In the last post, you learned about the exciting way that Leila Viss is motivating her students to move quickly through and be creative with their lesson books. I already shared this Fall Lesson Book Bash punch card, but wanted to explain a few more details about how I use this to motivate my students.
As I said in the introduction to Leila’s article, I think that what ultimately motivates students is beautifully performed music. So, I view one of my main objectives in early level piano instruction is to teach my students to play beautifully, artistically, and maturely. While I might occasionally use an external reward to help these younger students, the types of thing for which I try to reward them is artistry, not simply minutes practiced. So, a few years ago, I developed the “Caught Ya Makin’ Music Cards” which I awarded randomly for any student playing a piece artistically.
This evolved into a program where I awarded Certificates of Artistry for every piece performed artistically. At the beginning of this program, I had a large group lesson in which I taught students what kinds of things they could do to make music interesting. Included in this were a few general principles:
- Ascending lines tend to crescendo. Descending lines tend to diminuendo.
- Repeated notes should rarely be played at the same dynamic level. Where are they going?
- Find the heart of each musical phrase (many times it is the highest note) and move toward that point.
- Dissonance should typically played slightly louder than its resolution. Grab the listeners attention with the dissonance and put them “at rest” with the resolution.
- There are many others, but those are the ones that come to mind first.
The students loved the mini Certificates of Artistry, but when I implemented these last year, I added the composer stickers and then rewarded the students who received 10 certificates with a free piece of sheet music.
Ultimately, the students received even more beautiful music as a reward for the beautiful music they produced and I loved the results. Students could pick from the many pieces of free or discounted music I had received at conferences and workshops and then were so excited about learning even more music beautifully!
I say all that to explain that the the reward for this Fall Lesson Book Bash punch card is a free piece of sheet music for every 10 punches. There are 20 leaves on the punch card, so students can earn up to 2 pieces of sheet music.
Leila asked me what my criteria was for determining whether the student receives a punch or not. Here are the “rules.”
- Students will receive 1 punch for a piece that is played with correct rhythm, notes, dynamics, AND with artistry.
- Students may receive a 2nd punch for the same piece if they play it again and add their own “creative flair.” For some students this can be pretty elaborate. For others, an extra little flourish at the end, moving a part up an octave, or just changing a block chord to a broken chord may be all that is needed. Every student is different, so I make a note of how much effort and difficulty each student has with these creative flairs.
- Students may play as many method book pieces as are prepared and as we have time for each week. The idea is to motivate students to move quickly through the method books!
I hope this gives you some ideas for motivating your students as well. Remember that one of the goals of this blog is to help you be a creative teacher to foster creativity and love of music in your students. Creativity is just recombining elements that already exists in unique ways (see What is Creativity?) so I hope that you can take some of these ideas, adapt them to your student’s needs, and come up with a program that works for you! I’d love to hear your own ideas in the comments section about how you motivate yours students to produce beautiful music!