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Entries in Piano Teaching (2)


Happy Spring!

1 prize from the pink basket, or 3 from the purple

I hope my students will be excited this week when they see the baskets. My favorite lessons were always the ones before a holiday where my teacher would have a small treat for me like a Lisa Frank pencil, an eraser, or maybe a nice chocolate!

In the baskets are spring puzzles, Make-Your-Own felt bunny, sidewalk chalk in the shape of butterflies, themed pencils and erasers, and a few other random things I've stored up. For the bigger treats, my students only get to pick one, but for the smaller treats, they can select up to 3 - that way my total is less than $2 per student.

In case you're wondering how I do this: a closet of bins organized by season where I store all my prizes, games and stickers that I've acquired during the year. My resources include a few awesome friends, dollar stores, and watching the clearance sales like a hawk. I get to the sales right away in the morning, scoop up items that are going to sell out quickly due to awesomeness or small quantities - then I wait, watch and buy as needed like a stock broker as the sale dwindles. I didn't do well at the Christmas sales, but Halloween is going to be amazing...



88 Key Challenge

Last fall, I wanted to create something that would help students get back in the swing of regular practice. I decided to set a goal for each student to practice 880 minutes by the end of November. For every 10 minutes practiced and signed off by a parent (ala Reading Challenge style), they colored in a key on the "88 Key Challenge" sheet where we kept track of how far they'd made it. If a student colored in 88 keys by the contest deadline, they were able to choose a king size candy bar, personal snack size bag of chips or pick from my stash of "Too Good for the Prize Box" prizes.

The breakdown:

880 Minutes\91 Days = 9.5 Minutes/Day or 3 20-Minute sessions a week. (Including time spent on theory and Tonic Tutor)

By the beginning of November, I had over half of my students struggling (sadly), so I extended the deadline to the end of the year. After all, I was trying encourage them in the end, not break them. Even at the end of December I had a few students who didn't quite make it. Instead of giving them nothing, we talked about what they could've done better, why this challenge was important and I gave them a smaller, but appreciated, reward for their work.

Some of the things I learned from this round:

- Make sure students know what to tally: each minute or each set of 10 minutes - this was a sticky spot.

- Some parents were awesome about signing off, some weren't, I think some parents never knew this happened... Next time, I'll make the students feel more invested so that they will take initiative.

- The right questions to ask and things to say in order to figure out if that student actually did what they said. I started to find the balance between being interested in what they want to learn, but trying to show they why we need to work on this first.

- Make the keyboard only 88 keys or the children will be confused and I will have to be counting their keys every week to know where they're at.

Overall, it was really fun. Especially at the store, where I taped each sheet to the wall and students could see each other's progress. (Or stare in wonder, "You mean, you have other students?") I will definitely bring this one back, maybe with a different goal, or maybe with a different set of parameters.

Here's a practice guide I used for my students with binders.

Here is the 88 Key Challange sheet we colored in (amended to only include 88 keys for your benefit).