Wednesday, March 27, 2013

More and more twinkles!!!

We're to the point where my 3 year old knows all of her Twinkles, but it's definitely not time to move on.  There is still a lot of work with tone and bow control and posture and so practicing has become less desirable.  I will post our top 10 Twinkle games soon!  HOWEVER, I just wanted to let you know that I have found a WONDERFUL tool that makes practice charts and games even more awesome!  My laminator!  I don't know why I never thought of this before.  Someone gave me a laminator years ago and I ran out of the plastic stuff and always thought it was too expensive to replace so I gave it away.  Recently I was looking around for the best store to get stuff laminated and someone mentioned just to buy one.  So, I looked on Amazon and found one for only $25.  I got 100 of the plastic sheet things for $16.  That's only 41 cents per page for my first 100, then only 16 cents per page after that.  That's a great deal AND I don't have to load all my kids in the minivan to take them to the office supply store.

ANYWAY - I started laminating some of the charts and games I've been using.  This is totally awesome because stickers stick - but they can come off as well so the chart can be reused!  Also, white board markers and wet erase markers work great so you can customize some of the blank charts and games - then erase and start over.

Right now we're still working on our 100 var. A twinkles (only 10 left!) and 100 Twinkle Themes.  But, darling daughter loves to put stickers on charts so I am using the Pineapple/Ice Cream Cone race as well.

Also - I'm finding that I really have to break up the practice into little segments because it's just a killer for her to stand and concentrate while playing nothing but Twinkles.  So, we're practicing 1-2 twinkles 3-4 times a day.  It's not so bad as long as I make it fun.

You can download this chart HERE.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Toys Can Practice Too!

Notice something weird about this picture?
Sometimes it takes a little creativity to get a child to practice.  Yesterday my 3 year old didn't want to practice because she was playing with her Polly Pockets.  So, I told her the Polly Pockets could watch her practice.  She loved playing the pieces looking at her dolls and she also kept her scroll up high.   We ended up having a great practice!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Some Easter Inspiration

It's a week until Easter and I finally have a small variety of charts to offer you for Easter.  If you have any Easter charts (or any kinds of practice charts for that matter) please send them over.  I'll add them online even if it's not the season because Easter will come around every year!
A chart like this (20) is great for reviewing pieces or practicing new pieces.  My 6 year old is at the end of Suzuki Book 2.  She's learning Minuet in G (Beethoven) and it has 4 different sections.  I will let her put a sticker on or cross off an egg each time she plays one of the 4 sections 5-10 times (the amount will depend of the day or her particular mood.)
 Okay people - you know your kids will think this is funny.  Silly but easy.  Put a piece or rep in each box and a jelly bean (that's the bunny poop) in each box.  Play the piece, eat the jelly bean.

This one can be done as a start to finish from the bunny to the basket or as a check off of eggs for reps, etc.  I'm planning to pencil in a piece on each egg as a daily practice chart.

Another easy one.  Can be repetitions or pieces.  Reward is coloring the bunny when done.

You can Download all of these Easter Charts HERE

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What are Spirit Sticks?

My last post about Spirit Sticks was a bit vague.  It was my 5-am-I-cannot-sleep post.  Now that I've given these out to my students I have pictures and ideas to use these Spirit Sticks to motivate your child(ren) or students!

 First of all, Spirit Sticks are little patches that have a hole in them so they can be put on a key ring which can be attached to a lanyard, music case, backpack, or music bag.  Right now The Practice Shoppe has 30 DIFFERENT varieties of Spirit Sticks.
 What my kids love about these is they are bright and colorful and fun to collect!  You know how kids are - my son must have 1000 Pokemon cards in his room.  They collect rocks, seashells, stickers, etc.  You can't get these at your local store or even online (they are only sold wholesale online.)  If you're lucky your school might have a Spirit Stick incentive program.  So, this makes them valuable to your children if they earn them.  They will be unique and have something fun to display their love of music!  It's a great conversation piece.
 At my last student recital, instead of refreshments I gave each of my students their first Spirit Stick.  It's an "I {heart} Suzuki" stick that they can put on their case to show the world that they are a Suzuki student!
 For those students who have practice 100 days in a row, they received the "Practice Makes Perfect" Spirit Stick.  Only the consistent practicers got these ones.
 I also gave the "I {heart} Making Music" to my students who are enrolled in institute.  I believe that summer institute is one of the greatest motivators out there.  So, I wanted to reward those who  have already signed up.
I have one of the Suzuki sticks on my keys.  It's not bulky, but it's fun to show people that I'm a Suzuki mom and teacher.  Go check out my new Spirit Sticks which are now online.  I've got "100 days", "Orchestra", "Practice Champ" and a bunch a fun ones that don't necessarily have to do with music, but would be a great reward.

