School began a few weeks ago, and our A4M students have started working on new music for the third annual 'Sounds of Silents' event ( mark your calendars for November 1! ). To help motivate students to practice with intentionality and care, John and I have created the "Fill in the Reel" practice challenge.  As you can see below, each student has a "reel board" on the studio wall which includes a border of large slides and small ticks.  Students may fill in a tick for each five minutes practiced, attending a lesson, bringing lesson materials, and completing written activities.  Slides are filled in after earning 30 tally marks (a successfully met goal) or 60 dots (not quite a success).  We want our students to set attainable goals each time they practice and  evaluate their own playing so they know how much they're progressing at home.  

Reel boards of Laura's piano students.

Reel boards of Laura's piano students.

Roger practicing the marimba with mallet and pencil in hand. 

Roger practicing the marimba with mallet and pencil in hand. 

The tally mark/dot practice method was not my original idea.  I am thankful that I attended Sarah Lyngra's workshop at the 2013 National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy. She explained her method using post-it notes to help students set clear visual goals directly on their sheet music.  See Roger below: his goal was to play through the first line of music with no stops and clear articulation.  At this point in his practice, he saw more unsuccessful attempts, so he needed to change something about the goal.  Slow down the tempo? Practice a shorter section perhaps? 

Roger marking a dot for an unsuccessful attempt.

Roger marking a dot for an unsuccessful attempt.

On average, students are earning between 20-30 tally marks and dots in each lesson.  Therefore, we expect everyone to earn more in their practice at home.  Although it is one more thing for a student to keep track of, this system really pays off!  It has been rewarding to see students realize their own successes and challenges.  In addition, students can show parents these marks as an effective way to communicate how their practice is going at home.

We are offering a few rewards for students who complete their reel boards with movie-related themes, but it seems that once they start to see measurable progress, it motivates them to spend more time "filling in the reel".  

Our next post up will be all about the 'Sounds of Silents' event.  We've chosen Buster Keaton's Sherlock, Jr., Florence Turner's Daisy Doodad's Dial, Winsor McCay's The Flying House, and Lotte Reiniger's Cinderella.  Stay tuned!

 

 

 

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