Updated: Oct 13
Parents know it. Teachers know it. Many kids don't like practice. And let's be honest: who can blame them?
Practicing can be tiring, boring at times and it feels mostly unrewarding.
But I get it. We want them to practice. We want them to get better. After all, why else should one learn an instrument?
Some parents think: "I just want her to have fun."
Trust me, mum, there's nothing fun about hitting all the wrong notes. I should know. ;)
So, the real question is:
HOW DO WE GET THEM TO WANT TO PRACTICE?
Here are my TOP 10 suggestions:
#10 - DEFINE GOALS & EXPECTATIONS
Make no mistake. Many students don't practise simply because they don't know they're supposed to. They honestly that showing up for their lessons is where the journey starts and ends.
It is our role as teachers and parents to explain to our children that practice isn't just something they HAVE to do, but rather something that will allow them to play better and more of their favourite songs!
TEACHERS: Make each week a little challenge. Make sure that they know what to practice, for how long and what the outcome will be.
PARENTS: Make sure to make practice part of their routine. 15 minutes a day is better than zero and don't leave it for "when they have time". Trust me, they will NEVER have time if we make it that vague.
#9 - GET TO KNOW YOUR STUDENT/CHILD
One of the biggest mistakes we make as educators is to forget to get to know our students, how they learn and engage with new material.
Everyone is different and everyone needs a different approach. Make sure to learn about your students and you'll have no problem getting them to connect with the material.
TEACHERS: Ask them questions. Don't just "push" your agenda, but get to know them and allow time for a bit of chatting. Now, when doing this, make sure to be taking mental notes on what their interests are and how they express them. This will be very useful when you need to get rid of frustration and demotivation.
PARENTS: No one knows your children better than you, but don't forget: they change. They'll sometimes test their own limits - and it's ok to let them do that. However, in order to promote a great learning environment, they will have to learn about accountability, goal-setting and coping mechanisms for when frustration hits.
#8 - ALWAYS PRAISE THEM WHEN THEY DO IT RIGHT!
Some parents compliment their children too often, some parents don't compliment them enough. As a parent myself, I admit: It's very difficult to find the balance.
But one thing I know for sure: I'm always paying attention to when my son is struggling to do something. When he feels like giving up, I just say "You're ok. Keep trying, I'm right here watching."
And as soon as he gets it, I make him feel like he CONQUERED the world!
TEACHERS & PARENTS: PAY ATTENTION! I see so many teachers who are afraid of showing real emotion when it comes to compliment their students' successes. Don't hold back: when they do it right, make them feel special. That's called POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT.
"In operant conditioning, positive reinforcement involves the addition of a reinforcing stimulus following a behavior that makes it more likely that the behavior will occur again in the future. When a favorable outcome, event, or reward occurs after an action, that particular response or behavior will be strengthened."
#7 - INSPIRE THEM WITH TECHNOLOGY
This is a must. Your children must be inspired in order to become self-motivated to practise. Nowadays, inspiration and aspiration is EASY to find. It's called YOUTUBE!
Go on it and type in: BEST GUITARISTS IN THE WORLD.
Enjoy the ride.
TEACHERS: Do the same during your lessons. Show them videos, ask them to comment and analyse performances, musical pieces, songs, etc.
#6 - BE THEIR #1 FAN
Do you want to see your children motivated to play, to practise, TO LEARN?
Become their number 1 fan. Nothing motivates kids (especially younger children) more than the opportunity to show off their tricks and skills. Sometimes, the simple words: "I want to hear you play." are the only trigger they need to get their self-motivation going.
TEACHERS: During your lessons, organize private concerts/showcases. Invite the parents into the room and have the child perform a piece for them. At the end, applaud, give them a reward, even a certificate of achievement. Make them feel SUCCESSFUL. Because they are.
#5 - PRACTICE SCHEDULE
Much like their school schedule, practice time MUST be scheduled. I know I mentioned this before, but it can't be stressed enough.
TEACHERS: Help your students and their parents and create a productive practice schedule that not only helps them organize their practice material, but that also helps them stay motivated. I would suggest good old to-do lists with boxes to be ticket.
PARENTS: Just make sure they tick those boxes. ;)
#4 - STICKERS STILL WORK!
Yep, stickers still work. Reward your students and they'll reward you.
#3 - PROMOTE COLLABORATIONS
This one is SO important! Promote collaborations between students and other friends who also play instruments.
TEACHERS: We teach over 100 students at our school. Let's get your students collaborating with my students! GO!
PARENTS: If your child has friends who also play musical instruments, why not organize a little musical party once a month? If you don't have the space, I'm sure we can help you sort this out as well. :)
#2 - TEACH THEM HOW TO PRACTICE
Make sure your students know how they learn/practise best. It is fundamental that they're educated when it comes to HOW to practise, not just WHAT to practise.
99% of students do think that they've practised. Then, they show up for their lesson and you realize that they didn't improve at all during the week. And you tell them that - kindly, of course.
And that's when they lose all the motivation. After all, they worked so HARD... but what they don't know is that it wasn't lack of effort that caused the problem. It was lack of method.
Teach them how to practise, show them how you practise and ask them questions about how they would solve practice-related problems.
#1 - TURN IT INTO A GAME
This applies both to teachers and parents: turn learning into a game. Why? Let me ask you this: how many hours a day can you children spend playing video games? Exactly.
Turn the learning process into a game - create levels, special challenges, rewards, prizes, boss levels, scoring systems, the whole deal.
Want to learn more about how we learn and how you can help your children learn better and faster?
THEY ARE EXPLORING.
OUR JOB IS TO GUIDE THEM.