Here’s another tool in your toolbox for getting music students to practice their instruments at home. It’s part of the foot-in-the-door phenomenon and works well for all sorts of tasks that we tend to put off.
The foot-in-the-door technique is a way to coerce someone into doing something big by asking them to do something small first. For instance, you could ask your principal for permission to display music advocacy posters throughout the school. Then, when you ask for funds to buy new music stands, your principal will be more likely to say yes to keep the positive momentum going.
There’s also a way to use this technique on yourself. For instance, if you tell yourself that all you have to do is put on your running shoes with no obligation to go for a jog, you will inevitably find yourself jogging more often than not. The same principle applies to practicing. Students must agree to open their cases every day at home. Just open it and nothing else. Students will have to fight the urge to pick it up and play every day. Chances are they will practice a time or two when they otherwise wouldn’t.
Right now is an excellent time of year to do this because winter break is about to begin, and the new year is coming up. Why not have your students make a New Year resolution to do the simplest of tasks that may lead to practicing. Have each section or student commit to something like opening the case, buzzing for 10 seconds on their mp, or putting on their neckstrap once a day. Even sitting for a minute or two and thinking about technique or the clapping a rhythm can do wonders. I’ve added a Small Steps Chart to my Monthly Practice Chart set as well as my New Years Color-By-Note set, but you could easily make your own!
Wishing your students a year of happy practicing!