Our studio is offering a challenge to our students – “100 Days of Practice in a Row Challenge.” This means practicing “in a meaningful way” for 100 uninterrupted days with no break. The only allowable excuses for missing a day are illness, traveling outside of the country, or family emergency.
I was inspired to try this idea by many other experienced teachers who challenge their students to predetermined intervals of daily practice. There are multiple variations of this challenge that address the needs of individual students. A few years ago, I implemented the simplest version with a group of my students and the idea is spreading to other disciplines and teachers throughout our studio.
Participants must keep track of their practice on a chart. This can be as simple as a calendar or a plain sheet with 100 empty squares. Many of my students favor fun designs that contain 100 squares or shapes that they color in, or apply a sticker to, as they complete their daily practice. Parents also get excited about participating and some have generated their own creative variations of a practice chart. There are many examples of such charts online.
Posting the sheets in a conspicuous location is helpful, both as an incentive and a reminder to practice. I have posted my current 100 Days of Practice chart in my studio (yes I am taking the challenge with my students). Whether the sheets are posted at home or in the studio, they serve as a conversation starter about practice. I post completed practice sheets on my studio wall next to a sign that says “Practice only on days you eat.” This starts many interesting conversations between students and parents.
Before beginning, it is necessary to determine what constitutes “meaningful practice” for each individual. Students of different ages and stages of development need unique reinforcement. For some, a length of time may be required. For others, a specific number of repetitions for a certain set of skills are more appropriate. Listening requirements are also helpful. Practicing sight-reading with a good attitude is one of my favorites. I acknowledge to my students that some days are better than others when it comes to practicing. Some days I practice for several hours, and on other days I’m lucky to get in 15 minutes. However; 15 minutes is valuable, as long as we fill the time with practice that is meaningful. Lessons never count as practice.
At the end of their 100 Days, students are awarded a simple trophy in front of their peers at recitals. We make a big deal about this because we want others to consider the challenge. By creating an environment that supports, honors, and rewards their efforts, students are often drawn to get started.
Some of the results are exactly what I expected. The students who take the challenge often succeed in improving with a steady consistency that they previously lacked. As their skills continue to evolve, their enthusiasm for music lessons increases. Some students also experience their first real musical satisfaction at completing such a hefty challenge. For younger children, this is sometimes the first step toward owning their progress. They are proud of themselves for completing the challenge and winning the trophy. Picking up their instrument and sitting down to practice becomes a routine that is honored daily. New habits and expectations begin to form. One result I didn’t expect – at the end of 100 days, a few rugged students continue on to pursue the next level – one year of daily practice. Their names hang on a plaque in one of our common areas.
If you’re looking for a fun way to motivate and reward hard work in students, try out the 100 Days of Practice Challenge!
Patrick is one of the guitar instructors at the Catoctin School of Music and specializes in Suzuki Guitar Curriculum. By night he is an excellent jazz guitarist.