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:

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.

Spring, I love this point system idea! Where did you find all the individual sticker charts? It’s nice that it’s not forcing students to be competitive with each other but rather pushing them to do their best. I think I need to start something like this with my students.

Thanks! I’ve been really pleased with how my students have responded so far. I got the individual sticker charts from the office at work, but I bet they have them at Teacher’s Tools.

This is great, thanks for sharing! I love how they have to be passed off on pieces learned. I think that really encourages quality practice not just quantity. :). Just curious….what do you use for a listening chart?

I’m glad you like it, I’m really looking for ways to push students to get results, rather than just wait out the timer! I’ve been using the “Listening Challenge” worksheets available at pianimation.com. There are two different versions, one for beginners and one for more intermediate students. I’ve also provided some lists of ways to find good music, and have a bonus system going with a featured piece for the week. I’ll share some more details about all of that on a future post 🙂

Really neat ideas are presented here! I do a similar thing with my students earning stickers and receiving music related prizes at the end of the chart completion. I was curious how you get a teacher discount at Joanns? I always assumed that you had to present a school teacher’s ID for that to apply?

The teacher discount at Joann is a little tricky, they want proof that you are currently teaching. Usually you can show your MTNA membership card (which we now have to print out ourselves) or some kind of brochure, class syllabus, or other current material that shows you are teaching. I think it’s worth the hassle for the discount, we are teachers after all!

I do a similar program but use fake money instead of stickers. I printed these off from a website which I can’t remember where but you could also buy a pack of fake money at the dollar store, cut out faces of composers and tape them in the middle of the dollar and then xerox. Bach is on the $1., Beethoven on the $5. and Brahms on the $10. The students collect these in zipper pencil pouches in their folders to redeem when they earn $20. Works great!

Love the composer money idea – thanks for the easy instructions! I think my students may need to try this next semester…

Could u please email me a piano points and piano bingo chart? i am unable to print from this site for some reason. THANKS I am so excited to introduce our 8 year old to both. this is his first year for piano

Hi Melissa,

So sorry you are having trouble with the files. Did you download and save the PDF before trying to print? And what internet browser are you using? We would like to figure out what is going on so we can fix the problem. In the meantime, I will email you the PDF files, I hope you enjoy!

I use a similar system with the points, but I’ve been giving out 1 point for each day that they practiced….AND they could get something out of the box at 18 points! No wonder I’m going broke!!! I would love to try your way. I do have a question – do you give them a certain amount of time that they have to practice in order to consider it one of their 5 days? I have some that would sit down, run through a song once, and claim they practiced that day! I tell them it has to be at least 10 minutes. Thanks for sharing this with us!

My students have a set goal each semester of how many minutes they need to practice and how many times each week. (Usually we start at 20 min x 5 days). If they don’t meet this goal for 2 weeks in a row, parents get involved so they usually do pretty well reaching their goal. They also don’t get points if they don’t reach their goal each week so that helps make it clear what counts. Hope that helps!