Making a Practice Plan

November 30, 2019, 4:08 PM · I've been sending a post-lesson follow-up e-mail to the parents of my students listing the pieces that I want their young musician to practice along with some observation points for the parents (posture, listening for ringing notes, et cetera) To some extent it helps but I have the feeling that the young musicians and their parents have great discipline (none of the parents are musicians).

Today I got the idea that perhaps I should send a more detailed weekly practice plan that would lay out a day-by-day to-do list that should take the young musician 15 to 20 minutes to complete. Eventually that will be longer but, since they are only fourth graders...

I'm curious as to what others think of this idea.

Replies (9)

November 30, 2019, 4:35 PM · I don't know about day-to-day but certainly a practice plan would be very helpful to nearly every student.
November 30, 2019, 4:36 PM · I think its okay if you have maybe 5 or less students, anymore than that and it would start to eat into your practise/playing time
November 30, 2019, 5:14 PM · If you have a convenient form that you can fill out whilst teaching the child then it's not a lot of extra time. You are taking notes anyway probably, so you just modify how you do that, I would think.
November 30, 2019, 7:26 PM · My kid's orchestra teacher in middle school handed out a sheet for parents to fill out. Required each week were so many minutes practice, with something like at least 10 minutes on each of 5 days. Parents had to sign off on each of the five days, including the weekly totals. She didn't think there were too many parents cheating, so the next semester it became a bit pickier, with so many minutes per day/week devoted to warm-up and scales, orchestra, and UIL and/or solo/ensemble. (That was the breakdown--they were tested on scales, tone/accuracy/speed, on their orchestral parts, and every student had to be engaged either in the state-level UIL competition or the district's solo/ensemble competition.)

She discontinued it after a year or two. She didn't say it was because of parents' not being honest. More a combination of she was out for a few months on sick leave and the sub didn't keep up with them, with the nasty fact that students kept losing the sheets.

November 30, 2019, 8:57 PM · All students benefit from a practice plan. It's not uncommon for even teachers of high-level teenagers to at least frame what the week's practice should be focused on. You can't assume that students know how to structure their practice time, and the framing of a rough time allocation is very helpful even for most advanced students.

I'd recommend that you consider doing a general "X minutes on Y type of work" (scales, etudes, repertoire) and then within that framework consider a more detailed breakdown for the first 15 minutes that has a basic warmup routine, at least.

December 1, 2019, 9:37 AM · Wouldn't this depend on the student's age?

As to my own practice I found that having a practice plan is easy but to follow it is another thing entirely.

December 1, 2019, 10:00 AM · Nowadays when every kid is sent home with a Chromebook there should be some way for them to keep their practice records electronically.
December 1, 2019, 1:38 PM · Thank you everyone!

Since the parents are not musicians, your comments tell me that laying out a practice plan will probably be helpful; at the same time there is no guarantee that it will be followed. That I completely understand but hope that it will, in time, be followed. My dream is that this will become a life skill on the part of the young musician applied not only to music but academics as well - planning and executing study is a learned skill not something we are born with.

To Jake's comment on time management: I started sending follow-up messages as a way to keep track of what I had assigned each student and that made my preparation for a lesson more efficient as I didn't have to try and remember exactly where each student is at. Every minute spent preparing the follow-up (and soon to add practice plan) saves me five minutes in prep-time. Ok, maybe only two, but that is better than guessing and preparing the wrong materials.

December 1, 2019, 2:53 PM · I often write approximate time that students should spend on elements of their to do list. For younger students this would be 5 min, 10 min 5 min etc. For older and more advanced students I list percentages because their practice time can vary and they are doing a lot more (so for example 30% of time on fundamentals etc). I write all this in their lesson journal during the lesson. I agree that often the plans are not followed, but that's normal and it does reinforce that planning is part of what we always should be doing as you say in practice and in life.

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