I use colorful stars to write something positive the student accomplished. The students are quick to see if they made it on the board by checking it as soon as they come in. EX.: Moving up a level, most theory games played, memorized a song, met practice goal, went an extra mile practicing, etc.
Planning to vary the board by using seasonal items like leaves, pumpkins, etc.
Each student gets a flashcard or piece of card stock the size of a card and can add a sticker each time they accomplish something great in lesson. Once they get 20 stickers, they can choose something from the musical treasure box, a decorated orange and blue box with baseball card packets, sparkly pencils and other fun inexpensive treats.
Old Fashioned Fun
I have an old fashioned gum-ball machine that I fill with large round gumballs. When a student comes to his lesson having practiced 5 days (signed by parent) I give him a quarter to get a gumball out of the machine.
I have a giant keyboard that goes up the wall. At various points there are prizes ( take home a music game, borrow boomwhackers for a week etc). Each student has a peg and they travel up the wall keyboard .
The Recording Studio
The thing that seems to make pupils practice the most is when there’s an exam or performance coming up. Trouble is, these are not always very frequent so it’s difficult for this enthusiasm to transfer to the rest of the year. I’ve found recording to be a great tool for encouraging practice. As the pupil comes to the end of each unit or book, I ask them to choose a favourite piece to record – it also keeps a record of their progress. I also do ‘on-the-spot’ recording when they haven’t been warned! We’re currently exploring the possibility of compiling recordings onto CDs which pupils can give as Christmas presents etc.
Studio Prize Bag
As most of my students are very young, they need short-term motivation. I have a prize chart designed for each student, which they can use to collect fun stickers at their lessons. If students follow through on practice assignments during the week and have a positive attitude and good “listening ears” during their piano lesson, they are rewarded by choosing a sticker. Each time they collect four stickers, they are allowed to pick a prize from my studio prize bag. At the end of the year, they get to take their prize charts home with their collection of stickers and proudly show their parents how hard they have worked – simple, but effective!
Shoot For the Stars
My students would get a star in their little notebook listing what they need to practice and if they practiced the listed pages until the next lesson. After ten stars the student would get an ice cream from Baskin Robbins. After fifty stars, the student would get a collectible prize. After one hundred stars, the student would get a water park certificate presented to them at the recital.
Online Practice Tracking
I have a web page for each student (hidden to public). Every week I ask how many days they practiced since the last lesson. On their page (among other things) I keep a tally of practice days by week and by overall total. I award badges at milestones—25 days, 50 days, 100 and on up—which go under their picture on the page. The badges are grey at first, so they can see their next goal, and then in color when they’ve achieved the goal.
Tried and True Sticky Calendar
My incentives are probably used often… the tried and true sticker calendar. Each day a student practices, his/her parents write the amount of time and sign their initials. After the sufficient amount of time is completed and brought to lessons, I reward them with a sticker. Once a month is filled (4 stickers, One per each week) then they get to reach in the GRAB BAG.
I require all of my students to fill out, complete, and maintain a Playlist of all their foundation and accompaniment songs, variations, arrangements, and compositions. They also pull out a (popsicle) stick that has the name of one of their songs on it; they then have to play the song correctly for me. Finally, I let them select one song at the beginning of the lesson to warm up on for me 🙂
Road Rally – All year incentive where the students “drive” cars along a road taped around the studio. Miles are awarded through practice. Along the path they also have pit stops where they are awarded little treats (pencils, candy etc.) Trophies are given at the spring recital according to how far they drove in the race.
For Big and Small
For younger students, I have often made a simple chart in their notebook on this week’s assignment page, and given them 5 stickers – one to put on each day they practice. They love it. For older students, often I’ll suggest that if they learn their piece well, we will play it as a duet the following week. Or, I’ll suggest they memorize their piece, which is also a great incentive for them to practice.
30-Day Practice Challenge
At our school we do a 30-Day Practice Challenge during the month of May (right before our Spring Recital). Students are ‘challenged’ to practice for 30 days in a row. All students who complete the challenge get a certificate, a small prize, and an entry into the draw for a $50 itunes gift card. This definitely generates buzz at our school, and the parents (and teachers) love the results!
I use Bach Bucks to reward for assignments completed. They can also earn extra during lessons. I then have a treasure chest that they can “buy” items from with their earned rewards.
Out of 10
For some beginner students, I give them a rating out of 10 for how well they played their piece. If they get at least 9 out of 10 they can pass it, if they get 8 or less, they must keep the piece another week. I let them know what they can improve and show them how, so that the next week, they can pass it.
I am having a multiple drawing raffle at the first recital in October for small prizes such as mini footballs, movie tickets, etc. Every time a student gets in a 10-minute minimum practice session between now and the recital, he or she gets a ticket to put into the raffle. In addition, the one with the most tickets overall will get a grand prize at the recital.
Olympic themed practice incentives (with goals to win gold, silver, and bronze based on your criteria); this would be easy to arrange yourself if you did not want to purchase one. Oriental Trading Co and the like have “medals” to award for under $1.
