How many times in your teaching day do you ask, “How did your practice go this week?” And how many times do you get the answer, “Fine” or “Good”?
I used to ask every one of my piano students this question as they unpacked their lesson materials. I thought it was a good way to determine whether or not they practiced, if they were stuck on a challenging concept, and if they had enjoyed their pieces (or not).
But I quickly realized that their vague answers didn’t give me any insights at all. I needed a different system.
I’m all about strategies and tools that can claw back even a second of a piano lesson. So I decided that I needed a way to know, at a glance, what my students had found easy (and therefore needed less of our lesson time) and what they had struggled with (and therefore needed more of our lesson time).
I came up with a very simple sticker strategy that my kids enjoy and that provides me with instant home practice feedback. If you also love time-saving ideas, give it a try! Read on to find out how today’s Traffic Lights Sticker Strategy it works.
Home Practice “Traffic Lights”
As I mentioned in the introduction, asking students, “How did your practice go this week?” is not a very effective question. It is flawed for several reasons:
- My students have likely already forgotten about what happened 5 days ago. Their heads are filled with busy school days and a week’s worth of activities. Therefore, their answers to my question likely aren’t accurate.
- The question is way too broad; some parts of their practice may have been fantastic while others may have been a disaster. Young children aren’t ones to self-assess their learning processes easily, and asking such a broad question only complicates the issue.
- It takes a long time to “drag” quality answers out of my students (beyond the “fine” or “good”). I was sacrificing lesson time while not getting the information I required.
The problem is, however, that NOT asking the question is also not a good plan. “Going blind” into my students’ pieces is likely to leave me wondering, “Was that hard for him because he needs help with the concepts or because he didn’t open his book all week?” or, “Was that piece too easy or did he spend hours on it at home?”
Enter My “Piano Practice Traffic Light” System
This sticker system has worked really well for my own students. They enjoy providing feedback on their home practice in a kid-friendly manner.
To make it work, all you will need is a pack of colored labels that look like this. Pop a sheet of these stickers into your students’ piano binders and ask them to do the following during their first home practice session of the week and their last home practice session of the week (so that each home practice piece ends up with two stickers).
- Stick a GREEN sticker to the top of any piece that they find easy/enjoyable to play.
- Stick a YELLOW sticker to the top of any piece that they struggle with a little bit.
- Stick a RED sticker to the top of any piece that confuses or frustrates them.
When your students return to their next lessons you can quickly flip through their books or binders, take note of the different colored stickers and then celebrate the “greens”, zone in on the “yellows” and problem solve the “reds”.
If there are no stickers at all you will likely need to intervene with some home practice suggestions to get them back on track.
If you don’t have access to these kind of stickers, you can also draw two empty circles at the top of each piece for the week and ask your student to color the circle red, yellow or green. However, the stickers do provide an extra bit of motivation to use this system, so hunting around for an alternative (colored smiley faces etc.) is recommended.
Add To Home Practice Made Fun With This…
Join the thousands of teachers who are using our popular book, “Shhhh… Your Piano Teacher Thinks This is Practice” as a way to inspire effective, regular home practice that is absolutely, positively NOT boring! These 88 activities are a fun way to provide some practice focus… and help to turn those yellow and red stickers into greens!