I gave each of my daughters the "Suzuki" stick to put with their collection.  My 10 year old daughter wanted the "I Love Making Music" stick, but I said she had to earn it.  She made her own goal and if she completes it, I'll let her have it.  I hope some of you will catch the Spirit of practicing.   I'm so excited about these that I've been losing sleep.  I just wish I had thousands of dollars to custom make more.  So, if these are successful, you'll see more Music sticks in the future.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What can Motivate?

I've been reading a book called How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen.  It's a book on how to find happiness in your life, your career and your relationships.  It's a "guidebook for your future" as the back cover states.  I've only read two chapters, but so far I'm finding it very interesting and I can't help but apply it to playing an instrument and practicing.

So often we hear from kids that they don't like practicing or playing the violin or whatever.  (Recently in a lesson my student just said flat out, "I hate the violin.")  However, as adults we can see, not only the tremendous benefit of playing an instrument, but also the rewards it brings to the player and also the world around them.  That's why we're doing this - right?

This book first talks about how to find happiness and fulfillment in a career.  It states that money is not a key factor in someone enjoying their job.  To compare that to practicing - paying a child, or bribing a child may get them to practice, but it won't necessarily get them to enjoy their playing.

What really motivates a person to do well at their job and find it fulfilling are motivating factors including challenging work, recognition, responsibility, and personal growth.

I think that this can apply directly to practicing and playing an instrument.  Without writing a dissertation on each topic - here are some of my brief thoughts.

Challenging work - a child is motivated by new and challenging material.  That's what makes them improve at their instrument.  Twinkle is an extremely hard piece for a young beginner, but it's the challenge of it that makes accomplishing it so rewarding.  When your child finished Twinkle did they get a huge celebration?  I hope so - it's the hardest piece to learn - many taking 1 to 2 years to master!

Recognition - when a child is recognized for all of their hard work it motivates them to practice.  I think the best form of recognition is performing.  I didn't like practicing as a kid, but my mom never let me quit because she could tell that when I performed I was proud of my playing and I enjoyed it.  I'm sure you can see that in your own children and students.  Also recognizing and  rewarding them for their practicing - particularly consecutive daily practice - is a great motivator to get that practicing done.

Responsibility - even the youngest children can be responsible for their practicing.  After all - it's their instrument, their music they are playing!  My 3 year old often guides our practicing (with my help) and makes decisions what to practice, how much to practice, and even when she's done practicing.

Personal Growth - learning new things as an adult is what makes our jobs more interesting.  As a child this is second nature.  Their whole lives are based around learning new things.  Each piece is a new adventure and often has a new technique to be learned.  A child will quickly lose motivation if they are stuck on a song and can't move on.  My oldest daughter has been learning the same group of pieces for months and finally got a new piece this last week - practicing has never been better.  She loves learning her new piece!

With all of that said - I'm excited about a new recognition program I'm going to implement in my studio and I hope other teachers will join me.  Boy Scouts have been earning merit badges for a long time and it's a great way to show their learning and progress.  I have found these Spirit Sticks which are a super hot motivator in schools and I want to introduce them to my students.  They are a small embroidered patch that a student can display on a key chain, lanyard, backpack or even a violin case (or other instrument, of course.)   They have a recital coming up this weekend and I plan to give each of my students a "I {heart} Making Music" Spirit Stick.  I also plan to recognize certain students for their accomplishments throughout the year such as 100 days of practicing, going to institute, perfect attendance (to group and lessons), etc.  Right now I don't have a huge variety of these Spirit Sticks because I have to buy them in such bulk quantity.  However, if this is something that other teachers want to do as well I want to be able to custom make other Spirit Sticks to give out as recognition to students in my studio.  Some ideas I have are Spirit Sticks for a Twinkle graduate, Federation, first recital, Book 1, Book 2, etc.  Climb on board and check these out!  I'll report back to let you know how my students like them!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Twinkle Practicing has to be Fun!

The resistance begins.  My 3 year old has really loved practicing, but recently she gets grumpy when I say it's time to practice.  A part of me wants to get upset about it, another part of me just wants to quit and give up.  The SMART side of me tells myself that I just need to change things up again and make it different and fun.  3 year olds love to play games (as do most children of any age.)  I decided to pull out an old game that I've had online for a while and use that - and so far we've had a great practicing success!

The goal of the practicing is to get through the entire game which is just every twinkle variation twice.  Right now she's still just doing "Bread Song" on a couple variations, but she can play 4 variations all the way through.  However - Twinkle can be a very long song for a 3 year old so if she decides to play a "Bread Song" of a Twinkle she can play all the way through she has to play it twice.  When she gets to the end of the game she wins and practicing is over!  I slip in a few bow exercises between pieces and there is definitely a lot of rolling on the floor and looking out the window and playing with anything she can get her hands on.

Yesterday we didn't need treats when we were practicing, but today she wanted some.  She doesn't even like Smarties, but we used them anyway and she was happy.

What are some of your ideas for practicing with a young twinkler?

You can download this chart at