Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Don't Miss your Favorite Cartoons!!

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!!"


  1. My Dad says, "do the best you can with what you've got". I loved your playful practice ideas. Sounds like fun!

  2. Thanks Anne...I'm glad this trick worked:) Would really love to hear about other creative practice ideas teachers are using in their studios
    Enjoy your adjudicating vacation, can't wait to hear more about it.

  3. "Practicing" with my 4 year old has pushed me to a whole new level of playfulness. She is especially motivated to practice "duets" with me in the My First Piano Adventures Books. She also has fun dancing (in my arms) or marching to the rhythm of new pieces with me. For the Cinderella's Waltz we "step(1), tip(2) toed(3) around the room....something I probably wouldn't be doing with other students.
    We also sometimes gather some of her favorite toys around the piano to "watch" her practice and act as puppets to give her feedback when needed. She'll take a silly reminder from Sleeping Beauty to "slow down" a lot better than she'll take the suggestion from me:)
    Another favorite motivator is "penny practice" or moving the metronome to various tempos and trying to match it.

  4. How fun Heidi, thanks so much for the tips. I'm sure I'll be using some of your suggestions to spice up our practice sessions.

  5. I found a handout on practicing strategies on someone's blog, but can't remember where now. My daughter loves hangman, tic tac toe, and "Towers of Mozart." (For "Towers of Mozart" she draws 4 cards and adds them up. That's the number she has to beat. Every time she plays the measure correctly she draws a card and gets points. When she's earned more points then the initial 4 cards, she's won. This is also great for her math skills). Also, earning a penny for playing the measure correctly (up to 5 pennys) has been a hit. And finally, having a favorite toy that starts at the floor and hops up a level (to the bench, the keyboard, etc..) when the passage is played right is a hit. Especially when I use a horse that I can push a button and will "neigh" when it reaches the top of the piano. None of these ideas are original to me, but I've enjoyed trying them out.

  6. Wow, thank you for sharing these ideas Valerie. I look forward to trying these out especially "Towers of Mozart".


Thank you for your comments and thoughts, I enjoy reading them

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