Most of what determines student success is if, when and how they practice. Students are generally spending at least 80% of their time at the piano without a teacher to supervise them.
In my quest for effective practice time I’ve come up with many solutions. My mind is always whirring trying to help my students to make the best use of this time.
As my students progress they get these practice kits to make their practice more engaging. I use my Playful Practice and Pensive Practice cards to randomise their practice time. And I make sure their assignment sheet is the best possible fit for them and their goals with one of these options.
There was still a gap in my tool-kit though. And that’s been filled lately with these Practice Steps Stickers.
The Barriers to Effective Practice
For some students, these inventive practice strategies are fun and engaging…for others they just seem to get in the way. When a student is over-scheduled, or easily over-whelmed they may need a more straight-forward approach.
I started to see this with a few students lately. They weren’t using the extra practice tools at home, and they weren’t following another strategy either.
These students were going home and playing start-to-finish, start-to-finish, start-to-finish.
That’s just not practice.
Searching for a Simple Solution
I carefully walked these students through an effective practice session in the lesson. They could go home and get great results by just repeating the same process.
But they don’t do that.
So, after we have worked through the practice steps we had a conversation about what we did. Where did we start with this piece? How many times did we do that? What did we do next?
But they still don’t reliably follow through at home. It’s still harder to do the practice steps than I’d like.
That’s when I started writing down the steps on top of their piece as we discussed them. Now the information was all there on the same page, removing all barriers to following the process.
This was a bit of a lightbulb. Students started coming back the next week, sitting down in the lesson and automatically following the steps without me even nudging them. It was clear this had finally seeped into home practice.
Practice Steps Stickers
As this idea developed, I turned some of the most common practice steps into stickers. That way I can just pop them on the top of a piece, and they never get lost or forgotten.
These printable stickers are available three ways:
- The full sheet in colour as you see it above.
- The black and white version of the full sheet.
- Separated sticker pages so you can arrange them for your favourite sticker sheet.
There are lots of different options on these sheet, so just print them out and your ready to go. You can also apply the same principle and write out your own steps if none of these ones quite fit a particular situation.
Don’t just stick these on a piece and never mention it again. You need to be really consistent for this strategy to become second nature to your student.
Make sure you:
- Do the steps together in the lesson.
- Review the steps verbally.
- Have the student explain the steps to you and talk about how it will work at home.
- Ask the student to perform the steps again at the next lesson.
If you continue to follow these steps, over time they will become automatic. Your students won’t need the stickers, they’ll be able to tell you what steps they should follow off the top of their heads.
What practice instructions do you give to your students?
Do you give them checklists? Verbal instructions? Notes?
What format have you found to be the best for follow through at home?