Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Question of the Week: January 16, 2012 - Guiding Weekly Practice

It happens periodically with practically every student: they hit a wall. Whether it's resistance to practice, a period of little or no forward progress, or just a general lack of enthusiasm toward piano, every student seems to hit one of those walls from time to time. That's when our jobs as teachers can become tough as we attempt to find the magic piece that will spark enthusiasm or look for ways to help progress happen.

I'm at that point with a student right now who seems to be stuck in a progress rut. I was thinking that it was perhaps just a symptom of the Christmas season, but we're into the January term and it seems to be sticking.

I started off the new year with a new plan- as we review each piece in the lesson we take some time before moving on to develop a specific practice plan for the coming week. I used to just give all the ideas, but I'm attempting to make this process more interactive so that it sticks over the week.

The main problem is that I just don't see our plan put into action over the week. The same problems persist from week to week- even when we isolate sections in lessons and agree to focus on them over the week.

Have you found yourself in a similar situation with a student who wasn't willing to take the steps to make progress over the week? How did you motivate them? Do you have any tricks that helped them start taking disciplined practice more seriously? I'd love to hear some ideas from more experienced teachers on what works and what doesn't work- so share your comments!


  1. I had to smile as I read this. On the weekend I was giving a talk to a piano pedagogy group and I mentioned that I have taught my own kids (they're almost all grown up now). One of the more interesting things I learned in the process is how little they do in practice what I say in the lesson. And I don't think they are atypical in this regard. So no matter how well-planned and how well laid out your advice, they may or may not do it. I find it's rare for a kid to exercise this disciplined practice much before about age 15-16. Probably not what you wanted to hear, and probably not helpful in any way, but there it is!

  2. Thanks LaDona! Yes, I know that most times my detailed instructions go completely unregarded (nothing like that blank look when you ask them to tell you what they were supposed to work on in a particular piece over the week ;) ). Thanks for the reminder- and the encouragement that it's not atypical.

    This particular student just started high school, so I'm really hoping he'll begin to take more initiative and really try my practice hints. We'll see how it goes!