teachers

By Robin Steinweg

Celebrate student milestones

Celebrate student milestones

Why wait until a holiday to “turn on the party?” We teachers can find many reasons and ways to celebrate student milestones.

Parents may not understand what a big deal it is to graduate to the next level of books, for instance. We can help  them get it by making a bit of fuss over it ourselves. And if they still don’t get it, at least someone has admired the student’s success.

18 Reasons to Celebrate Student Milestones—they:

  • arrived at the staples—the midway point!—of their book
  • passed a unit
  • completed their level and graduated to the next—huzzah!
  • practiced one hundred days in a row
  • practiced five days this past week
  • remembered to trim their nails
  • memorized a song
  • accomplished all their weekly practice goals
  • performed in public for the first time
  • played in their first recital
  • played in any recital
  • mastered certain number of scales (pentascales, octaves or more)
  • conquered a beast of a piece of music
  • got their first playing gig
  • used a metronome successfully
  • memorized names of lines and spaces
  • remembered dynamics
  • they graduated from high school and are going off to college
Celebrate a Student Milestone

Celebrate a Student Milestone

18 Ways to Celebrate Student Milestones:

  • pull out a kazoo and trumpet a fanfare
  • tiny milestone—press Staples’ Easy Button
  • the midway point in their book—offer a candy or let them make a shot at a Nerf basketball hoop
  • publish their name (and photo?) on your website
  • include their name (and photo?) in your studio newsletter
  • a congratulatory certificate
  • snail-mail a card to their home, addressed to them
  • notify Piano Explorer Magazine about their completion of 100 consecutive days of practice (or 200+)
  • post their names on a chart in your studio
  • play a CD of a regal/fanfarish song as they enter the room
  • let them wear a costume crown during their lesson
  • give a blue ribbon
  • create a banner/ribbon and add iron-on badges for accomplishments (like boy-and-girl scouts)
  • let them choose from prizes you’ve collected (dollar store items, coupons for ice cream or burger, sheet music, manuscript paper or books, CD, iTunes coupon…)
  • let them play music games on the computer
  • bake their favorite cookies

    Student milestone? Bake cookies!

    Student milestone? Bake cookies!

  • for a BIG accomplishment , tickets to a concert or a huge fake-book
  • plan a senior recital just for your graduate(s)

More ideas

When we celebrate student milestones, it can generate excitement and motivation. How do you celebrate, and for what occasions?

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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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Student blooms musically

Student blooms musically

Best compliment I ever received (from a fellow musician) following a student recital:

“Your students made music—they didn’t just play notes, they played musically.”

I tucked it away in my heart, and I pull it out every so often. This is my highest goal for students. I have lots of goals for them, but none compare. I want students of piano to have a fine, rounded hand shape and non-collapsing knuckles—but it would be pointless if the music didn’t come from inside them at some point. I want them to practice till they are note-perfect—but I’d rather hear a few klinkers in a piece played with the whole heart than a flawless robot-like rendition.

But how do we get them from playing or singing halting, stilted notes—or even perfect notes—to making musical magic? Can it be taught, or only caught? Or must it simply grow to maturity?

Guitar PlanterMy present thought is that I can teach all the components that go into a beautifully musical performance, but something has to happen deep inside the student. It’s like a seed. I must amend its soil, cultivate it, fertilize it, remove weeds, water it, warm it, show it the sun… but I cannot force it to grow and bloom. The things I provide all go in, but what comes out is beyond my control.                                                                 

Before music happens, students must hear the real deal. Heart-felt performances by other musicians (try youtube, or better yet, encourage your students to attend concerts—oh, and don’t forget to demonstrate it yourself!). They must hear about the real deal, too. Awareness helps. I tell about and show them the details that go into it. If there are lyrics, we talk about how we’d say or sing them. The high points and low points, any surprises. We talk about how music makes us feel, and why. I tell them they have the capacity to move their audience, to entertain them. Or maybe they are their own audience—can they play so movingly that it affects their own emotions? Do they throw themselves into it?

I love it when the student reaches the point where I can say, “Excellent. You have the notes down perfectly. Now let’s make music!”

What do you think? Can making music be taught, caught, or must it be grown? How do you get your students to blossom–to do more than simply play notes on a page?

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