As we started back to lessons after Christmas break it became evident that my students needed a little extra motivation.  Christmas music and Christmas recitals were finished, and most students got out of their practice habits over the break.  Of course I wish that all my students could be motivated simply by the love of music, but in reality this doesn’t work for all students, especially when dealing with a lot of transfer students who may have already lost some motivation before they came to me.

Last semester I had a very simple incentive chart:  practice your goal number of days for the week and mark it in your notebook, receive a sticker on the chart.  Earn 5 stickers and choose a prize from the prize basket.  Although this worked okay, I wanted a way to be more inclusive about what was rewarded.  I have some students who practice consistently and learn a lot of new pieces, but forget to mark their practice charts.  I have others who mark their charts, but it seems like they made no progress during the week.  Because of these issues, I decided to start a new system with rewards for more than just practice.  I came up with the following point system:

Piano Points

I passed this out to all my students and showed them how they can get a lot of stickers in one week, most of them love this!  I have small incentive charts that each hold 25 stickers.  My students picked out their own chart and taped it inside their assignment books.



Once they earn 25 points they get to pick something from my prize basket.  I fill my prize basket mostly with things from the Dollar Tree, Target dollar section, and JoAnn’s dollar section (where you can even use a teacher discount card for an extra 15% off).  Here’s what my prize basket looks like right now:




By rewarding for pieces learned, memory, theory pages, etc., in addition to practice, students receive  rewards for practicing more effectively throughout the week.  I also put in a category for listening, I will include more on that in a later post.  I soon learned that choosing stickers for each point earned during the lesson can take up a lot of time (each sticker has to be the perfect one), so I made a little dry erase board that we can tally points during the lesson.  At the end of the lesson the student gets to choose all their stickers at once and add them to their incentive chart.  Here’s my tally board, this is just a dollar store picture frame that I put some scrapbook paper in:


I hope this gives you some ideas for keeping your students motivated.  What have you found to motivate students throughout the semester?

Author: Spring

Spring Seals, NCTM, teaches 60 piano students ranging from age 3 to 70 in Fort Worth, Texas. She also serves as the Director of Certification for TMTA. She is passionate about helping teachers become more effective in their studios through professional development, new resources, and fresh ideas.