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Student who never practices
#1666704 04/26/11 06:53 AM
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Gisele Offline OP
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What am I going to do with her? She is 9 years old and has been taught by me for almost 2 years. In those 2 years I feel like we have progressed about 9 months. She likes music but shows no interest in learning any new topics. (Yes, I do have young students who are eager to learn new piano concepts!)

She just does not practice. How do you push your students to practice? I need to relay this message to her parents too but I am not one who is good with words. Every lesson is so frustrating for me!!! Please advise me! Thanks!
Gisele


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Re: Student who never practices
Gisele #1666730 04/26/11 08:27 AM
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You keep talking to her and her parents about it. Try to get just 5-10 minutes per day every day. Tell them that if she doesn't practice, they are wasting their money in lessons, and that you really feel she would benefit so much more from lessons if she just practiced. They need to know how important this is. Try using analogies like, "If you did something for a half an hour once a week (or 45 minutes :D), do you think you'd improve? Like say you went to school once a week and learned each subject for just a half an hour. Then went home, no homework, no reviewing of materials learned, nothing. How much do you think you'd be able to learn?" And don't be afraid to tell them that she's progressed as if she's only taken lessons for 9 months, when they've paid for 2 years. Sometimes they need to have a big dose of reality.

I find this sort of thing quite common among non musician families. If their other children are involve din things like dance or sports, where all they have to do it drop them off on time and pick them up on time, then they don't realize that they are going to dance or soccer practice *every day* and that is how they improve. You can't be with her every day to help her practice, and they couldn't afford to hire you every day for that. So they need to be the ones to help her. Set up a schedule based on what other activities they have during the week and find a good time and day at least 5 days per week. I'll usually allow for one free day per week, or an optional day that if they missed a day of practice earlier they can use that day instead and if not they have a "Free" day. The other day they don't have to practice is their lesson day.

You can also use statistics to help your case. After learning something new, the brain will lost 90% of the material if it is not reviewed within 24 hours of learning it. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, this was something that I learned in psychology class and it astounded me so I'm pretty sure I have the numbers correct. That is also why if a student misses one day, I tell them that they have to practice the next day or they will be back to prior to their last day of practice!

I also have students write down when they practice each week for me to review. I have to sometimes enlist the help of their parents to remind them to write it down. This helps me tremendously in figuring out any issues. I know that efficient practice is better than time spent, but sometimes a child just isn't spending enough time and that needs to be addressed. For you, the important part is to get that child to sit in front of the piano on a daily basis (or mostly daily :)) to develop that habit. There is a myth that it takes 21 days to establish a habit, but I found an interesting article on that subject which seems to clarify that a bit:
http://www.spring.org.uk/2009/09/how-long-to-form-a-habit.php

This article states that for different activities habits can form faster or slower, with the average peak at about 66 days. So looks like if the child is doing this for a couple of months, then you can work on increasing the amount of time spent practicing, make sure she's actually practicing efficiently, etc. But try not to do it all at once as it may overwhelm her and her parents (although you can still talk to her about how to practice it and do those things in her lessons in the hopes that she will do the same thing at home).

This is a tough subject, and I think there will always be students who struggle with practice. Those that have a hard time will often fall off the wagon if something changes their schedule like a vacation or an added extra-curricular activity, addition to the family, etc. You will have to review their schedule and help them find time to practice whenever this occurs, so be patient.


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Re: Student who never practices
Gisele #1666744 04/26/11 08:53 AM
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I know I'm neither 9 nor a piano teacher, but allow me to offer a suggestion which has helped me in my self-teaching journey:

Instead of asking for 5-10 minutes (or whatever amount) of practice per day, ask her to write down very briefly whatever it is that she does practice each day.

You print out a simple page on the computer, for instance, with a blank for the date and then a short list of things she should be working on. This might include scales, exercises, a method book, a recital piece, etc. Keep it short so it doesn't overwhelm--maybe 4 items.

