This October we will be having our 7th annual Candy Corn Challenge! I know candy corn is a hotly debated candy, but I promise this is a challenge that works!
A little while back I wrote about how I use sticker cards as an ongoing incentive program.
This program had worked splendidly for 5+ years of my teaching, but I was noticing that several of my older students were getting frustrated at how long it took for them to complete 25 pages of music...especially compared to the little ones.
Then, something I've known for a long time finally hit me. If I'm to reach my students where they are, I must acknowledge the importance of instant gratification in addition to delayed gratification in their lives.
Every generation experiences a faster paced and more stimulating world than the one before it. It's only natural that this generation needs immediate feedback more than I did growing up. Now I run a studio-wide incentive program every few months that provides them with instant feedback.
For the first Candy Corn Challenge, I put together personalized theory packets for each student. At the time, it seemed like a good idea, but putting them together took ages and keeping track of those packets turned out to be a nightmare.
Last year, I overcompensated for my mistake and played Halloween themed games. It was fun and the planning was easy, but in addition to taking up a lot of lesson time; the older one's were bored with some of the games and the little one's hadn't learned many of the concepts yet.
This year's version of the Candy Corn Challenge is a hybrid of the last two. I've laminated some of the theory sheets I created that first year and added some letter name and interval cards. Starting next week, all students of the academy will start their lessons with a level-appropriate theory task. Every correct answer and every wrong answer that they fix on their own earns them a piece of candy corn!
Still wondering why candy corn?
1. You get a lot of candy for a little money. 4.5 pounds for under $10 at BJ's. Score!
2. They're small candies, so I don't feel badly giving even the little ones a few pieces.
3. I don't like it, so I won't be tempted to eat it. :)
Head over to my Teachers Pay Teachers store on October 1st to get your own copy of these Halloween themed worksheets & games.
Like many other piano teachers, I use the beginning of the school year to set goals for my students. I do a mid-year checkup in January and then set a separate goal for the summer.
I call my student's goals their "Mission Statement" and they are responsible for helping create it each year.
The Goal Setting Process
I highly recommend that you get your students involved in setting their goals for the year. The importance of having students choose their own goals cannot be over stated. When children are able to have a say their own learning, they feel empowered and take more responsibility in their studies.
But choosing goals can be really hard for a kid, because you don't know what you don't know.
I've come up with some questions to help my students set their Mission Statement for the year.
Questions for Young Beginner Piano Students
For young piano students (5 & under) I ask them these three questions:
Most of them don't give me a completely coherent answer - okay, let's be honest, the little ones ramble - so I listen and then rephrase their response to fit into a two to three sentence Mission Statement.
Questions for Elementary to Advanced Piano Students
For older students, we get a little more involved. They choose one "what" question and one "how" question from the following list.
Students choose one "what" question and one "how" question from each list to answer and together we create their Mission Statement.
I have them start their Mission Statement with "I (name)" then answer their two questions.
After they've written it down, we take it over to the Mission Statement board in the waiting room. Putting it on the board makes official and keeps them accountable. I've found it really helps my students stay on task throughout the year.
I've created this printable to help you and your students set their goals for the year.
Do your students set their own goals?
When do you set your student goals? Do you use a different method of setting those goals? I've love to hear your thoughts!
We may still be in quarantine, but I'm thinking ahead to summer when, hopefully, we'll be able to see our friends and family and students face-to-face. It's at that time when I'll be kicking the practice incentives into high gear.
When I started teaching, I didn't have any trouble getting my students to practice over the summer. I'd give them an assignment, write a little practice log in their books, and they'd come back the next week with their work complete.
Then about 7 years ago, something changed and I started hearing excuses..."I didn't have time", "I was at camp all day", "We went away for the weekend"...instead of music.
So, over the past few summers, I've given my students fun and new ways to practice.
One of those activities is Summer of Music Bingo. I haven't done this particular program in a few years and I'm excited to be bringing it back!
How to Play:
To complete the challenge, students must get bingo - 5 in a row (vertical, horizontal, or diagonal). And of course I will add an optional challenge to finish the whole board by the end of summer!
Students color in the square when they've completed the activity and we go over the board together at every lesson to track their progress and answer questions. Once they achieve BINGO they are to take a picture of themselves with their BINGO board and send it to me!
It's up to you whether or not you want to give out prizes. Sometimes just letting the fun of finishing be the reward is just what kids need.
In years past, the student(s) with the most activities completed at the end of August would receive a surprise at their summer piano party (more on that later). Since I'm not sure whether or not we'll be able to have our summer performance parties, I'm doing rewards a little differently. This year, I'm doing a 3 part reward system.
Most of the activities can be completed within a day or two, but some of the activities will take them a few days or weeks to complete. My goal for this, as it is with all of my practice incentives, is to encourage consistency in my students practice habits.
Want your own copy of Summer of Music Bingo? Download the pdf here
Over the past several weeks, I've been sharing several resources I've created and used in my music studio as we transition to online music lessons.
In March, I shared 11 benefits of online music lessons. Last week were student and parent guides to online lessons.
In today's post, I'm be sharing dynamics practice sheets.
These fun llama-themed sheets - from my "Llama Hear Ya Play!" series - will help your students understand reading and playing with dynamics on the piano!
The theory sheets can be emailed to your students or printed and put into their piano practice packets!
Using the packets
There are 3 versions of the dynamics practice sheets: Pre-Reading, Beginner, and Elementary.
Each packet has an informational page that introduces the dynamics forte & piano, their definitions, and a description of how to play them properly on the piano. The next page provides your students the opportunity to practice these dynamics with easy to read and play exercises.
Packets can be used as an introduction to dynamics in your students' lessons or you can send it to your students as a fun supplement to their daily practice routine.
Click the photo to download the Llama Hear Ya Play! Dynamics Packets or on the link below.
I, like you, have been a busy bee these past few weeks.
In addition to teaching, running a multi-teacher business, transitioning my other teachers and their students to online lessons, and transitioning church services to an online format, I've been hard at work creating teaching materials.
You may have noticed there wasn't a post last Friday. That's because I chose to use that time to create new resources that I think will benefit you more than reading me ramble on about being a piano diva.
Don't worry that post will come! :)
Back in March, I shared 11 benefits of online music lessons with you. If you haven't read it and grabbed your freebie, head over there now before continuing on!
Got your freebie? Great, here are the next ones!
After creating that download, I realized that very few of my parents needed convincing about how good it is for them to continue lessons and needed more guidance in how to help their children succeed, so I created a guide, or cheat-sheet if you will, for parents and students to help with having successful online music lessons.
You can get your free guides here:
I hope your families find these resources as useful as mine found them!