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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2014
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I"ve been teaching for 11 years - primarily Middle School. Grades 6 to 8. I sitting here putting together my 3 quarter grades (2007). In between finishing a grade level, I hit SOTW. So here's my thought.

On and off through my career, I've used practice sheets. Kids turn in weekly practice times and receive a grade. Most know the routine. I stopped after about 3 or 4 years due to the following reasons:

1) Kids were less than honest.

So you practiced 3 hours this week and the concert Bb scale is not ready?

2) Endless record keeping and lost sheets.

180 students/180 times/40 Lessons. Kids would lose sheets, miss lessons, every excuse known to the human race.

3) I didn't seem to make a difference.

Those that practice - continued to practice. Those that didn't - still didn't.

Recently a new teacher asked if we could use practice sheets. It has been a couple years since my last attempt so why not? I don't want to be an old-timer-been-there-done-that guy. Guess what's happening. Same old Same Old. Dishonets kids, lost sheets, and still having trouble with the Bb scale.:cry:

So - I know there are many teachers and most SOTW members have been taught. Did the practice sheet requirement help you? Is there something else? What motivated you to practice when you were 12, 13 or 14 years old.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2008,
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Yeah, Ive had the same issue with my private lessons students, some practice, and some dont. Most of them are very open about it, which is nice but they still need to practice.

One thing that Ive gotten kids to practice with is letting the choose what they wanted to learn within reason. They're more likely to practice if its something they want to learn. Also discussing with the parents individually about practicing can have benefits
 

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I had an incredibly strict, and somewhat psychotic, band director in junior high; but she taught me more about theory and practice than any other. I don't know if this is common in junior high band, and it certainly isn't still done in the local schools today, but she had a ranking system. You were tested in numerous abilities and when you passed each test for a given level, you went up in rank. Competition does much to inspire greatness.
 

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I have also gone through the same stages you have with it. I've been trying it again and find that the 6th graders do the best with it. It seems to keep them motivated because it is new to them and the just entered middle school. It tends to really slack off with the 7th and 8th graders. I passed out 8 chromatic exercises to my 7th graders and told them that we would test on one each week. Do to schedules I had to miss a week or so but this has made the biggest difference to my ears. I loose one day a week with rehearsals but the growth the students have made far excedes that. YMMV
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2011
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Practice sheets seem to be a hit or miss proposition. With some students they work very well. Others just fill in the blanks to get the grade.

I teach private lessons with students from many different schools, both middle and high school. Middle schoolers seem to work well in an environment where there is frequent competition for first chair. High schoolers do well in situations where there is a healthy, competitive environment and the students have a sense of camaraderie. If one kid's not holding up his end, the others let him know about it.

Randy
www.randyhunterjazz.com
 

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Grumps said:
I had an incredibly strict, and somewhat psychotic, band director in junior high
Grumps you have to be somewhat psychotic to want to teach junior high band in the first place.:) I used to tell my students that if reincarnation were true, I must have done something really bad in my former life to come back as a middle school band teacher.

Humor aside, I learned early on in my 32 year band teaching career that practice cards just teach (some) parents and students to be dishonest. I found that weekly playing tests were a far better method to evaluate students and motivate them to practice. I went a step further and insisted that all members in the band be "A" students. If someone didn't pass off an assignment, I would nag, cajole, bribe, threaten, persuade, them until they decided it was easier to practice and pass off the playing test than to listen to me rant another week. If a learning disabled student just could not master the scale or whatever, I would create an easier assignment within their level of ability. After a while the lazier students would just do the work when it was assigned because they knew I just wouldn't let them off the hook.

On playing test days the students would do music theory worksheets when they were not playing their test. The increase in their knowledge and musicianship doing these assignments on a weekly basis, more than made up for any missed rehearsal days, and it kept the class quiet while the playing test was going on.

The pride the students felt in themselves and in their group when they all pulled together and earned superior ratings at festivals made it all worthwhile. The best part was that at grading time I rarely had to even look at the students names as I filled in the "A" circles with my #2 pencil.

John
 

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I told my high school students that I couldn't possibly believe in Reincarnation, because I would never believe that I had to do this AGAIN.;)

We never did practice cards in my junior high. I never was sure how my band director graded...ah, the good ol' days.
 

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I remember that when I was in middle school, I only practiced when I felt like it. I'm Bipolar so I suppose that's part of the reason why, but at the very least I enjoyed Music Class and didn't fool around like other kids in the same class did. Maybe instead of making them turn in practise sheets, randomly have your students play certain parts in front of the class. I'm sure they'll learn that practising is worth the effort if they don't want to look like a blubbering idiot in front of the class.
 

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We use practice records for our 6-8 grade students. We have paper as well as on-line entries. It's the only thing that can be subjective for the grade.

It is important to motivate students to practice as well. I know I have kids that lie - so when I test them on material, that sort of "cancels" the practice record grade. For me, playing tests are weighed more than practice records, and the students know I grade the playing tests hard.

Having said that, I may try to "do without" for my top band next year.

Feel free to e-mail me if you want more ideas.

Mark
 

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A Greene,

Are you in a district with computers in the bandroom or at least available to you? And also do most of your students have access to computers at home? If so why not try the SmartMusic route? My last year as a jr high director although I did not have computers in my room, my librarian is a flutist in my community band so she really supported the arts. She would open the computer lab for my students who wanted to practice after school with the computers until I got back (I was also the high shool director as well). The computer scored the kids objectively and the accompaniments were just hip enough that the kids enjoyed playing along with them. Yes it is a LOT of hard work on your part ( extra time) but for me, it was worth it. I miss that job and many days wish I had it back.... long story why I am no longer there but if you have the facilities it is a wonderful system.
 
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