She should keep the sheet by her piano and, each day, briefly write down what she worked on that day.

I do much the same thing now, and have been doing it every day since mid-January. It's the one thing I've EVER done that has kept me coming back to the piano day after day without a break. I HATE seeing a blank spot where there should have been some practice, and I LOVE seeing a daily record of practice and progress. It also keeps me from playing the same simple thing over and over and over and calling it practice.

Once she can point proudly to the written record of what she's attempted and accomplished during the week, it might give her the incentive to keep going and to have as few blanks as possible.

Just a thought.


I'm getting there--note by note.
Re: Student who never practices
Gisele #1666921 04/26/11 01:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Gisele
Every lesson is so frustrating for me!!! Please advise me!

Don't let it frustrate you! Life is too short to fret over a non-practicing student. Just keep the student interested in piano for as long as possible. Take the student as far along as she's capable.


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Re: Student who never practices
Gisele #1666930 04/26/11 02:09 PM
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It seems like she needs motivation. Maybe reading some of these ideas might give you some ideas on how to do that. People are motivated by different things, so if one strategy doesn't work, simply move onto the next. Hopefully, you'll eventually come across the right balance of motivational factors that works for this particular child.


Re: Student who never practices
AZNpiano #1667001 04/26/11 04:16 PM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by Gisele
Every lesson is so frustrating for me!!! Please advise me!

Don't let it frustrate you! Life is too short to fret over a non-practicing student. Just keep the student interested in piano for as long as possible. Take the student as far along as she's capable.


This. Some kids just don't want to practice. But hey, make the lessons as enjoyable as possible for both of you. Work on easy songs, don't stress too much into a lesson, and relax.

She's 9. It's expected.


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Re: Student who never practices
Gisele #1667033 04/26/11 05:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Gisele
What am I going to do with her? She is 9 years old and has been taught by me for almost 2 years. In those 2 years I feel like we have progressed about 9 months. She likes music but shows no interest in learning any new topics. (Yes, I do have young students who are eager to learn new piano concepts!)

She just does not practice. How do you push your students to practice? I need to relay this message to her parents too but I am not one who is good with words. Every lesson is so frustrating for me!!! Please advise me! Thanks!
Gisele


I'm just going to be honest here! "I" was the worst student ever! God bless my piano teacher! She was patient patient patient! Anyways, wasn't until many years later that I decided I just couldn't be stupid! So got a qualified piano teacher, and well, the rest is history! She was also a very patient teacher! Life isn't over at 9! Maybe when she is an adult, the excitement of what she had back then with you my come back to her! And she may remember how much she enjoyed piano, with you, and how much she wants lessons again!

Just wish I had $1 for every time someone said to me! "I wish I hadn't STOPPED taking piano lessons! grin

Getting parents involved in a positive way is key I think! If the parent could sit with the student while she prectices, and never never never criticise. Have parents phone the piano teacher and verbalize any concerns is important!

Continue to make lessons as fun as posible for her! Someday, your patience may pay off! Time will tell!


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Re: Student who never practices
Gisele #1667144 04/26/11 08:50 PM
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Yep. I've talked to parents about helping their kids set a time each day to practice and then giving a gentle reminder about it. Some kids are just not great practicers, and that might just be something you have to learn to live with (or, if you can't, you have to decide what to do next).

I had a mom just a few weeks ago thank me for continuing to be patient and not mean when her kids don't practice as much as they should. She said that if I had been harder on them, they would have quit long ago. She said she knows their progress is slower than it could be, but they're progressing, and they love piano, and she was so glad I was handling it how I was. The message I got is that there are all types, and as long as the lessons are beneficial and enjoyable for all involved, there's not really only one right way to do things. For the record, I'm harder on other kids that I know will do better if I give them a bit of a guilt-trip. Hahaha.

Last edited by Brinestone; 04/26/11 08:50 PM.

