"Have You Practiced Yet Today?": Great Ideas That End the "No's"
from the Private Lesson Teachers Resource Index
If you're ready to turn in that tiresome phrase, "Have you practiced yet today?" for ideas that bring genuine enthusiasm to practice time, this article is for you.
Throughout the following ideas, the one basic theme is to end the routine. Not the routine of practicing but the routine of doing the same thing each and every day. Boredom happens when day after day children are presented with static or long range goals. Kids live in the here and now and they need to see goals that are quickly attainable with rewards that are immediate. If these goals are well chosen, not only will they develop a passion for practicing but their productivity during practice will skyrocket.
For all of you parents who have been singing this same song for a very long time, there will come a time when your child is able to play well enough that they will practice for their own enjoyment. Until that blessed day, here are a few ideas that you can try.
Praise Your Child
Praise your child. Instead of nagging them to practice, find some way to acknowledge and support their efforts. Praise them for good posture. Praise them for trying. Let them know how pleased you are about the progress they have made on a particular song. Praise is a wonderful and appreciated thing, and the reward for you and your child will be great.
Designing a Practice Schedule
Designing a practice schedule that is right for your child is an important part of your child's plan for success. Beginners do not need long practice periods to make progress. For elementary grade children, 20 minutes per day is quite sufficient. Beginning trumpet or trombone players, for example, would be well served by a short practice period as their muscles are easily fatigued. Some children may prefer to practice 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there. These short periods may be just what they need to keep things interesting. Practicing every day is ideal though skipping a day here and there will not hurt anything. It may even help to keep your child fresh and excited about playing.
Find Great Music
Music that kids enjoy playing motivates them to go to their instrument to play it. Unfortunately, this simple equation is often overlooked by music instructors who choose to focus heavily on scales, exercises and theory, and pay little attention to what might interest the student. There are many wonderful graded method books full of Disney songs, popular songs and hymns for begininng and intermediate instrumentalists. Also avalible are Book/CD Play Along sets that give your child a chance to play along with a full orchestra, rock band or jazz combo, playing favorites from Disney, the movies, pop culture, and Broadway. Talk to your teacher to see what they recommend.
Sponsor a Practice Contest
Encourge your private music teacher to schedule a practice contest for all of the students in his/her music studio. Let the students know that the contest will run for a predetermined amount of time (two weeks perhaps). The students will record the time that they practice each day on a practice contest sheet. At the end of the contest the student with the most practice time will win a prize. Finding any one prize that will motivate every student may prove to be a challenge. Suggesting that the winning student may select the prize of their choice up to $25 from an online store may be just the thing to generate some excitement. Kids can go online, choose their prize, and practice like crazy to win it.
Make a Tape
Ask your child to make you a tape to send to grandmother. Have her listen back to it each time she records a song to make sure it was performed well.
Ask Them to Play for You
Ask your son/daughter to play the piece his private music teacher assigned to him this week. Let your child know how much you enjoy hearing their song. Chances are he/she would jump at the chance to please you.
Practice with a Metronome
If your child is more advanced, have them practice with a metronome. Have him/her start the metronome at a slow tempo until they can perform the piece without mistakes. Then move the metronome up a notch and repeat the process. Keep doing this until you reach the tempo at which the piece should be played.
Drill Skills with Free Online Music Theory Resources
If your child is still working on acquiring basic skills such as note naming and rhythm recognition, check out Making Music Fun's Oliver the Octopus Arcade to play two fantastically fun music arcade games that will allow your child to drill these skills.
Sit and Listen
Sit with your child and listen to their pieces. Stopping what you are doing and committing some positive focused time to your child sends a message that is loud and clear; I care about what you are doing and I value you. It may take some patience on your part, epecially if your child is just beginning, but the reward will be lifelong for both your relationship with your child and their commitment to music and learning.
A practice chart is a wonderful way to encourage practice time. Kids love to be recognized for their effort, whether it be for specific things like memorizing their scales, or for general things like meeting daily practice goals. Let your child add his/her own sticker each time they achieve their goal. Once your child has met their long term goal, shower them with praise. If that doesn't seem to do the trick, you may have to break out the cookies.
Hold a Recital
Host an informal recital in your home for all the neighborhood kids that play an instrument or sing. Then treat them with cake and ice cream after the recital. Having something to practice for is always a great incentive to practice.
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