Thursday, March 17, 2011

Question of the Week: March 14, 2011

Yeah, it's Thursday- I'm a bit behind. ;) But the week's not over yet, so I wanted to get some feedback on an issue I've been seeing in my studio over the past few weeks. I've been having students come to lessons and tell me that they didn't have enough material to practice over the previous week. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm always willing to assign more and raise the bar if my students are willing to fulfill their side of the bargain...but with all of these aforementioned students this was how the lesson panned out:

As we progressed through the lesson material I found that in each case specific instructions I'd set forth the previous week had been ignored. One student was working to memorize a song and had been struggling with a specific phrase. After our discussion on the importance of focusing on that particular phrase over the week, they returned with the same problems and told me they hadn't spent any extra time on that phrase over the week. Another student brashly told me that they 'hadn't gotten to' several of their pieces, another had uncompleted theory homework...and yet they were telling me that they hadn't had enough material to work on!

As I teacher, I try hard to find a balance between too much and too little, and in giving assignments I am very specific- I write out detailed instructions for each piece. Even with all these precautions, I still find my students lacking the discipline to complete their assignments or listen to instructions.

So what do you do to help make sure your students are disciplined and actually follow your instructions? Any tips to help me regain sanity in this regard?


  1. If a student is not following the instructions I write on his practice plan sheet, I change to writing the instructions on a sticky note instead and put them right on his music score (over the beginning notes so he can't play the piece without seeing the note.)

    It also helps to casually mention what the student is supposed to be practicing during the coming week to his parent. Parents often do not realize that repeatedly playing through the piece beginning to end is NOT practicing. I will say something to grab everyone's attention, like "Susie needs to nail down a problem spot in her piece this week. She will need to practice a small section about 20 times each day. I told her she is allowed to play the whole piece through only 2 times during the whole week!"

    These two steps usually fix the problem, but when they don't, I have a longer talk with parent and student.

    Hope these ideas help.

  2. Thanks so much for your ideas Melody :)