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Re: Student who never practices
Gisele #1667188 04/26/11 10:50 PM
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When a student never practices, they don't see the benefits of practicing. Here is an idea to get her going:

- Make practice chart for your required practice a week, and have the parents initial that this is correct and honest. Do this weekly until a regular routine is created.


Another motivator:

- DUETS! Pair the nine year old with someone around her age, but choose someone who IS a motivated practicer. The motivated child will learn the piece much quicker, and the non-motivated student will have to work harder to keep up.

Re: Student who never practices
Gisele #1667189 04/26/11 10:55 PM
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I think you should speak with the parents and get their perspective. How much do THEY think they daughter should practice, and at what frequency? Perhaps they think practicing 20 minutes three times a week is sufficient. Understand the parents' expectations and try to find a middle ground where you can both accomplish your objectives.

While motivation should take place mainly on the parents' side, try assigning pieces of the student's liking. Sometimes when students learn pop or contemporary pieces, they are more inclined to practice. Ask the student what would make her want to practice more. If there's nothing that you or her parents can do to motivate her, you'll just need to accept the situation as it is.


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Re: Student who never practices
Gisele #1667467 04/27/11 01:19 PM
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Developing good aural skills is something near and dear to me and I work with my daughter just about everyday one this. Here's a couple more random ideas:

Do "mystery songs" Write the first part or motif of a very well known song like "happy birthday". After she correctly reads the first few notes that you wrote, ask her if she can guess the song. When she identifys the song, encourage her to play the rest of the song using her ear.

My 7 year old daughter likes some iphone apps like "interval trainer" and "My Little Note Lite"

Keep a list of simple songs that she can play by ear. Then ask her to start that song on a different note. Ask her how would "twinkle" sound if you start on "D"?
Tell it's OK to make a mistake and that she is just "shoping" or "fishing" for notes.

Have fun with it. There are lots of games you can do to make it fun.

Re: Student who never practices
Gisele #1667490 04/27/11 01:59 PM
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I seem to be a magnet for non-practicing students. That's okay, mostly. Sometimes I get phone calls from other teachers, asking me if they can refer a student to me because the student is very busy and unable to commit to regular practice. I have a reputation for being more tolerant. I do recitals, but not competitions, festivals, or auditions, so there's less at stake for me.

I do talk to parents initially, and periodically after that, about the benefits of practice. For some, it's the financial incentive that does the trick, when I explain that one student who practices daily, can move ahead at a rate seven times faster than another who never practices. That means that the non-practicer is paying seven times more for the same amount of learning.

Some families are okay with this just being one activity of many, and they are in it for as long as their kid wants to, with no long term goals. With these students, I like the challenge of making music matter to them. Perhaps it is finding the right piece, or just helping them relax and enjoy themselves here. I always say that there are a lot more seats in the audience than on stage, and if I can grow a happy, knowledgeable audience member, I'm okay with that.

I also believe that motivation comes in waves. Students who seem to be happy enough with piano as it is, well, we just keep plodding along. Often times, the wave surges again, and progress comes.

My local elementary school has a music teacher who is very supportive of private teachers. She allows the students who take private lessons to perform in her classroom, and she makes a big deal of it. She stamps the page. They think that's a reward, but I suspect it helps motivate students to learn new pieces. She also allows some students to spend time practicing when the rest of the class is working on more basic stuff (if they bring their lesson books to school.) Outside attention for piano has proven to be a huge motivator for some of my students.

But when there has been an extended period of non-practicing that is accompanied with a decrease in interest, excitement, or attitude, and neither of us seems to be enjoying ourselves very much, then I will talk with the parents and student about what their goals are, and whether we are wasting time and money. I don't do that very often; that's admitting defeat, which I'm not good at.


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Re: Student who never practices
Michael Steen #1667494 04/27/11 02:10 PM
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Gisele Offline OP
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I like that idea of having her jot down what she does practice. Sometimes she will practice over and over again a song that she does like from weeks ago but not what I have assigned. And perhaps she and her mom would be interested to see how much she does do per day. I think her parents would be open to that suggestion.