I allow my students to gain points towards playing around on the rap and percussion settings on the keyboard. (I even let them wear headsets to feel more professional.) Sometimes this really motivates the boys.
Money in the Bank
I use $1 and $5 play money. When they earn $10, they can buy something from my $10 basket (includes candy bars, baseball cards, bookmarks, pens, pencils, etc), or they can save for $20 and buy from my $20 bag (movie theater size candy, packs of gum, small toys, etc.).
I encourage my students to practice by reminding them of the great time we have in playing duets! Most of the pieces for my young students have duets parts, which they really look forward to having me play with them. I remind them that they have to be ready before I can play with them – so they work to have their parts ready and confident in few lessons.
Around the World
Playing songs from different countries/cultures for a fall recital last year, I put a big laminated world map on the studio wall. Each student chose a colorful foam biplane (purchased a sack of them at Hobby Lobby) with a double-stick tab on the back. Rigged the map with a red twine journey line pinpointing major cities around the world (ala Indiana Jones). Each student started in the US and as they practiced, they progressed “Around the World in Song”. Made a great display at the recital too! =)
Students are allocated to a team with a composer’s name and earn points for their team for each minute of practice and the number of sessions they practice each week. Each weekend I print out Excel graphs of each team’s progress and post on the wall beside the piano. At my annual recital, each student in the winning team receives a medal. Many of my students have significantly increased their practice times in order to help their team.
Praise, Praise, Praise
Some things that I do in one session after seeing a child has practiced is give a lot of praise. I high 5 him or her, tell them how proud I am of them and have the parent come and listen to the piece they just played. After the piece is finished, the mother gives her child tons of enthusiastic praise! I always include a large sticker of their choice and a toy from my Bamboo Treasure Chest. I am not sure if the child like’s the toy or the praise the most!
I offer small treats or silly bands at the end of some lessons if I could tell during the week that they practiced well–the songs they were working on improved and they really tried. I also ask them to record their practice each week in their assignment notebook not just so I can see it but also so they can see for themselves that on the whole, more practice equals feeling better about ourselves because we’re progressing. It’s most effective on weeks when they don’t practice and then they can learn that they don’t like that feeling. My little students also practice more when I teach them finger exercises by rote that sound grown-up and fun so they know exactly how to start each practice and can really feel their fingers getting strong.
Amazing Musical Race
My studio took an “Amazing Musical Race” around the world. Students had 18 cities to visit where they completed challenges to move onto the next city. Challenges included learning a song or wrtting a biography about a composer from that country, memorizing pieces, learning scales & cadences, recording themselves & attending concerts. We have a huge laminated map of the world set up for the name tags and no one knows ( but me!)the winner until it is announced at the recital in the spring.
$10 Gift Card
Every week I put each students name into a drawing – one name for every hour of practice. At the end of the month I draw out one name and they win a $10 gift card (i-tunes,cold-stone creamery etc) I also give a gift card to the student who practices the most each month.
Making Music Money
For each day (or number of minutes) that a student practices they receive $1 of music money. At the end of a set period of time, say 4 weeks, they get to go shopping. I buy items from the dollar store for them to ‘purchase’. I add new prices on them (e.g. $10 for rubber bouncy ball) and they get to choose what to buy. To help build excitement I do let them browse the ‘store’ a few weeks prior to purchasing items.
Make practicing scales, arpeggios and broken chords fun by writing the name of each on a cardboard counter and jumble them all together in a pretty box. The student then picks a counter at random and throws a dice to determine how many times to perform whatever comes up.
Pretty Practice Chains
Students earn practice beads for their practice chains by practicing for a daily minimum time, playing finished pieces (with points doubling for playing with CD accompaniment or metronome and tripiling for memorization) and finished scales.
The Piano Olympics
My incentive one year was Piano Olympics. Students had to complete a certain number events to earn a bronze, silver or gold medal. The events included the following categories: music theory, sightreading, performances, music history, technique and composition. Medals were awarded at our final recital for the year.
Don’t Break the Ice
I purchased the game Don’t break the ice from toys r us. ……I use this game to encourage multiple repetitions of a section. After setting up the game, students are allowed to tap out one ice cube each time they play a section. Continue playing sections and tapping out ice cubes until the skater falls. The winner is the Student who didn’t cause the skater to fall.
50 Songs For 50 States
The students had a goal of learning or reviewing 50 songs (older kids 1 page = 1 song) during the school year. When they passed off the song to me, they picked a U.S. state in their “Passport book” to pass off. Six of their states were “Surprise States” and if they picked one of them, they got to pick a treat out of my Treasure Trunk. Those who passed off all 50 of their states by the end of May got a treat bag.
Set a goal for every week. Break weekly goals into 5 day-based ones or 5 individual practice parts. Write 7 rewards she wants most. Everyday pick up one practice part, then pick up one rewards after finishing.