By Jennifer Foxx
The holidays have come and gone and the school year is now half over, winter blues may even be setting in which means it’s time for a mid-year practice boost!
Last year, I mentioned that I did a spring semester kickoff for the first time. A semester kickoff is the very first lesson back after a long break and is done as a group lesson kicking off the semester. For the fall semester kickoff, I introduce all that we will be doing that year and for the spring kickoff, I like to do something to give them a boost. Since last year was my first year implementing a spring kickoff I focused on goals and reflection. This year, however, I wanted to change things up and we will do goals and reflection next week during our music lab time.
MID-YEAR PRACTICE BOOST
For this kickoff, I wanted to do a mid-year practice boost. I am a big advocate of making practice fun but efficient. Goals are always the key player. And the best way to do that is through practice games. I have used many practice games with my students over the years but this year I wanted to change things up and introduce some new games. So with this kickoff, we reviewed Tonara, a practice app I started using this year, our practice steps, and created two new games, the 7 Practice Keys and the Practice Cootie Catcher (aka Fortune Teller).
REVIEWING PRACTICE APP
We started the kickoff with a review of Tonara. (Love using my projector in groups!) I have a lot to say about Tonara, but that will have to come in a separate post on its own. (In the meantime just do a quick search on the blog and you will find a couple posts about it)
Tonara recently came out with a couple features that I had been anxiously awaiting for (video and PDF ability) and I wanted to share with students how to navigate through everything. Besides the practice benefits, this was important because Tonara is now the official place I will be sharing any video lessons should they request one when they miss a lesson. I also have some families that haven’t had their children log in to Tonara yet, so my other reason was to get those students really excited about it so they can go home and encourage their parents to get them logged in and start using it. After the first day of kickoff, I had 3 new logged-in students. Yay!
REVIEW PRACTICE STEPS
Then it was time to review basic practice steps when learning a piece. I slipped their practice step checklist inside a plastic protector so they could use it with a dry eraser or dry erase crayon (my personal favorite) over and over again. Depending on the age of the student they either got a regular checklist or one for the younger beginner.
You can download these two checklists for free below…
INTRODUCE NEW PRACTICE GAMES
As I mentioned earlier, practice games are my favorite tool to use with students. With a goal in place, practicing becomes more focused. With this kickoff, I changed the design of a resource that is included in my practice workshop and named it the 7 Keys of Practice. Now how to play this particular game is played is probably nothing new to anyone reading this. It’s the typical play a piece or section of a piece and when you play it correctly you move up. When you don’t, you move back. Once you get to the end you are finished. I have done this with many things including candy. But kids enjoy hands-on activities, so the keyboard was designed and students decorated the clothespin. You are welcome to download the 7 Keys of Practice for free below!
The next game I wanted to create for my students was a Practice Cootie Catcher (aka fortune teller). We had so much fun using our cootie catcher for our New Years Goals and Reflection last year that I thought we would do it again but with a practice focus. When students open up their cootie catcher to reveal what to do, they will find different music “subjects” on what to focus for that particular playthrough. For example, if they opened it up and it said “dynamics”, they would focus that play-through on dynamics making sure they don’t miss any. Then they go through the process again focusing on something else. If you own the Practice Games and Tools resource, I added the practice cootie catcher to the file. Just re-download and grab the update for free!
On the way out the door, I gave students a couple of packs of Smarties to remind them to practice smart. Then told them they could use the smarties as a practice game in the same way they are using their 7 Keys of a Practice game.
A LITTLE TIP
I hope you explore the hyperlinks that I linked to in this post as it’s a gold mine of more information to read on the blog as well as resources to check out. Just be aware, that some of those links may be affiliate links. Happy Practicing!