The last year and a half spent working and practicing with my son has been quite a learning curve for me from a parent's perspective. It's quite different explaining practicing strategies and sending students home with an assignment than actually being in the process of practicing with a student. I'm constantly finding ways to keep the focus and inject fun in hopes of motivating my 6-year old to enjoy the music making process.
So I was at the piano bench and my son asked " how many more times do I have to play this?", sounding quite evidently bored and hoping that I'd come up with a number he was looking for.... "Zero". He loves watching his favorite TV shows and it came to my mind that I'd create virtual cartoons made up of sections in his music.
When I announced the game, my son's eyes lit up and he regained focus in an instant! I made up "episodes" of Spiderman, Max & Ruby and Mighty Machines that he surely wouldn't want to miss. In order to complete a full episode, he would have had to meet a specific goal like observe the fingering or correct a wrong note in a given section. Much to my surprise, he was suddenly able to rise up to the challenges!
To add to the fun, I made up funny words to the melody. He said afterwards, "let's watch Spiderman over again, jump to Max & Ruby and play Mighty Machines backwards!"
It was odd and I never would have imagined being motivated to work this way as a young child but I'm glad it brought about enthusiasm while still achieving our practice goals...
This makes me ponder deeper into the power of focus and how much more students can achieve through mindful practice. To fellow teachers, I'd love to hear any thoughts you have on methods, tools or incentives you have found useful to promote a happy and healthy habit of practicing at home....
My own experience as a young student was simply a phrase my dad used to say that still resonates till today.
"LISTEN and USE your brain!!"