I am kicking off this year of lessons with a 40 piece challenge for my students. I have never tried something like this before, but have read a lot about it and think it will challenge my students and challenge my teaching. I knew my more advanced students needed to learn more music, but I wasn't sure how to motivate them to do it until I started reading about the 40 piece challenge.
Elissa Milne, one of the main voices behind this now world-wide movement, writes about how it got started here: Where did the 40 piece challenge begin?
The idea is that for students to become better musicians and excel at sight reading, they need to be exposed to lots of music. Sight reading is one of those elusive skills that is hard to teach, but vital for a pianist. The more music a student sees and plays, the more likely they are to connect that music with other pieces they see, making it easier to play. When students only play 5-6 pieces per year, they don't have a broad foundation to stand on. Beginner students tend to play many pieces each year, each concept being taught using several pieces. But as students get more advanced, we give them harder music. Soon their music is taking longer to learn, so they are given fewer longer and harder pieces. That excellent foundation that they started with is not continued.
I am bringing this challenge into my studio this year. I've have two different sets of rules, depending on the level of the students, and two sets of prizes as well. For beginners, they receive the prize only if they achieve the 40 piece mark (which I am almost positive they will surpass halfway through the year). For more advanced students, the threshold for a prize is 20 pieces, and after that each additional 10 will give them an addition to that prize. The advanced students can even go beyond the initial 40 and continue to add on to their prize.
For the advanced students I created punch cards for each set of 10, with spaces for the students to write their piece when they start it, and a note to hole punch when they complete the piece.
For the beginner students I bought wide Popsicle sticks and glass containers. As they complete a piece, we'll write the name on the stick and put it in the container. Each week I will ask them to select at random a certain number to review, in addition to their regular work. Knowing how to work review into my teaching has never been my strong suit, so I am glad to have found a way to build it into this challenge.
My hope is that this challenge will help keep my students motivated to work on:
Reviewing "completed" music
I'll let you know how it went when the year ends!