Why Setting Micro Goals Each Day Leads to Happier, More Productive Practice…
A Tale of Two Practice Days…
Once upon a Wednesday, a parent and their child gathered to practice the violin together. The first ten minutes of practice time was spent begging, pleading, and yelling at the child to get on the footchart. The next fifteen minutes was spent working on a number of issues in the child’s newest piece. Fingers on the tapes. Straight bows. Correct notes. Steady pulse and rhythm. The child cried and begged to do something else.
“Is this the last thing?”
“Can we be done now?”
“I’m terrible at this!”
The parent became frustrated and annoyed.
The next day, nothing stuck. Nothing that was practiced was any easier or had improved in any measurable way.
Once upon a Wednesday, a parent and their child gathered to practice the violin together. The child arrived on the foot chart breathless after racing the parent there all the way from the mailbox! Parent and child were smiling while beginning bow exercises. As the child played their scale, review pieces, and newest pieces, the parent reminded the child of one thing. “Eyes.”
The child struggled and stretched to keep their eyes on their bow.
Other technical elements suffered. The parent ignored them.
The child laughed as they beat the parent at a practice game by keeping their eyes on the bow as they played the middle section of Lightly Row ten times.
The next day, focus was considerably better and the bow stayed on the highway more often than not.
Both of these stories are descriptions of practice sessions with my seven year old THIS WEEK.
Why was one day so much better than another?
I’ll tell you.
After that really BAD practice day, I decided I needed to get back to planning my practice sessions. I needed to be more intentional about how I prepared for my son’s practice time.
That night, I sat down to answer a few simple questions.
“Why do I want my child to study a musical instrument?”
“What are my realistic and achievable goals for practice today? Relationship goals? Progress goals?”
“What strategies will I use to achieve those small goals?”
After writing down a few ideas, I gathered a few items I thought I would need to implement my plan.
I didn’t even refer back to my plan the next day. My goals were very small.
Smiles during practice. Get him to the foot chart without yelling. Play Lightly Row with the bow on the highway 75% of the time.
I planned a little game to make the repetitions more palatable.
We moved cars across the room step by step with each successful repetition.
He loved it.
I stayed calm when he got frustrated.
I didn’t try to fix every wrong note or mistep.
We had a great time.
He hugged and kissed me after. (This wasn’t surprising as he is normally very affectionate.)
What was surprising was what he said next.
“Mom, I’m getting great at this!”
By preparing myself for the practice session, I had created an environment where my child could feel successful.
Helping him feel successful is totally worth five minutes of preparation to me.
If you’d like to download the practice journal page I use, click here.
How do you prepare yourself and your child for successful practice? Please share in the comments.
Brecklyn Ferrin teaches Suzuki violin lessons and Suzuki Early Childhood Education classes in Kaysville, Farmington, and Salt Lake City, Utah. She is the Suzuki parent of a 7 year old violinist, 5 year old cellist, and 18 month old Suzuki baby.
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