Practice. It is a necessary part of learning any new skill. But, practice made fun? Really?
In my studio, we have been working towards student autonomy. How can I give my students more choice in their lesson, their repertoire, & their practice? And … how can I help them make smart choices during the week?
What Practice Often Looks Like
A couple years ago, homework time was a bit of a nightmare in our home. The current trend of teaching students math strategies & avoiding teaching math facts made for long nights & a lot of tears. First, it was figuring out what the problem was asking (Do I need to add, subtract, multiply or divide?). Then, list at least 2 strategies that could be used. And, finally doing the actual math involved using dots on a page or some other tool. Needless to say, one page of homework was taking well over an hour with the myriad of steps involved.
So, we ended up going old school. We drilled math facts each evening since it wasn’t happening at school. First, they started with the 2 times table (i.e. 2 x 2 = 4). Then, the 3 times facts were added. Once they had those, it was the 4 times & so on … until they were able to successfully & quickly answer each fact. My husband was there to help them remember the patterns & give them encouragement all the way. And when it came time for homework, reminders of those patterns helped them finish in about 15 minutes.
For our students & their parents, piano practice can look much the same. What needs to be practiced? Which strategy is the best when stuck?
Depending on the family, this can be an easy routine to their week. Or, it can be a time of tears.
What Practice Can Look Like
If a piano parent has a piano background, it’s easier for them to step in & guide their child through the process. Both my husband & I have taught math (senior high & junior high respectively) so we were able to step in to help our kids in a pedagogically sound way.
But, what about our families that don’t have a musical background?
Practice can be a hugely frustrating part of their week.
I really believe that parents WANT to support their kids. They just don’t always know HOW.
It’s up to us, as teachers, to not only give strategies, but show when & how to specifically use them.
Our twins had plenty of math strategies, but didn’t have the knowledge necessary to know which strategy was the best for any particular problem. It was the same as having NO strategy & going into their homework blind. For many of our piano students, they have the same problem.
How to Use a Practice Pouch
More piano teachers are giving their students a practice pouch. It contains various tools to make practice more effective, efficient & fun. Every one of my students has a practice pouch. But, I noticed that they didn’t necessarily use the pouch during the week. Or if they did use it, each object had a particular use.
A few weeks ago, I talked about the research into how we learn. One of the things that we can do to help our students is to see objects in a new way … to take away the ‘fixed function’ of practice objects.
One of the first studio challenges for my student this year is a practice challenge. That cute little eraser in their pouch went from erasing to practicing floating their hand off the keys. But, why stop there? I created an infographic that showed them 5 ways to use that same cute eraser during practice.
We will be interleaving strategies so they know exactly what tool is best for the song goal they have. And over the course of the year, my student will have a reference sheet that we can refer to in finding the BEST strategy for each song.
5 Ways – a Practice Tool Kit
I’ve created a “5 Ways” piano practice strategies for you as well! And, it will cover the next 12 months … or more.
Not only does it cover the objects many of us have in our practice pouches (dice, eraser, post-its, etc.), but it also covers ways to use common household objects as well during practice. Do you have a Lego crazed student? A student that loves cup rhythms? Or, perhaps you are tired of fighting the sugar-high after Halloween? There are even 5 ways to practice using candy.
To access the entire set of PDF’s, click the image below for “5 Ways – Piano Practice Strategies“.
Let me know below how it goes in your studio!