I like to give my students a practice challenge regularly. Practice challenges make practice just a little more interesting, encourage accountability and building the practice habit.
This one is super simple. Each time they practice they move their practice buddy to a new square.
What is a practice buddy?
A practice buddy is just a cute little popsicle stick friend. We make them during the lesson with washi tape and a sharpie. Lots of my students choose to make one that looks like them, but I’ve had students make their favorite animal or cartoon character too. This is just plain fun! Never underestimate the power of a little fun and creativity to help your students feel comfortable around you. You aren’t wasting time when you do this, you are building a relationship where they feel safe and able to make mistakes and ask questions.
How to Make the Star Trail
Just print out the sheet below. I choose to laminate mine so that we can add some sticky tack to the back of the practice buddy and make sure the spot on the trail isn’t lost. I just have my students return them when the challenge is over and use them again and again. If you don’t want to laminate, you can also use masking tape. Or students can put a check mark in each box as they move through the trail.
Explain the Squares
Make sure they know what each color means.
Purple-many of my students are learning how to play scales and don’t realize this is also a finger exercise, so I explain that to them.
Green-If they feel nervous about “performing” in front of their family, encourage them to perform for a pet or stuffed animal, then just one person and work their way up to their whole family.
Pink-I remind them what a metronome is and how to use it.
Red-I let them know that if there is a section in their song where they feel “clumsy” or feel like they have lost the melody even if they have the right notes, then they probably need to work on the rhythm. These are they sections they should practice tapping.
Orange-I remind my students that expression includes speed, dynamics and feeling.
Yellow-For my youngest students I often need to remind them what a measure is, and sometimes their songs are barely longer than 4 measures. I let them know it doesn’t have to be 4 measures, just any area of the song that is a bit harder.
Stars-This is the fun part! I have them bring their Star Trail back each week and we count up how many stars they have collected. Then they get to pick that number of items from a prize box. These are small items, like little erasers, pieces of candy, bouncy balls, etc. This keeps them motivated throughout because there is an incentive each week.
If you are interested in other practice challenges, check out my 30 day practice challenge.