As with any subject, positive reinforcement will keep your students striving to perform more and perform better. Throw student parties the day after a great concert or recital. Reward students for doing something outside of their comfort zone with “extra credit,” or a use a “point-system”. Even a good old, run-of-the-mill, gold star/name chart will do wonders when encouraging students to help their peers and work hard
A big quarterly or end-of-term performance is the perfect thing to center your music curriculum around. Students need to feel like they are working towards something palpable, or they won’t see the point of practicing. The positive pressure of wanting to do their best for family and friends will keep them driven throughout their lessons. Feeling the rush of being on stage and performing their craft for other people will keep them coming back for more.
3) Set goals and milestones
Too often instructors end up setting goals for their students instead of taking individual needs and learning patterns into account. Allowing students to set their own goals will strengthen their desire to actually accomplish them. One way of doing this is by having each student write out three goals that they want to accomplish by the end of the year, and two ways that they plan on accomplishing each goal.
You can give the students an example like this:
Goal #1: I want to be able to strum all of the major chords on my guitar without having to look down at my fingers
How I plan to accomplish this goal:
-Practice the chords every day
-Spend 10 minutes a day trying the chords without looking down.
Have a guide or checklist for students to keep in their music folder throughout the year to help them outline milestones track their progress. This will provide them with a visual representation of all the things they’ve accomplished.
4) Incorporate movement
Dancing and moving to music will help students warm them up before singing or playing an instrument, as well as develop their natural body-rhythm. Looking at sheet music for too long will cause kids to get lethargic and bored. Taking a break to move around and dance gives the brain a boost while still keeping the students focused on music.
5) Record and make an “album”
One way to encourage your students to get creative and stay motivated is by recording their performance and making an album their music. Depending on the student, you can allow it to be either an album of songs the student has composed and written themselves, or it can simply be an album of pieces that they have conquered throughout the year. The album will be something tangible that they can take with them at the end of the year to remind them of all they’ve accomplished. You can also make a compilation album of one piece performed by each of your students, and then give it to parents at the end of the year. You can even make a copy of it (with the student’s permission, of course) and use it as a reference point for future students.
6) Start a “Student of the Month”
There’s nothing like good, friendly competition to keep your students on their toes. The trick is not to pick the “Student of the Month” based off of who is the best instrumentalist or vocalist, but to reward the student who has shown growth in other qualities, such as hard-work, creativity, and eagerness to learn. This will incentivise other students to improve in other areas of their music education, not just raw ability.
7) Encourage parent participation
About twenty-five percent of progressing and improving in music lessons comes from sitting down and learning new material with your instructor. The other seventy-five percent comes from practice, practice, practice! Parents play a crucial role in their child’s music education. It is up to the parents to make sure the student is not only practicing in between lessons, but practicing the correct material the correct way. Make sure parents stay up-to-date on the curriculum and what lessons are consisting of, so that they can give encouragement and make sure their kids are sticking to a regular, daily practice routine.
8) Have your students start a band
If you’re working with students who are studying various instruments, encourage them to get together and form a band. This will not only help to build a strong, musical connection amongst the youth in your community, but it will also teach students the value of creating something together as opposed to only performing solo.
9) Teach the music your student loves
Students are much more enthusiastic when they are playing music that they love. If your student has a favorite song or band, incorporate that into your curriculum. Be creative - sports teams’ fight songs, video game soundtracks, and Disney songs can all be great material. It is definitely important for students to understand the impact of classical music, but the only way to keep them impassioned is to let them express themselves in a way that best suits their individual preferences.
10) Listen to your students, and not just when they play
If your student is struggling, try to find the root of the issue instead of focusing on the problem itself. Everybody learns and progresses differently. Some kids may need visual aids hand-written on their sheet-music, while others need you to talk them through a piece they are playing. Some students need a more structured lesson with strict guidelines and a good set of books, while others will benefit more from a hands-on approach.
If your student doesn’t seem to be practicing, try to figure out why. Talk to them. Make a connection. If they feel that you actually care about them and not just their ability, they’ll be more open to trying new learning techniques with you and more driven to make you, their instructor, proud.