand, such as dynamics and phrasing, or rhythm and steady tempo. Most students' big practice error is attempting too much at a practice speed that is too fast.
Posted by: Jalapeņa

Re: Practice Sheet - 07/14/03 09:50 AM

My thoughts...

Every time I look at the method books, & think about how gradually paced they are compared to the books my teacher used when I was taking lessons, I wonder how anyone could possibly have trouble. Each "layer" is added one at a time, with plenty of supplementary books & sheets available for the students who need reinforcement, compared to the old books where several layers were added all at once (not gradual at all). What is the problem?

I suspect that the students who are struggling with the new books are not practicing or thinking, because the books are so easy that even a chimp could learn from them. Really! Maybe today's children don't need a more gradual method or presentation of material. Maybe they need to be challenged, not spoon fed. Short of practicing with students at their homes (which is impossible to do because we don't have time & we don't live with our students), how much easier can we make things for them? How much are we supposed to do for them? How much are they going to do on their own? Are we to hold their hands all the time? Whatever happened to independent learning? Seems like some kids don't know how to do things by themselves, on their own. They're so accustomed to being helped by well-meaning (but perhaps a little misguided) adults who don't want them to have to struggle. :rolleyes: After all, learning should not involve work. :rolleyes:

Please excuse me for venting. \:o

[ 07-14-2003: Message edited by: Jalapeņa ]
Posted by: Marcia

Re: Practice Sheet - 07/14/03 10:21 AM

I agree, Jala. I didn't mean to suggest that we need to make things easier, just that all students need to practice in parts and then put everything together. (If you don't know how to divide into manageable sections and how to join sections together, you don't really know how to practice efficiently.)

I totally agree with your frustration regarding how much we are to do for our students - are we to hold their hands, etc. I came back from vacation to find a message on my answering machine to the effect "She's not going to come to the next summer lesson or finish the summer. I'll let you decide to do with the money we've already paid - you do what you think is right." When I called to talk, the mom said she was confused about what to do each week. (A 14-year-old homeschooled 8th grader) We had talked about the process of learning a piece from the beginning. I think you need to synthesize quickly notes-rhythm-fingering, then notice dynamics and phrasing, articulation, accent, get up to correct tempo, reflect the mood of the piece, etc. You shouldn't stay at the notes-rhythm-fingering level for long at all before noticing all the musical details and reflect them in your sound. She wanted a specific direction on how many times to play each measure, etc. This is how her teacher during her elementary years taught and she can't seem to adapt to the idea she should listen as she practices, evaluate, practice until she know she's got it right, then move on. This is *amazing* to me! A 14 yr old who is playing sonatinas that needs a teacher to nurture her along this closely?! (She never asked for clarification, never said, "Could you explain what you want me to do this week?") I would be truly sorry if I thought I had been unclear in my directions, but I am quite specific as to what should happen the next week. No one should have to write every practice step down for any age student.

The money situation - now that probably belongs in another thread. Now I'M venting.
Thanks for listening.

Originally posted by Jalapeņa:
My thoughts...

. . . Maybe they need to be challenged, not spoon fed. Short of practicing with students at their homes (which is impossible to do because we don't have time & we don't live with our students), how much easier can we make things for them? How much are we supposed to do for them? How much are they going to do on their own? Are we to hold their hands all the time? Whatever happened to independent learning? Seems like some kids don't know how to do things by themselves, on their own. They're so accustomed to being helped by well-meaning adults who doesn't want them to have to struggle. :rolleyes:

Please excuse me for venting. \:o

[ 07-14-2003: Message edited by: Jalapeņa ]
Posted by: Jalapeņa

Re: Practice Sheet - 07/14/03 11:10 AM

I'm sorry, Marcia. My post wasn't directed at you or anyone else on the board. I agree with what you posted, & I should have stated that in my post. It just struck me that we IMTs try so hard to make sure our students learn that I often wonder if we're doing them more harm than good. Yes, we need to explain things & make our expectations clear. No, we don't want any student to fall through the cracks. However, students need to do their part as well. It looks to me like some teachers (not just piano teachers, but school teachers as well) are creating a generation of children who can't work independently.
Posted by: GeeTee

Re: Practice Sheet - 07/14/03 03:24 PM

I too have similar practice "steps" in a handout that I give to students. I refer to them as basic goals:

1. Aim for 100% accuracy of rhythm, notes, fingering, articulation, and phrasing at a mod. slow or slower tempo.

2. Cont. goal #1 and begin to "look" around the notes at the expression markings, assimilating as many of them as possible.

