incentives

The Great Cupcake Practice Goals Challenge…

By Robin Steinweg        0309084435

It’s big. It’s breakable. It’s bodacious. It’s pink and white with a cherry on top, and has a slot like a piggy bank…  It’s a cupcake bank given to me by a choir member. And what might a grown woman do with a giant hot pink cupcake bank?

Just not right for a centerpiece...

Just not right for a   centerpiece…

Use it as inspiration for my students to set practice goals, and meet those goals each week. Two months of walking past that cupcake, wondering what to do with it, did the trick.

Students (with my input) set three practice goals each week (along with their regular assignments). Goals could be as simple as mastering a measure, finding hand position or doing their theory. They could be as involved as analyzing/labeling harmonic progressions or memorizing a recital piece. But they are all possible in one week.

Example of 3 goals

Example of 3 goals

Practice goals were emailed to parents via Music Teachers Helper. The following lesson we evaluated whether the student passed. If so, his/her name went on one piece of paper per practice goal, and into the cupcake.

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At the end of the given time (2-3 months), my husband drew seven winners—first prize (worth $10), second ($5), and five third prizes ($1 each). Not extravagant. Everyone’s name went in a number of times, and some never missed a goal. All had a chance to win, though the ones who practiced most had the best chance.

a really big bowl with hundreds of names!

a really big bowl with hundreds of goals met!

I allowed winners to choose from a list:

 First Prize:

$10 card for iTunes, local music stores, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Hobby Lobby or Michaels crafts.

Second Prize:

$5 card for iTunes, local music stores, Half-Price Books, Culvers custard, ColdStone icecream or Michaels crafts.

Third Prize (five winners):

Choose from a number of dollar items in a basket (book cover, nail clipper, gel pens, treble-clef-glittery-glasses, journal, craft items, notebook) or from my list: candy bar or something from the dollar menu at McDonalds.

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(Kennedy tries on glittery glasses, and Ava knows just what she will choose)

Take-away for Students: quicker progress due to focused practice (and more of it); sense of excitement seeing the cupcake fill and get emptied a few times; learning how to set practice goals (reachable, with a finish date); sense of accomplishment for goals met; a possible prize.

Priceless: at the lesson after the challenge ended—student places hands in lap and says, “Miss Robin, you didn’t write down any practice goals for me this week.”

Says I, “You’re right. The cupcake challenge is over. But you still have practice notes.” My student, with a wise look, says, “It would be a good idea to keep the goals.”      wink

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As we enter this New Year, we can remember that great piano teachers make great students.  How can we improve our studios and teaching abilities?  How can we make lessons more enjoyable and knowledge-saturated for our students?

Below is a list of goals for my studio. I keep a copy nearby and do my best to remember that everything I teach should serve to develop a well-rounded education for your students.

Enjoy and have a wonderful 2009!

Look in eyes, let them know I am glad to see them, be “up-beat”, smile

  • Welcome… *how was your week?, *how’s your family?  *how was piano?
  • Warm-Ups… THEORY GOALS chart (follow progressive outline)Composer of the Month… learn an easy to remember, interesting fact of the week (know it for the next lesson by memory)… 4 interesting facts about each month… 10 points if the student can perfectly recite the 4 interesting facts word-for-word… subtract one point for each word out of order.  Top three students to correctly recite monthly quota receive a special prize at the spring recital.
  • Composer of the Month… learn an easy to remember, interesting fact of the week (know it for the next lesson by memory)… 4 interesting facts about each month… 10 points if the student can perfectly recite the 4 interesting facts word-for-word… subtract one point for each word out of order.  Top three students to correctly recite monthly quota receive a special prize at the spring recital.

Listen to students’ songs/pieces/assignments… two questions (among other things to go over/talk about) [···]

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