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Re: Student who never practices
Mary Williams #1667496 04/27/11 02:12 PM
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Mary,
Thanks for reminding me about the duet idea. I need to remember that that is a way to motivate kids (i.e. if someone else plays, they'd always want to be the better one).


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Re: Student who never practices
Gisele #1667537 04/27/11 03:41 PM
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Very nice from all of you to consider more positive motivators, but I think every teacher also needs to consider *frustration* with newly-acquired difficulties as a major anti-motivator, and seek different technical ways to overcome it or go around it. Not just throw more willpower at it, that's only a minor bonus to the basic technical capability.
Expanding the capability is the real aim, even if the current ways of a given teacher may not be in the same direction as a given pupil's neural capability of expansion.

If there is some internal difficulty or barrier, even the best-intentioned efforts will 'peter up' if the 'reward' for struggling through it is... an even more complex barrier but of the same kind, to struggle through.

I know this was my main stopper of formal lessons at 9 years old.

Re: Student who never practices
Gisele #1667571 04/27/11 05:21 PM
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I had 2 sisters that were the same way. I talked to their dad about it and was very shocked when he told me that he didn't expect them to! He said they were "too busy" and he just wanted them to learn.

Well, they did learn. It took them MUCH longer than other students, but they did learn. If you can accept the fact that they aren't going to, just keep on keepin on.

I know there are teachers here that disagree with me, we've had other discussions about it lol. BUT the fact of the matter is, if I wouldn't have let them do it "their own way" they would have quit and never learned anything at all. Which is better in the long run?
I had these girls for 8 years before they quit!


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Re: Student who never practices
Gisele #1668456 04/29/11 10:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Gisele
I like that idea of having her jot down what she does practice. Sometimes she will practice over and over again a song that she does like from weeks ago but not what I have assigned. And perhaps she and her mom would be interested to see how much she does do per day. I think her parents would be open to that suggestion.


I'm no teacher, but for me (someone who just likes to fiddle with the piano), motivation is the absolute key. I started learning how to play the piano because I liked a specific piece and my studies have generally simply taken me wherever I felt like. I can master a piece several levels above mine if I really want to and fail horribly at a piece I dislike even if it's ridiculously simple. I would try to assign more pieces that she likes and keep her at practicing them for a longer time.


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Re: Student who never practices
Gisele #1668517 04/29/11 11:52 AM
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I think that yes, you can have students that don't practice, but don't give up trying to encourage them to do so. Once they start to get success from practicing, they will want to do it. It's just when you never practice that you never want to do it.

I totally agree that students can learn from piano and still make some progress even if they aren't the best practicers. You are still giving them the gift of music that perhaps later on they will appreciate and practice more. If not, however, make it enjoyable for them now so that they will have good memories of piano lessons.


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Re: Student who never practices
Gisele #1668992 04/30/11 12:48 PM
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Well, sometimes we teachers get a "light bulb" moment!

Had one student who just wasn't practicing! Just started last year, so I got the idea that piano practice has to be "fun"! So how do I get him to have fun when he practices?

So an idea came to me! The reason I'm sharing this is because it worked!

I told him he has to practice everything I give him; scales, sight reading, theory, practical pieces (study pieces when he gets to that level) then . . . at the end of al that! . . . he has to play ONLY AT THE END, for FUN! But only at the END!

Well, you all know that when you play the piano just for "fun" you spend LONGER than normal there! And this idea worked for him!

Honest! his mom says that when he finishes all the work I've given him, he then just plays and plays! Time flys when you are having fun, right! grin

So here's what my students are scheduled to do!
(Only requirements appropriate for that students level!)
1. Theory
2. Scales
3. Sight reading
4. Hanon
5. 3 on going Repertoire pieces
6. etude study piece
7. Disney pieces or pop piece
8. Finally, PLAY FOR FUN! (my light bulb idea!)


Last edited by Diane...; 04/30/11 12:49 PM.

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