As teachers, I am sure all of us are constantly looking for ways to motivate our students to practice. I have an idea to share!
Recently I moved from California back to my home town Christchurch, New Zealand. My daughter had just finished Kindergarten in the States before we left. The school system here is different, the school year starts in February, so she was put in the Year 2 class in July when we arrived, and will be in Year 3 at the beginning of 2023! She had learned her alphabets and could read very simple books, but not at Year 2 level. One day my daughter brought home a “Reading Journal”: everyday students are supposed to read a book or two, and they have to record it in the journal. They write the date, and the name of the book that was read. They can read books from home, books they borrow from the school library, or books they read together in class (they get a copy to bring home and every couple days or so they exchange for different ones). The journal is checked by the teacher regularly. To my surprise, my daughter takes this journal very seriously! Her reading has improved tremendously in the last few months because of it and she has caught up to her year. This gave me the idea of a Piano Journal.
What is a Piano Practice Journal?
You may think there is nothing new here! Isn’t it basically an instrument practice log, similar to what is built into our Duet accounts? Or an Assignment Book? But you see, the difference is, the teacher NEVER writes in the journal! The journal is blank to begin with. There is no preprinted weekly calendar, there is no box to check off. The student is responsible for writing down everything. The fact they are fully responsible for the content of the journal is what motivates them. If they don’t read, the page remains blank. Traditionally, piano teachers write down in the student’s assignment book the date of the lesson, what scale or technique pattern to practice that week, what pieces to work on, how many times each, what to watch out for, what to focus on, etc,. Sound familiar? I have to say I actually have never done that, I just put everything directly on the page in the student’s music. But I sure have seen such assignment book from transfer students, and they do provide help to guide the students (and parents) what to do in between lessons. But this idea of having students record their own daily reading in the journal is the secret! They own the journal and are so proud when they see it getting filled up by their own hand writing.
So I started giving a Piano Journal to my first new local student here (I am still teaching my US students online). I also gave one to my daughter. I ask them to practice daily, write the date, write the name of each piece, write how many times they practice, they can also write how they feel about their music or piano progress, and also practice drawing the grand staff with the new notes they learn that week. They love their journal! The parent of my new student, who is herself a piano teacher, is amazed at how much it has motivated her daughter. I tell them when the journal is full, they will receive a brand new, beautiful journal and a small gift – even more motivation!
What tools do you use to motivate your students to practice their instrument? Please share in the comments below!