student incentives

Maestro's 2018/19 Studio Challenges

Maestro's 2018/19 Studio Challenges

During my brainstorming, the following themes came through: technique, ear/rhythm/sight-reading, and practice frequency. To be honest, those are the key themes every year, but these are areas I really want my students to shine in this year. So, I had to tweak the student challenges and incentives a bit.

Reviewing My Student Incentives

This year, I modified my incentive program slightly to incorporate "musician survival skills". These are the areas that we as teachers and performing musicians know are necessary: aural skills, sight-reading, chording, transposition, improvising, technical skills, and practice frequency. They are also the areas that most students either gloss over or ignore.

A Rainbow of Handouts and Studio Incentives

A few tweaks and new bells and whistles make this year's student incentive program and practice aids a rainbow of colours and very much, game inspired.

Revamping My Student Incentive Program

After several years of running "Maestro's Musical Quest", I've come to the conclusion that my student rewards program needs a complete overhaul.
This is what I've learned with Maestro's Musical Quest:
  1. Most of my students found it very hard to maintain a practise diary. Many couldn't be bothered with it. Some hated it.
  2. Quite a few students detested logging their minutes.
  3. My students got discouraged when they saw that they weren't earning as many Maestro Bucks (to spend at Maestro's Market) because they didn't maintain their practising diary or get their parents' signature and basically gave up on the program.
  4. The Top Dogs (Most Minutes Practised, Most Tasks Cleared, Most Maestro Bucks Earned) weren't necessarily practising efficiently.
I came to the sad realization that my practise incentives rewarded students for practising inefficiently. That is something I do not want to keep doing. Having a system that frustrates students isn't something I want either. Having said this, I still want them to be accountable for their work. It really made me think about what exactly I wanted to reward and inspire in my students. 

Pets make good studio mascots. Maestro is the inspiration of my student incentive program. Photo by R-M Arca.

I decided to focus on four main areas: technical proficiency, music mastery, leadership/initiative and efficiency/meeting goals. The first three are Top Dog categories, re-branded as: "Technique Savvy", "Music Mastery" and "Music Maestro".

Technique Savvy: Students will earn $2 Maestro Bucks for each technical element they master.
Music Mastery: Students will earn $25 Maestro Bucks for each five songs they master. Memory is optional. Perfection will NOT be stressed at all. The main thing I want to reward is proficiency.
Music Maestro: Students will earn $3 Maestro Bucks each time they do something above and beyond their assignments, e.g. do a concert report, compose a song, do a music review, help out as a recital assistant, do a composer report, present an independent study or work ahead on their own.
For those who are wondering, student prize that "costs" $100 Maestro Bucks costs me $1.00 to buy. Prizes are in $25, $50, $100, $250 and $500 amounts. I have gotten some requests for a $1,000 MB category as my students really like this one squishy exercise ball (which costs me $10). The three Top Dogs will be awarded at the year-end Top Dog party, which all students (and pets) will be invited to attend (Note to self: find out if the neighbourhood park is available).
Mastery will also be rewarded through the Gig Card program. Perform 20 times and get a prize.
Goal setting, milestones and accountability are addressed with the Goal Setting Sheet. We'll work together to set their short-term, medium term and long-term goals:
On the reverse side, there is a spot for End-of-Semester Checkpoints. Both sides of the sheet must be signed by the parent, student and teacher.

The "assignment sheet" has been renamed "Learning Goals for the Week" to support the shift towards more goal-oriented practising habits versus practising for X minutes.  The Practise Diary? Gone. The Practise Log? Also gone. Parent signature? Not required. All I ask of them is to check off which days they worked towards meeting their learning goals. They will earn $1 Maestro Buck for each goal cleared.

Truth be told, my own Practising "Diary" is just a To Do List for that session. I don't log minutes. I stop when the job is done. I stop when I need a break. I change my strategy when something isn't working.
This is the heart of what I want them to learn - to make the best use of their time, whether they have 10 minutes or 60. Then when they do perform, wherever they perform, they can do so with a high level of proficiency and artistry. © Rhona-Mae Arca, 2012. All rights reserved.

Student Incentive Program Musings

It may seem odd that I'm thinking about next year's student incentive program. It all started with me revamping the Lesson Assignment/Practice Diary Sheet to incorporate things that needed either clarification, simplification or simply more room. Might as well tackle it now while it's fresh on my mind. On the other hand, you could accuse me of procrastinating from practicing, however, it's not altogether true. I just get distracted with all the other things I have to do. All right, I could have worked on it AFTER practicing. Yes, even teachers employ the same pitiful excuses we get from our own students.

Here are two informative sites on student incentive programs that I recently discovered: Music Teachers Helper Piano Teacher Resources

Enough webtime and back to that piano. There's nothing like wanting to do well on an exam to motivate one to go the extra mile. Must drill those trouble spots and work on transposing!

(c) 2009 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.