Growing up I never had incentives to practice from any of my teacher or my parents. I would simply be given an assignment and I was expected to go home and practice. No promise of a prize or goodie if I did my work, I just had to do it.
After years of reading networking with other music teachers, I appear to be one of the few who didn't receive an incentive for practicing. All I can figure is that I wasn't like other kids. I wasn't always the best and most consistent practice-r, but I got it done.
When I first started teaching 15 years ago, I was working for another music studio and I found that my students needed a little more push to get some of their assignments done.
I tried all kinds of things, but the only thing that worked consistently was stickers. The current sticker incentive program I have for my students is ongoing.
How It Started
I had a young student bring in one of her school assignments to show me. She had drawn herself practicing the piano. (It was adorable and I wish I had taken a picture) I commented on her beautiful work and asked where the sticker came from. She said her teacher puts one on all of their completed assignments. I didn't think much of it at the time and gave an "oh that's cool" type of response.
When got into her lesson, she asked if she could have a sticker on the song she had just completed. I obliged and started doing that for all of my students. They loved it!
Stickers on their music turned into stickers on the front cover of their books. They all started keeping track of how many stickers they earned, but there's a problem with keeping stickers on book covers; they either fall off or get ripped off one way or another.
I had one child come to his lesson in tears because his favorite sticker fell off his book and he couldn't find it. I decided to find a way to help my students keep track of their stickers without losing them.
I grabbed a handful of index cards, wrote each of my students names and bound them together with some yarn. Problem solved. Woohoo!
I started doing this in 2009. It wasn't until 2012 when I came across Joy Morin's blog, Color In My Piano, that found other piano teachers were doing the same thing!
AND they were giving prizes! (I swear I love the prizes just as much as the kids do sometimes)
How It Works
Students earn 1 sticker for each page of music they learn or sightread, each theory sheet they complete, and for knowing the "Music Symbol of the Week".
When they reach 25 stickers, they pick a prize from the Prize Box. We flip their card over and do it again. Once the second side is full, they get to take their card home and receive a new one to start filling up.
I think this incentive is so effective because every sticker, every card, and every prize is new, just like the pieces they're learning.
It's also great for online music lessons because your students can still earn stickers. Then when they earn their prize you can either send them a digital gift (gift card, coupon, music, digital download, etc) or you can send them a gift in the mail. If you know you're going to see your students in-person again (like me), just let them know they'll be able to pick their prize as soon as you're together again.
Do you have practice/learning incentives? What works with your students? Let me know in the comments below.