As I prepared for fall lessons, I read a lot about using teaching incentives with piano students. Some people are completely against them, others think they should only be used for a short period of time, while still other teachers always have some sort of game or incentive going in their studio. While I'd love for my students to just practice for the pure joy of learning piano and making music, the truth is no matter how good of a teacher I am, there will still be times they don't want to practice.
I still remember being 8 and having a timer set while I was practicing piano to make sure I stayed on that bench long enough to satisfy my parents and my teacher. I also still remember the rocket ship posted on my first piano teacher's wall. We were split into two teams and were competing to see who could make the rocket ships get to their goal the fastest. Suffice to say, I think for a certain age student, teaching incentives work wonders to get through those slumps of learning how to practice and why practicing is important.
Since most of my students fall in this age range, I decided to make a game for them this fall. My goal was to have a game that was:
- portable (since I am essentially a traveling teacher and need to carry everything with me)
- applied to as wide a range of students as possible
- would cover a variety of subjects and skills
- and could be played for multiple weeks
Allow me to introduce: PianoOpoly!
I based my board game around the idea of Monopoly (hence, PianoOpoly... creative, I know) basically only in the sense that students could go around the board multiple times, getting a prize every time they passed GO! The corners of the board all have bonus squares (kind of like the specialty corners in Monopoly), allowing the students to move extra spaces if applicable.
Then I came up with questions applying to various things I thought my students should know. Some were purposefully difficult (What is the Tempo of Your Piece?), while others were really easy. In my planning, I actually rated them by difficulty to make sure I had a good balance. I also tested the board, doing practice rolls, to see how many "weeks" it would take to get around the board. One time I made it around the whole board in one "week"! Good thing I knew this was possible, because one of my students made it almost all the way around on week!
After all this, I put the game into action with my students. I printed the game board and had it laminated so I could simply write their names into the appropriate squares with a dry-erase marker.
Here were the results from this fall
- All my students made it around at least once! (That was the goal).
- The questions were just the right difficulty. Not too easy and not too hard. They got stuck enough times to make them think without feeling like they would never make it around the board.
- It was portable!
- My students liked it so much, they would remind me when I forgot to have them roll their turn for their lesson.
Feel free to use this with your students! I used it with students who were at least in Piano Safari book 2 (this can work with beginners who at least know their lines and spaces and some other important concepts).