Let’s Play Ball! Motivation and the Music Lesson (MTNA Conference Presentation)

Due to my Outlook getting corrupted and almost losing everything (but didn’t because my miracle man aka husband saved the day), I have been going through old emails trying to re-organize email files (because I did lose the organizational part of things…could be worse…). Anyway, I came across my MTNA conference notes and realized I haven’t posted about all the classes I attended. So I wanted to share with today, my favorite class of the conference, which happened to be on the very last day. I was so glad I was able to attend it before I had to run off and catch my shuttle ride to the airport home. Amy was a wonderful presenter, I hope you get a little benefit out of my notes that day…

Let’s Play Ball! Motivation and the Music Lesson
Amy Greer

How we learn-
-Sensory input (background noise, visual stimulation, internal noise, etc)
-Working memory- what to attend to and what to throw away.  Not everything that gets filtered goes to long term memory.  Juggling tasks, playing piano, driving cars, reading book, etc…  We can max out working memory- has limits.  Bottle necks of our brains.  “Article- Miller’s Magical Number 7 Plus or Minus 2”  Recent studies think the number is too high from Miller’s study and think it’s more like 5.
-Long term memory- We are never close to maxing out.  Skills, knowledge, memories are stored.  If we have truly learned something it is in our long term memory

Amy showed us on the powerpoint screen 7 numbers for about 5-10 seconds and then takes them away.  Randomly over the page. Later she asks how many we remember…  Later shows those numbers as a phone number.  Easier to remember the chunk/pattern.

A child that has to remember note reading, rhythm, dynamics, phrasing, etc.. in one lesson can take a lot.  Oh, then if they need to go to the bathroom, oops they lost something…

Managing the nuts of bolts of playing a piece is a lot for a beginner.

Amy’s distracted brain while practicing Bach…
Piano, birds and feeders, grocery list, matt dry cleaning, cats

-motivation is an important gatekeeper to the working memory.
A piece we have control over.

Have you ever avoided doing something?  Motivation is behind the things we do and the things we don’t.

We learn because we give our attention to something.

Self Efficacy- the belief in whether or not we can do something.  If we don’t think we can, we won’t try.  Established quite young.  Domain specific.  (Good at piano, but not at tennis)  This can also be sub-domain specific (ie: good sight-reader but not good ear)  As kids get older, self-efficacy diminishes and domain specific grows.  (ie: jump off the roof and fly; older= wiser)  Cues from other people will play a part.  We need to be careful.  Kids can read cues very well.

-Fixed or entity Mindset- believe intelligence and abilities are fixed.  You either have it or you don’t.  Limits.  Prescription for failure.  “If you have it, you have it- you don’t need to work”
-Growth or incremental Mindset- Work and effort can improve and develop skills.  Value work. Understand this is not the whole story.  Hard workers, typically like practicing.  Kids that you love to teach.

As a culture we value talent over work and effort.  We give to much credit to Lang Lang’s talent and don’t give enough to all the hard work behind it, all the hard work and practicing.

We want our students to possess growth mindset.  However they are very likely they have a fixed.

Two most dangerous words in music ed is talented and gifted.

Problem with perfectionist- they think if they can’t do it perfect the first time it’s a sign of failure.  Do not value process or effort.  They don’t want to try anything they can’t do perfect the first time.  “save face”
They are hard to teach, defensive, frustrated

New skills have to be reviewed extensively so they feel they can do it at home.  (Looks like hand holding) but teach to value work and expect failure as part of the learning process.  They give the impression they aren’t trying.
Even your very youngest student has some established attitudes.  As teachers we must believe that we can help develop how they believe.  How to practice, work, skills are not gift here today, gone tomorrow.  Can be acquired through practice and effort.

A good teacher should look for cracks and holes as a way inside.

-Self Regulation (practicing)
Ask all students regardless age/level- “How did you practice this” Wants them to start thinking about it from the very beginning.  If they are engaged in the work, they will get hooked.  ie: No child left behind emphasis is on test results – all about the end result not the process.  When we focus on the test, the competition it takes away from the process, the motivation.

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic motivation-  Good/Bad (kinda)
Intrinsic- doing it for the love of it
Extrinsic- doing it for reward. When it goes away, motivation gone.
Rarely are we entirely all of “i” or “e”
There are times we have to bribe ourselves to encourage the motivation that simply isn’t there.

