reward program for students : LUSENET : Everything About Teaching and Learning the Piano : One Thread

I am in need of some sort of reward system for practicing, good behavior etc. I wish it were as easy as all of the "classroom management" websites, but with just myself and the student, that doesn't work so well. Last spring I designated this many minutes of practice each week. If the students did that for 3 weeks in a row, then they got a prize. It worked okay, but for my young students it was too hard for them to understand, and my older kids could care less about the "prizes". Any ideas that you've used, or have heard works, would be especially helpful. Thanks so much

-- Jen Carley (, September 04, 2004


I'm just a Mom, speaking from a Mom's point of view.

If you don't mind my asking, why do you feel the need for rewards? Imho, the public schools have set a really poor example over the years by rewarding (let's be honest here-- it's really "bribing") students for *every* little thing, and that is one reason they've become so jaded and well, loath to work at anything. What happened to the basic "if you want to be good at anything, you have to practice" principle?

Also, in your case, it is one thing to "practice", and another thing to "practice well". The only proof you really have of good practice is their good performance of their music while they're with you.

As far as prizes, let's see, Stickers get stuck everywhere they're not supposed to be stuck , and candy is not good for the teeth. Coupons for fast food ? Maybe okay, depending on where. Anything NOT contributing clutter to the house (;-) would be most appreciated. Maybe some arcade tokens, or movie passes, or movie rental passes (if you know where they rent movies)? I don't know the cheapest way to get the coupons/ passes--although you might be able to take advantage of an "educator's discount", and may even be able to claim them as a business expense on taxes, as long as you keep good records of whom you gave them to and when. Also, instead of a reward per se, you might wish to give them out as Christmas gifts, or after recitals.

Hope this helps, at least a little bit.

-- GT (, September 08, 2004.

You remind me a little of parents who always need to bribe their kids in order for them to do anything (church, chores, piano lessons).

In short, music making is its own reward. Your adulation when they succeed and enthusiastic shouts of "perfect!" should ring in their ears all week long, together with all your careful instructions.

I would never have my students fill out practice charts when they could be enjoying a simple melody. Dreary drudgery that would be.

A simple sticker at the end of each lesson for the youngest students is all that's required.

-- Anita (, September 10, 2004.

I've just started teaching piano and have been wondering the same thing myself. Maybe try talking to each student's parents and explaining how you want to make learning music really fun. Then you could ask them what they think would be the "coolest" idea for their child. For younger students try making the goal shorter. "If you practice this song once each day then you can have an extra sticker next week, or you can pick what song you would like to learn next out of these five fun disney ones," or whatever. Older kids you can sometimes reason with. You get out exactly what you put in, or you could make a competition for them. Most hours practiced each week - 3 points, memorizing a piece 2 points, memorizing a scale 1/2 a point. I don't know, be creative. Then at the end of 3 weeks, the winner could be publically recognized in your newsletter if you have one, or their parents might know what would turn them on. You would either have to talk to each parent before hand, or have the prize be a mystery and then just talk to the winner's parents. Hope this helps!

-- Laura (, November 18, 2004.

the piano teacher who first taught me to enjoy the actual act of playing the piano rather than just the sense of achievement just gave me those "star" stickers. however, she would laugh and smile and shake my hands with genuine joy. she was a kind elderly lady who reminded me to keep my fingers curved as if i was holding a ball. when i'd forget, she'd put the ball in my hand to remind me. i think she might have had arthritis, and certainly could play well, so i can only imagine the kinds of feelings she had about playing the piano and growing older or teaching.

my next piano teacher was less jolly, but i remember seeing her crying once after a recital of mine, and the kindness that she showed my family. that made me respect her a lot more. i wasn't so easy to talk to, even though i was probably rather easy to teach. i wish that i had understood her more and been more friendly. she also rewarded me with stickers, but better yet, she'd relax, smile and ask me what i most wanted to play next.

she'd also surprise me with some new piano books in some newer styles that were actually easier to play, but still challenging to make sound genuine. for example, after completing some decent baroque, she'd introduce me to some ragtime books. i didn't get very far with ragtime, but studying ragtime permanently changed my perspective about music and playing. so, i guess a widened perspective is its own reward.

my last piano teacher, really expanded my analytical thinking about piano playing, and encouraged me to do more recitals, and started talking about master classes. to be honest, i started hating festivals and recitals, even though i did well enough. they just weren't as fun and cordial as the family-friends-classmate based recitals.

i remember once cutting my hand while cutting a pumpkin with a swiss army knife at halloween. my teacher was upset with me, but my hand healed alright by the next week's recital. i remember they had a mirror above the piano so the audience could watch, and the piano had a really tough and unresponsive mechanism. i did alright. i remember feeling really good each and every time i saw that teacher smile and relax or joke with my family. i often tested that teacher's patience, so seeing him relaxed and happy with me or at least relieved always felt rewarding.

i guess i'm talking about these instances because they were each rewarding and typified the joys of having these teachers. even though i prefer improv today more that memorization-based playing, these teachers related to me on terms of the assignments at hand the continuum of successfully completed songs. they didn't talk down to me or forget which one of us was the adult (them).

quitting lessons was a really strange experience because it was liberating and painful. however, if i hadn't quit, then i'd never have continued to play.

in conclusion, i guess i'd say that a lot of students will be poor communicators, but decent performers at times. this means that it will be hard to read them and thus give them positive feedback.

i guess i'd look into the cues that they give you about their personality. for many kids, the chance to feel a sense of accomplishment while also being relaxed or at home is its own reward. they will be thankful to you for that.

when i think about it, most piano teachers seem like pretty cool people to me.

having piano lessons probably saved my life, because there were times later in college when i'd escape to find a piano in a dorm lounge to play instead of participating in any of the typical college melancholy weekend madness.

so the short answer is, i don't know what would work best, but you probably do, deep down, as a teacher.

-- a former piano student (, November 18, 2004.

I have a 18yr. friend that teaches 30+ students and one of her ways of rewarding her students is that by doing different things (i.e. faithfully practicing each week, passing a song, knowing what notes are what, theory etc..)they get a certain amount of points. Each thing is worth a certain number of points and once a student reaches a certain amount of points they can buy something from her by using their points as money. Like 13 points for a cap gun, 2 points for a pack of gum, hair stuff, nail polish, anything, etc... You set the worth of points and what they can buy. I teach piano as well (only to about 5 students -I do it for fun and I personally don't want many students)and use stickers and that works great (each student has a sticker book and I'm always getting new stickers for each week just to make it fun) and sometimes I surprise them with something new and different each week like candy, pencials with their name or a pretty design or little toys etc. Come up with a "boy bag" and a "girl bag" and at the end of the lesson let them pick something out. Or else do it per a page. It is quite easy for me b/c all of my students LOVE the piano, enjoy playing it and WANT to learn and that of course is great and not very stressful!!! They started reading the notes off when they started lessons (with in 2 lessons they were reading and reconizing notes without help) and love to play by ear (which I encourgage since I am that way and would personally play by ear than looking at music but I do not allow them to do everything by ear b/c I know the importance of reading notes and that is something they must learn). They would practice and play the piano for hours and with no reward but each child is different and some need something more than a "good job" at the end of their lesson. Also, for older students perhaps plan an afternoon after school activity where you bake together or something (for girls)- I know that helps and it forms a special bond between the student and teacher which is very important. If the student loves the teacher they will do anything to please them!!! Form a bond, encourage them and you will be a well remembered teacher! They will enjoy lessons and love music!

-- Heather (, January 01, 2005.

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