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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Practice Ideas

One of the aspects of practicing parents struggle with most is how to get their child to do the same thing several times. Repetition is vitally important. It's the only thing that converts knowledge to ability (As Dr. Suzuki said, "Ability = Knowledge + 10,000 times). But kids don't see the point. Why would they?

Here are some ideas for keeping them motivated:
  • Roll Dice. Kids love the serendipity.
  • Wipe-out Rule - If you're trying for x times in a row, any careless/inaccurate repetition means you go back to one, even if it's repetition x-1.
  • Wipe-out Rule Plus One - If the student wipes out, add one to the number of repetitions. x + 1, then x + 2, etc.
  • Yes Pile/No Pile - Move counting object (pennies, buttons, beans etc.) from no pile to "yes" pile with each good repetition. You can also reserve the right to move them back to the "no" pile.
  • Depersonalize - Let the student evaluate the repetitions, or let a stuffed animal or puppet be the "judge."
  • Move pieces around a game board.
  • Penny Jar - With each good repetition add a penny (or bean or other counter) to the jar. You and your child can agree on an appropriate reward for when the jar fills up, depending on the size of the jar. Maybe it's a trip to the ice cream shop, maybe it's a trip to Disneyland. What I like is that it the child learns that with effort, and one step at a time, you can achieve a goal over the long term. Meanwhile the child sees his cumulative progress as the jar fills up.
  • Clothes Pins - Line up clothes pins on the child's pant leg, and remove them with each good repetition.
  • Draw playing cards to determine the number
  • Make a paper chain, add a link with every repetition.
  • Make a tower of blocks and add a block with each repetition
  • Have a coloring book page, and color one section for each repetition. 
  • Plus Seven - On a piece of paper, write out the numbers -7 -6 -5 -4 -3 -2 -1 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7. Start with a marker on 0. With each good repetition, move the marker in the positive direction. With each messy repetition, move the marker down one. Stop when you get to +7.
  • Disguised Repetition - Can you do it with your eyes closed? Can you do it with your mouth open? Can you do the bowing on a different string? Can you do the bowing in the air? Etc.
You'll need as many new ideas as you can find or come up with.

It's important that you evaluate each repetition only based on the one point that you are focusing on. If the instruction was to play the same 3 notes of a piece 12 times with a relaxed left thumb, don't discount a repetition because the bow wasn't on the highway. One thing at a time.

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