Rewards and bribery- “the thorny issue”
Little kids will do anything, later in life it seems we need more rewards and bribery.  To introduce these things at the beginning not the best idea.  Do not assume you will need stickers or prizes to motivate practice.  However a reward may be exactly what your student needs.  Sometimes the novelty of the  task gets lost and we need the extra outside motivation to lift us out of a low spot.

Sometimes we are motivated to do something when other times we aren’t.
“Sometimes the best way to get over a wall is to back up so we can get a running start.” (love this!)

Lack of motivation- Not necessarily laziness

Teachers that only want to work with motivated students aren’t understanding the process.  Good luck!

Student centered/subject centered (we need both)

Student centered- We should focus on not just holistically musicians but holistically  people.

Subject centered-Pedagogical training usually focuses on the product.

How we live our lives, motivate our work, etc. is what matters. This in the end is our practice.

If you can teach students to think, you can teach them anything.
If we can teach students to self motivate, work, we have given them the world. Then they can be whole people.  (husbands, fathers, doctors, musicians, etc.)
” A guru gives us himself and then his system; a teacher gives us his subject and then ourselves.” Adam Gopnik

Teaching is crucial that we sit down and wrestle what we value and belief.  We are evolving creatures, each one of us.  Being a human being (not just a teacher) is an art form.

Q and A

You can’t motivate an entire class the same way.  Bottom line is a lot of extrinsic motivation.

You can do it, or you can do it or like it (quote from a headmaster)- changing attitude
Amy’s response- can change intrinsic twist to the person or can sound like a threat.

“Give them what they want so we can give them what they need” Brian Chung from his presentation

This is a spectrum we move through our different motivations in our lives over and over again.

Practical examples-
– varies…
– specific pieces
– goals
– games
*** Not really a set answer- if you look at your students differently then it’s a start.  One answer will work for one student but not for another.  Look at each student individually.  You will figure it out.

When asked about what motivated her when she was a child-
She was obedient, her and piano was a good match.  It just took- didn’t take with all her siblings.

Sometimes the best and loving thing we can do for a family is to say, let the kid play soccer.  Just not for him.

Piano is one of the best places for kids to learn to work.  They aren’t learning it anywhere else.

***P.S. If you haven’t already (or even if you did- you can do it again- no limit!) please go to: https://www.facebook.com/musicteachershelper then find my entry “Ode to Music Teachers Helper” by Jennifer Foxx click on like, leave a comment and share (you can even share it on my page if you don’t want to have it going to yours…). Likes are worth 1 point, comments 2 points and shares 2 points. I’m currently in 2nd place and REALLY want to get to 1st. THANK YOU for your help! You can comment and share as much as you would like!  🙂

MTH Contest- Need your help…

You may have heard that Music Teachers Helper is doing a contest. The grand prize is a lifetime membership! As you might have read on past reviews, I use MTH and absolutely LOVE it! So I worked hard on a video and turned in my submission for the contest. I’m a little late in the “game” so now I just need your help! I would REALLY appreciate it if you…

1. Visit the Music Teachers Helper Facebook page 

2. Find my video submission- “Ode to Music Teachers Helper” by Jennifer Foxx

3. Then Like, Comment AND Share (Likes= 1 point, Comments= 2 points and Shares= 2 points which makes for a total of 5 possible points)

I think my video (and “Ode”) is worth the grand prize. This is a contest I REALLY would like to win, but I can’t without your help so THANK YOU so much in advance for helping! I REALLY appreciate it!

ASMTA Conference- Turning Fear Into Fun…

The Arizona State Music Teachers conference was held May 31-June 2nd in Phoenix this year. We had the privilege to have Ingrid Clarfield and Brian Chung as well as many other excellent presenters. I wanted to first share my notes from Ingrid’s “Turning Fear into Fun! Preparing your students for auditions and competitions” presentation. Even if you don’t put your students into competitions, there are many wonderful ideas you can take and apply them to your teaching.

