Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Practicing made easy

We all have that ideal, right?  Our cherubic child waltzes to the piano without a single reminder from us and spends the next hour practicing their pieces section by section until they are perfect.  It's not a bad goal, but we have to understand learning to practice takes practice.  I have my masters in performance and I still have trouble practicing!  But aside from raising our voice and losing it when they are being distracted and unproductive, what do you do?

Mix it up!  Get them playing without them realizing they are actually learning!  There will be days where they are curious and focused, but for the days they aren't, here's a list of ideas to bookmark and use on the fly.  I'll be adding to them as I come up with them (and as you suggest your winning tricks!)

Check it.  Give a checklist of pieces to play with boxes to mark off, not a set time.  Visually they feel accomplished and they get everything done faster without the whine.  Other variations are to have them make a checklist of what they played and show you afterward (you can give them boundaries - such as to pick at least 5 songs, etc.)

Something different.  Take a vacation from their normal music and give them something new, easy and familiar to play.  You can download tons of fun free sheet music on the web, including here.  They take a break from their regular music but they are exercising their sight reading and self-teaching muscles!

Beat the clock!  Give them a timer - something they can see.  If it's short, you can see if they can play everything before the timer runs out.

Randomizer.  Put the things you want them to play - pieces or individual sections of a piece on slips of paper and then into a hat.  When they've played everything, practice time is done!

Make a fort!  Have the help you build a fort big enough to be able to play in and send them in.  It's labor intensive, but a treat for them - you can even use it as an incentive i.e.:  "If you do your chores, play really well today, etc., tomorrow you get to have a music fort!"

Have a snack.  Don't have a lot of time, patience, etc.?  Practicing doesn't always have to be a huge feast of time - some days it's just best to have a lite day - a practice snack.  Play something just once, just do a few favorite review songs, etc.  Wouldn't you prefer them to got at least some music in than nothing?  Any time invested regularly helps!

Change of scenery.  If your child plays a portable instrument, send them into the bathroom so they can see themselves and enjoy the acoustics.  Or outside if the day is nice.

Record it.  Give them a tape recorder (does anyone still have one??) or another kind of recording device (a smartphone iPod touch, probably) .  Designate a piece for them to record, with the instruction that they'll be playing the recording for you or the whole family over dinner.  The goal is to get it as clean and mistake-free as possible.

Stick it.  Give them a sheet of stickers and they get to put one on themselves for every time they play a certain something - a hard section, a review piece, etc.  Take a picture of the creative aftermath!

Skype.  One thing WG loves is showing her Gamma what she can do, so the promise of getting to play something on Skype for her motivates her to get something polished.  Plus Gamma cheers SUPER LOUD.    It's very gratifying.

Sweeten the deal.  My favorite teaching tool is to have them earn a treat from a good lesson or practice session. My go-to is to put 5 pieces of candy, pretzels, etc. on a table where they can see it, and they can have all of them at the end.  But if they lollygag, get up or act out, I silently walk over and eat one then go back to what I was doing.  They can have whatever is left, and if it's a tough day, at least I got a treat in me to cheer me up :)

Put on a show.  Make a makeshift stage out of a blanket to stand on, and have your child assemble an audience of toys.

Accessorize.  I LOVE my friend Becca's awesome post she did for us on the power of beads as a motivating tool and how adaptable it is.  At the end of good practicing and lessons, they also have something tangible to show just how much work they did.

Reward them.  We won't call it bribery because it is really them earning something by working.  I have a friend who gives his kids a quarter for practicing - he says it is because chores are jobs that are expected they do to contribute to the family and those are unpaid, but practicing is something extra.  And his kids have great discipline and are sweet as can be, so I'm sold!  Some days WG really wants to play a certain game or go somewhere fun or do some craft together - and I say she can earn it after music lessons.  Works every time.

Ask them.  What would they like to do?  When a child feels they have control over their situation, they take ownership and are more self-motivated.  And chances are, your creative child probably has some great ideas just right for their learning style.


Desiree said...

Hey, you're back! Happy New Year!

Master P said...

Right back atcha!!

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