I returned to teaching from maternity leave to find that my students had about a month until the recital. We quickly dove into choosing pieces and putting extra work into them in their lessons, but I wanted a way to encourage them to perform more at home. I had grand plans of making a game for them to this end, but it never made it out of conception form before I was running out of time. (And seriously, when you have an 8 week old kid at home, who has time to make nice looking game boards?) So, I jumped onto my favorite practice-help website, and searched for recital preparation worksheets. A quick search later and I found a sheet to use! It wasn't as pretty as I had been planning, but it would do the job, and more importantly I wouldn't have to pour hours into making something else.
I sent home a note with my students asking parents to help them complete the sheet before the recital. To complete the sheet they had to perform their piece 30 times. Each time they would color in a block marking if it was "good", "great", or "wow!". If they brought it completed to the recital, they would get a "small prize".
Now, since this is the first time I had done anything like this with these students, I wanted the prize to be something substantial enough that if/when I do another game in the future, they will have the motivation to participate. Let's face it, no one likes putting a bunch of work into something just to get a lousy prize. I think this fit the bill well:
Everyone loves water ice and ice cream, right?
So I handed out the papers, explained the instructions and waited till the recital to see what would happen.
My students all eagerly returned their worksheets at the recital and claimed their prizes (which were neatly wrapped because we learn from two-year-olds that wrapping paper makes life more exciting). Some of them apologized for how it was colored or filled out but I was more concerned about the end product. Here's what one looked like:
The big question is: Did they help?
I think they did! My students all played much better in this recital than the last one, but more importantly, I think they are listening more. Having to think about how they played each time, versus simply whether or not they made it to the end, helped them listen to themselves more intently. It's so easy to get wrapped up in the doing part of playing piano and forget about the hearing. All in all, they made me proud!
*For more free practice worksheets, check out The Practice Shoppe. A lot of them have to do with violin, but can be applied to other instruments too.