  1. Not every competition is right for every student. Choose the right event for your student. Check out what it costs. Know the one’s that politics are involved. Do your homework. What are the repertoire requirements. Watch the timing requirements. Dress qualifications.
  2. Prepare the entire experience. Greeting the judge- have students ask how the judge is. Hand the judge the music. Adjust the bench. If they have a pillow, bring, pedal extender, etc… if they need it. If they practice with it, they need it. They need to know the name of the piece and the key it’s in. Have them practice saying it.
  3. They need to know how to warm up. “May I warm up please?” (If warm ups are allowed). The point of the warmup is to try out the piano. Don’t play a random scale as a warmup. Make it relevant to your piece. Never warm up with a problem area of your piece. No more than 1min. long. Ask what do you know about the piece that you would need to know about the piano? (ie: tone, pedal, etc..) use small sections that has those elements. Can have preparatory exercises to learn and use for warmups.
  4. Make the judge notice outstanding openings and fabulous finishes. The opening prepares performer (right character, style, tempo, etc.) and gets the audience attention. Add lyrics to get into the “spirit” of the piece. Tells students- “Hold gesture long enough so parents can take a picture.” Each student should have their own unique individual ending.
  5. What are the judges listening/looking for? Stylistic appropriateness. Imagination, creativity, artistry, Good tone quality, Good quality voicing and balance.
  6. Color and characterization- They should know the different instruments and their tones. “Think of a cellist playing”. Teach color through good pedaling. Choreograph movements when it fits the music. “If you want to play the piano, you must learn to move, otherwise you can go type your email”
  7. Mood of the piece- “happy” what kind of happy? Perky? etc… Add lyrics- can be goofy but must relate to the music.
  8. When holding out a note, students typically want to “count” (bounce) with their wrist. Instead have the roll their arm to make it part of the choreography.
  9. Evaluations can be fun. Use audition form to use for pretend evaluations during lessons. Ingrid puts a clear split down the middle for positives and negatives. Positives are important. Even the negative can be said positively. “Listen for clear tone instead of don’t bang.”

10. Writes 3 positive things on a notecard to have students stick in their pocket at the evaluation/competition. “Tender thoughts- Sing, Shape, Clear Pedaling”; “Glistening Willows- beautiful sound, graceful arms, dynamics”; “Abcrigine- Crispy Staccatos, sharp

gestures, strong rhythm”

11. Have students critique each other. Positive and Negative.

12. Evaluations can be fun at home. Have them video their performance and self critique. Self critique- written out. We do too much critiquing, get the students do it.

13. Number one fear for performance is MEMORY. We must prepare them.

14. Fun activities to secure memory (it’s more than just praying)… Aural, Kinesthetic, Analytical, Visual (most use Kinesthetic). Use theory to help with memory.

15. Pair practice- take similar sections that go to different keys and doing them side by side so they don’t have the memory problems. Sing the chords out loud. (ie: 1st time-A goes to D, 2nd time- A goes to C”)

16. Memory Stop and Jump Game- No matter what you have to end in the right key. Divide piece into logical safety jumping places. Must practice jumping from section to section. When teacher makes a noise, student must jump to the next section.

17. Bach C Minor Prelude- do NOT audition with this one (judges’ are tired of it).

18. You can plan for everything! WRONG!

Practice book WINNERS!

This was a popular giveaway which tells me that practicing is one of those things most all teachers struggle with their students at one time or another.

Andrea with TeachPianoToday recently blogged about this subject so I wanted to share her post with some ideas of what can be helpful in your studio.

BigFoot, Ogopogo and Summer Piano Practicing. Which is Real?

Okay, now for what you have been waiting for, our winners for the book, SHHHH… Your Piano Teacher Thinks This Is Practice


The lucky two winners for this giveaway is Sarah with Discoveries Piano Blog and Susanne with Oakville Piano Studio. You should be hearing from Andrea from TeachPianoToday.com soon for download instructions!

Congratulations Sarah and Susanne! Hope your students enjoy the activities!

Remember this book is reproducible for your studio. So if you used this with 25 students, the cost is really only $1.60 per student! Not too bad when you think of it that way!

Tech Tuesday: Foxx Piano Studio Goes iBand

Last month I posted about iBands and shared some YouTube links of some examples of what an iBand was.

In preparing for my summer piano workshops, I really wanted to try this concept out and have my students put together an iBand. I first asked all my students if they had an “i” device. All except two students did. One borrowed her brothers iPod touch and then the other one used my iPad. I emailed the parents to have their kids download MusicStudio Lite on their “i” device before we met. This app is very similar to Garageband and since it had a “lite” version it was free. Because I only had them for 3 consecutive days and the majority of time for piano camp workshop was focusing on theory, we had limited time. So at the end of the first two class days (they were here for 3 hours each day) I gave them some time to figure out what “instrument” they wanted to play for the iBand and play around with some ideas with rhythm, melody, etc… By day 3 they had a good idea of what they wanted to do and thus the iBand was born.

