One of the challenges facing any music teacher, regardless of the instrument, is motivating their students to continue to grow musically. Our students live a life filled with video games, text messaging, computers, tutorials, extra lessons in tennis, ballet, ice-skating and, of course, homework. As teachers, we need to consider how we can stimulate student interest and ensure that boredom is avoided by including some motivational “tools” in our teaching routine. The following suggestions are based upon personal experiences and “stolen” from such imminent pedagogues as Ingrid Jacobson Clarfield, Martha Baker Jordan and Jeanine Jacobson.  Since every student is unique, some of these will work and other will not…just try and try again. The results are worth it!

Tool #1:           Have a Student Survey using a scale of 1-5, 1 being least liked and 5 being most liked. (This is really valuable)

Tool #2:           Choose material that is interesting, appeals to the student and will permit student success.

Tool #3:           Vary the pace and routine of the lesson since variety is always a stimulant: For example: a new way to practice technique; ensemble sight-reading; memorize a portion of a piece after 3 minutes of silent study.

Tool #4:           Never give a student more material than they can handle.

Tool #5:           Be aware of complexities in piece which may create problems in practicing.

Tool #6:           Have specific objectives for each practice session.

Tool #7:           Recognize their achievements through public and private acknowledgements. For example: sitting properly, keeping a steady tempo, achieving a goal.

Tool #8:           Set realistic goals to be achieved within a specific time in order to receive a special recognition award

Tool #9:           Provide performance opportunities appropriate to student (small studio recitals, competitions and festivals, accompanying a choir or participating in an ensemble group.)

Tool #10:         Encourage social playing: school, church, retirement homes.

Tool #11:         Send a detailed report card on a quarterly basis, with suggestions for improvement.

Tool #12:         Give a grade for each lesson and a Progress Study Report on repertoire, technique, etc., using a range of marks from Excellent, Good, Fair, Poor. Include comments for improvement.

Tool #13:         Establish studio contests such Technique Olympics with another teacher.

Tool #14:         Group work such as duets arranged according to abilities (except with teenagers who are embarrassed to work with 8 year olds).

Tool #15:         Combine playing classes with other teachers.

Tool #16:         Have students start a practice diary with comments for each day’s practice. (This actually works).

Tool #17:         Have master classes with a guest teacher.

Tool #18:         Have a “Practice” lesson on a specific area such as technique, ear-training, ornaments, etc.

Tool #19:         Achievement Lists: One-Minute Club (name specific number of flash cards or clap specific number of rhythms in one minute); Reader of the Week: Sight Reading; AAA Club (Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere) Performance-ready pieces

Tool #20:         Brag Board: Piano Brags (for piano achievements) and Other Brags for other achievement such as an exceptional grade average, chosen to be in a play or on a debating team.

Tool #21:         Quarterly newsletters to students and parents.

Tool #22:         Invite parents to lesson or have informal meeting with parents to discuss events and answer questions.

Tool #23:         Involve students in selecting repertoire, creating assignments and evaluations.

Tool #24:         Browser Box: to encourage sight-reading and self-study.

Finally, talk less and listen more, focusing on students’ feelings and questions. Treat each student as an individual and always be sincere and specific with praise and criticism. Motivation is an ongoing “work in progress” and will never be completed!!  But when a student responds positively to your efforts, you know you have really achieved something special. Good Luck!

Submitted by Mary Tickner