I do music money with my students. They earn different amounts for accomplishing different things, one of them is practicing. They can use this money to buy prizes at the end of the year. I try to be creative with my prizes (I stay away from dollar store stuff when I can) and encourage my students to save up for the year to get a better prize. You can get a lot of $5 items at Staples that kids love instead of 5 $1 prizes that just break or lose their appeal quickly.
Practice sticks: I bought some colored popsicle sticks, stuck a label on them and wrote down some unique and crazy practice ideas. My students got to pick 5 popsicle sticks each week. Each popsicle stick takes about a minuet to complete. When the child had done all 5 for each song, they practiced between 5-20 minutes depending on how many songs they had that week. My students and parents loved this because it helped focus their child's practice.
Practice Bingo: I made up some bingo cards in Numbers (Excel). I put in the typical free space and came up with 24 different practice ideas that ranged from naming the notes in their songs, to singing their songs, playing them higher or lower, playing for people, and my favorite - cleaning the piano keys. I gave out bonus music money for the bingo's they earned. The cards were a hit and my students were pretty excited to show me all that they had completed. They had fun that week.
Student interests: I also play off some of my student's interests to come up with unique practice ideas for them. One student loves stickers. With her recital songs I write down her challenges on a piece of paper (usually the backside of her sheet music). Each time she completes a challenge she gets a sticker. There are new challenges every week for her.
My latest practice initiative is using Teach Piano Today's "Shhhh, Your Piano Teacher Thinks This Is Practice". I printed off a few of the pages and gave the booklet to the child's parents. I told the parents to look through the booklet with their child and that shhh... it didn't come from the piano teacher, in hopes of getting my students to feel like they have "tricked me" about their practicing this week. I will know in a few days how this went.
To get my parents more involved, I am going to start handing them little things like the practice bingo cards to put on the fridge, bulletin board, white board, etc. If its in the open and visible then hopefully both parents and students should remember to practice a little more often.
Piano teachers and parents, what practice strategies are working for you? Share in the comments section.