In this video clip, Foxx Piano Studio Goes iBand, we used the apps Melodica, MusicStudio Lite and Garageband. Melodica and MusicStudio Lite were free and there were two of us that had Garageband. I didn’t want them to have to purchase any apps for this experiment.

We all had a great time putting together the iBand. Students were joking with each other and one asked “What instrument do you play?” and the other responded “The iPad”. All laughed.

I would really like to try this concept again at a group lesson next year. This time I would like to have two piano parts. One doing a melody and the other doing chords.

One thing I noticed is the speakers on the iPad are much better than on the iPhone and especially the iPod touch. So the ideal would be to have either all iPads or external speakers that can plug in the iPhone/iPod touch. I did have one external speaker that I was able to plug in for the “piano” part. I would have loved to have that for some of the others because they were harder to hear, especially the strings.

All in all it was a fun experience! Definitely worth trying in your studio.

P.S. Don’t forget to enter the practice book giveaway, today is the last day to enter! Winner will be announced tomorrow. Click HERE to enter.

Review: Shhhh… your Piano Teacher thinks This is PRACTICE!

I’m really excited to be reviewing a new practice book for students. I bought this downloadable book over a month ago and the second I read it I knew I wanted to share it with everyone but I had a ton on my plate at that time so it had to wait. Well… the wait is over and now I get to share!

Shhhh… your Piano Teacher thinks This is PRACTICE! is the brain child of Andrea and Trevor with Teach Piano Today, a piano teaching blog, community, and resource center. Their  main focus with the TeachPianoToday Blog is to help teachers advance piano education through creative innovation. “We aspire to revolutionize those aspects of learning piano that are, for lack of a better word, boring. Having this goal meant that improving the art of piano practice for students was very high on our list!”

This book is a practice activity book specifically for students. There are 88 activities students can supplement in their practicing. Each activity is unique in it’s own way, many time encouraging students to get up and off the bench. I asked my students at piano summer camp if they have been using the book at home with their practicing and one of my 5 year old students got up and started hopping on one foot singing “Old MacDonald”. I was thrilled to see this! First, I was glad the parent followed through and had her child use it, but I was also happy to see how excited my student was to share one of the practice activities. This meant she was having fun with her practicing!

Some examples of other activities that can be found in the book would be calling a relative on the phone and playing the piece for them right when they answer without saying a word before playing, create a TV commercial for this week’s practice coming up with 3 things that make your piece great, piano practice games such as hangman, practice in the dark or fill out a music mad lib!

Click new-aunt-gladys-sample and new-rockin-rhythm-sample to preview a couple activity pages of the book.

I’m always excited to find new ideas to make practicing more fun for students so I asked Andrea what inspired them with the idea of this book. She shared the following…

Whether talking with teachers, parents, or students, we always hear the same thing; piano practice frustrates me. Teachers are frustrated with students who never practice, parents are frustrated with the constant struggle to enforce regular practice, and students are frustrated with simply having to practice. 

The main struggle for students is not an inability to be able to practice but rather a lack of motivation or desire. Because of this, we set out to create a piano practice book designed to inspire piano students to practice for 88 straight days!

With such a lofty goal we knew we had to create a never-before-seen practice book filled with 88 daily activities that would be absolutely, positively, most definitely NOT BORING!. And with activities such as Calling Aunt Gladys,Play Hello to the Sun, and Left Leg Rockin’ Rhythm we feel we have certainly inspired students not only to practice the piano, but to play the piano… and we do mean PLAY.” 

Though it can be implemented any time of the year, summer is the perfect time of year for students to try out the activities in this book. It’s a new tradition in my studio (started last year) for students to work on a practice project over the summer and share it when they return at our Fall kickoff in August. This book will be a fun tool for them to use.

While I can’t see my teenagers using this book (although adding a little silliness in their practice routine might do them some good?), it is a perfect tool for the elementary age child.

Did I mention that this book is reproducible for your studio? Can’t get any better! For more information on Shhhh… your Piano Teacher thinks This is PRACTICE! please visit their website at Teach Piano Today!