How do you know if your students are practicing properly at home? Far too many students “piano practice” means play through everything assigned…maybe a few times…and that’s it.
So how can you get your students to replicate this in their own piano practice time? A recent post on Facebook in Piano Teacher Central prompted me to start thinking about piano practice kits again. I’ve seen this idea in varying forms in a few different places and decided it was finally time to act.
I spent a few weeks putting together a generous supply of piano practice kits for my students. This was a considerable investment of my time, but if it makes even half my students practice smarter, it will be worth it.
If you want to try something a little bit simpler while you’re getting these kits together – go grab these practice step stickers. This is a quick win that you don’t want to miss!
So, what’s inside the Piano Practice Kit?
It took me a while to source all these elements economically, but I got there in the end!
Inside the practice kit my students will find:
- Instructions with details of all the practice games (download in the box below)
- Laminated Score Board (download in the box below)
- Whiteboard marker (fine point ones like these are best)
- Emoticon Cards (download in the box below)
- Playful Practice Cards (available in the Colourful Keys store)
- Highlighter tabs (I bought mine locally, but these are similar)
- Three dice (these look like a good deal)
- Small square post-it (about the right size to cover one measure)
When piano students are engaged, they’re also more focussed. Asking kids to perform a piece like they’re angry might seem counterproductive, but a real performer also knows how to act. Students that can transform a ragtime march and make it say what they want, are able to feel the music and understand expression.
Playful Practice Cards
Playful Practice cards help piano students to practice smarter, more thoughtfully, and more creatively by assigning tasks and asking questions to get students really thinking about what they are doing during their practice time.
The cards are in five different categories: Jumble, Rhythm, Style, Theory and Memory. With prompts like; “Play your right hand part with your left hand” and “Improvise with your right hand while playing the left hand part as written”, these cards will ensure no student is just phoning it in.
You can play this game with 1 or 2 dice. Choose a section of a piece you are working on. Roll the dice, and then play the section. If you play it correctly add the number on the dice to your score on the scoreboard (use a whiteboard marker), if you made a mistake the score goes to your opponent.
Repeat this process you or your opponent reaches 30 points, if your opponent wins, play another practice game with that section.
Something about having tokens to move just makes playing a section three times successfully so much more palatable to students. Each time they play a section correctly they move one die to the right hand side, but a mistake means they need to put one die back on the left hand side.
Note: I only chose dice for this game because it was the cheapest option I could think of, you can use any token in place of the dice.
This is modified from an idea that someone posted on Facebook, although I changed the rules a little.
Divide the piece into 10 sections (mark the numbers in pencil on the music). Take out the playing cards, shuffle and draw the top card. Play that section of the piece (ace is 1).
– JACK = play first section
– QUEEN = play last section
– KING = play complete piece
Beat the Dealer
Deal three cards face up, and add up the total (jack, queen & king are all 11). Play your chosen section or piece. If you play it correctly, turn over a card for your “hand”. If you make a mistake, add another card to the “dealer’s hand”.
Continue until the total in your hand is greater than the dealer’s hand.
Have you made practice kits for your studio?
What did you include? Did your students like them? What would you do differently than I did?