Practice for Practice’s Sake

Tuesday is ‘art’ day here on the blog, so I thought I’d share this wonderful story from violin teacher Nathan Kroptavich about how he got his violin students to practice more, and practice more effectively, by changing the nature of the lesson. An excerpt:

I created a weekly journal to help guide them. The first part of the journal is a place for students to write down their goals for the week. These goals are measureable achievements, usually related to a particular week’s lesson. The second part of the journal is the daily practice portion, where students write down what they practiced, practice strategies used, what went well, and what still needs to be improved. My students do need a parent signature, and they do receive a grade for completing their journal, but the emphasis is not on the amount of time spent on practicing, but rather the process of improving a particular skill or piece of music. I spend a considerable amount of time during lessons explaining and demonstrating a variety of practice strategies to use for skills or passages that must be mastered. My students even have a strategy sheet in their music folder that they can refer to when practicing at home. I look through their journals each week and make suggestions where appropriate. I also encourage them to play songs for fun, write their own music, and listen to their favorite orchestra musicians. I should also mention that I have been journaling my own practice routine with my students, who have held me accountable to practice at home too.

I highly recommend you read the whole thing — it’s a wonderful example of how to shift focus to achieve more effective results. It’s also a great example of a good teacher in action.

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