Monday Mailbag – Age Appropriate Practice Incentives

I love your incentive ideas!  Just wondering if you use them with your entire studio, or only up to a certain age.
I have always felt uncertain about students perhaps outgrowing incentives, and have generally phased them out by high school.

Yes, I use my practice incentive themes with the whole studio. It’s definitely a challenge to develop them, but one of my goals is to design it in such a way that it is inclusive of all ages and levels. Each student is able to work within the framework of the theme toward specific goals that are appropriate to his/her age and level. The post titled 4 Components of a Good Practice Incentive will give you a better idea of how I develop the themes and specific examples of how I’ve incorporated various principles into each of my themes.

One of the things I try to avoid – above all else – is using only trinkets or external rewards (a.k.a. bribery) to get the student to practice or achieve certain goals. The reward, ultimately, should be the enjoyment of the music and the achievement of reaching new levels in their understanding and skills. The practice incentive just provides a creative theme that helps the student organize and track their progress. My desire is to build a culture in my studio of enthusiasm and diligence. Any reward I provide is my way of expressing appreciation to my students for the hard work they have put in throughout the year. And that’s something that can be done for students regardless of age or level!

One final thought to keep in mind is that the older students can be a powerful influence in the attitude of the rest of the studio. If you can tap into their excitement and expertise and give them a vision for what they can achieve and how they can be an example to the younger students, it will be contagious! Honestly, I’d rather lean toward something that appeals to the older students and adapt it significantly for the younger ones (or just let them “tag along for the ride”!), because the younger ones need to have more specific direction and input from week to week anyway.

Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!

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