3. Cont. #2 and aim for greater fluency at a tempo closer to that which is marked.

4. Aim for 100% accuracy at tempo with complete fluency.

When I present a new piece to a student, I usually say that the ultimate goal is to honor the intentions of the composer. That of course means realizing all notations and markings in the score as well as what the title might stylistically suggest. With some students, they can handle most of the notes, rhythms, fingering, etc. from goal #1 and bring in some of the expressive things as well from the get go. Others simply seem to be able to focus on just the first goal.

When preparing a new piece, I draw the student's attention first to the stylistic and expressive considerations of the piece before looking at notes. I may ask things like (after studying it visually) "How do you expect this sound? Where does the music look difficult/easy to play? Why?" Then we look at form, esp. if it's obvious (binary, sonata-allegro, etc.). IOW we try to discover as much as possible about the piece "musically" before jumping in to practice goal #1. I often also pull out some of the more complicated rhythmic sections for specific counting, tapping, drumming activities hoping to prevent problems when they're working out notes, etc. At this point I'll often play the piece or a recording of it if available and we'll sometimes talk about whether or not their intial expectations were on the money. Then, as the student begins to work thru the nitty gritty of goal #1, they hopefully have in the back of their minds a general impression of where the piece needs to go "musically".
Posted by: Lisa Kalmar

Re: Practice Sheet - 07/14/03 04:06 PM

The Practical Piano Pedagogy book by Martha Baker-Jordan has a "Practice Suggestions" form in it that is similiar to what Gretchen mentioned and has been floating around pedagogy circles for years. It's designed for 4-week study of late elementary and early intermediate levels. When higher level than that, pieces need to be divided into sections that are practiced like individual pieces with separate weekly goals.

Her definition of "accurate" includes everything printed on the page - "dynamics, phrasing, articulation, rhythm, etc." All must be learned in the first week of practice. Her answer for appropriate tempo is whatever it takes to play the assigned accurately. If they are truly learning it accurately, then they are FORCED to take it slowly the first week. Here's her breakdown:

Week 1 Goal: Slow-Accurately, counting out loud if necessary
1. each part slowly, no mistakes, HT XX times
2. Whole piece slowly as well as possible XX times.

Week 2 Goal: Modearate tempo - accurately
1. Whole piece slowly, counting to self, BUT always counting XX times
2. Whole piece moderate temop to see if there are trouble spots. If so, stop on each spot and play it perfectly 3 times in a row at a slow to modearate tempo.
3. Whole piece moderate tempo, as well as possible XX times

Week 3 Goals: SHould-Sounds
1. Whole piece moderate tempo XX times
2. Whole piece should-sound to see if there are trouble spots, If so, stop on each spot and play it perfectly 3 times in a row at a moderate to should-sound tempo.
3. Whole piece should-sound, as well as possible, without stopping XX times

Week 4 Goals: Should-Sound, 1st try (performance level)
1. Whole piece should-sound as well as possible without stopping
2. If trouble spots: A. Play whole piece again and stop on each spot. B. Play each spot perfectly 3 times in a row.
3. Whole piece sloly 1 time
4. Whole piece moderately 1 time
5. Whole piece should-sound XX times

This is pretty much how I was trained by Mary Gae George. First week to be played at metronome half-tempo ACCURATELY, then moving on from that over a 4-week period. I really don't subscribe to not paying attention to important musical elements the first week. It creates non-aware practicers plus certain things, like articulations, simply MUST be learned correctly from the beginning. I also don't think that playing musically is something that should be tacked on at the end of studying a piece. It is possible to play thing's musically at half tempo. And the sooner they figure it out, the more practice-aware they become and you nip potential problems in the bud. JMO, though, not looking for a debate, heh heh.

THe sheet I detailed above, btw, is in tear-out form in the back and on the CD disc that comes with the book. I haven't figured out how those thangs download yet! \:o :rolleyes: Plus she has more specific comments on the different weekly goals. This is just in one little chapter out of 20. This book is, again, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for everyone's personal pedagogy library!
Posted by: Jalapeņa

Re: Practice Sheet - 07/14/03 05:35 PM

If she teaches like Mary Gae George, then I'm buyin' the book for sure. We have lots of moving-related expenses to pay for this month, but I'll put the book on my wish list. \:\)
Posted by: Carole

Re: Practice Sheet - 07/14/03 06:08 PM

Actually, I saw it on Pianolane for $33 and change. I think it is $39 most places. I have been thinking of buying it. Is it really worth the money?
Posted by: NancyK

Re: Practice Sheet - 07/14/03 09:54 PM

It is worth the money in my opinion. One reason the cost is high is because of the CD rom that comes with it for using her charts and sheets, etc. Some you can modify to suit yourself. The book brings out some good points and the chapter called THE BLACK HOLE is very good. The book will validate you sometimes and give you things to think about at other times. If nothing else it helps you evaluate your own teaching and your own way of doing business. It will get your mind going and you can take or leave whatever ideas are presented.