Search This Blog

Monday, February 21, 2022

Why we do what we do - help students CHOOSE to practice


I've been reading a book called Atomic Habits by James Clear and it has inspired me to help students learn how to establish correct habits in regards to practicing.  It can be difficult to add a new habit in your daily schedule.  Many young students excitedly begin the journey to learn an instrument without knowing how to create a new habit to make sure consistent practicing happens.  I've had several emails from parents this year asking me what their child should be practicing at home.  To me it was so obvious, but students needed clear, specific instructions.

Last week I gave students a worksheet to reflect on their reasons for learning to play an instrument. I wanted them to remember WHY they started.  Remembering why we do what we do can reignite passion and energy to do what it takes to succeed.  I really enjoyed reading student responses and I can now better help students reach their goals because I know what they really want to accomplish.   You can use the worksheet for free HERE.

Sample from one of my 7th grade beginning students:

At the bottom of the reflection, students brainstormed the endings for a few different scenarios.  Like what happens if they never practice at home, or if they work really hard in class.  The answers are obvious, yet we don't always make the connection that what we choose to do NOW dramatically affects who we turn out to BE.  Students then answered the last question on the page...'Do you need to make an ACTION CHANGE?'  This was my favorite question.  It is allowing students to determine if their actions are placing them on the road to fulfill their desired results/accomplishments.  Many students determined that they need to do more to meet their goals.  It was just want I needed...I wanted students to buy-in to practicing.  I needed them to decide they wanted and needed to practice.   That way practicing won't be just an assignment.  It will be a system to help them achieve their own desired success.

The next step is to help students implement a practice plan and teach them how to practice effectively.  Last week I taught students how to target small chunks and practice them 10 times perfectly.  I gave students 15 minutes during class to complete this assignment.  Many students were excited to take additional worksheets home to practice chunking/repetitions at home.

This week I am using this Rehearsal Skills Tracker in rehearsal.  I want students to fix little performance issues on their own by learning how to notice and track their habits.  Students will choose what skills they would like to focus on during rehearsal, then track how many repetitions they achieve throughout the rehearsal.  For example, perhaps a student needs to break a habit of collapsed wrist. That student would write the skill down, then every time he/she checked to make sure the wrist was correct or fixed the wrist to be correct, they would mark a circle.  It helped students consciously target playing skills to help them progress.  I made mine using templates at

I'm planning on created mindful practice assignments each week to help students learn HOW to focus their practice at home.  This process has helped students WANT to practice and work to progress because they remember their purpose.  

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Valentines rehearsal game for string orchestra


Are you looking for a simple, easy, fun activity you can do during your Valentines Day orchestra rehearsal?  Use this easy team tic-tac-toe game created on a jamboard!  You can customize the activity by changing the text to contain any challenge you'd like your students to complete.  You could also share the jamboard with students and let them create their own gameboards/challenges. 

FREE - use this link for your copy:  VALENTINES TIC TAC TOE JAMBOARD

How to play:  Project the jamboard screen in front of the class.  Divide the class into 2 teams.  You may want to choose a team captain to speak for each team and choose the tic tac toe position for each round.  A team chooses a heart and must complete the challenge.  You can choose to have the entire team participate on each challenge (this is what I recommend), or individual students from each team.  If the team is successful, they get to claim the heart.  The teacher drags their game piece (cupid or heart breaker icon) to the completed challenge.  If the heart says DUEL - both teams race to complete the challenge and the winning team claims the heart.  To win the game, a team must claim 3 hearts in a row - across, down, or diagonal.