Design by Jimin Shin.

Dear Jimin: Sincerely, Miserable Maestro

Jets Flyover Advice Column

April 10, 2023

Dear Jimin, 

Long time reader, first time writer. I was wondering: How do I get my students to practice their instruments more? I’m really considering making daily playing quizzes, just every day, quiz quiz quiz quiz quiz, grade grade grade grade. You know, ignore making music, just grade grade grade. What are your thoughts? 

Sincerely, Anonymous Badger


Hello Anonymous Badger,

It must break your heart to see your students not take practice seriously. As a student of your music class (if you are who I think you are), I know that many of us enjoy playing pieces together as a band and improving our performance skills simultaneously. Still, I understand that you want them to work harder. I’ll offer you some new ways to persuade your novices to rehearse their music drills: 

First, students normally film themselves practicing at home and they submit those videos as summative assessment. Turn this into formative – have them film at home more often. Utilize a sticker board to track their progress. You could simply check for completion and place stickers on individual student boards. Make sure to display the boards so everyone can take a look. This will reinforce continued attempts by those that finished and convince the slackers to pick up their horns and give it a go. Additionally, supply small gifts as rewards at the end of the for those who filled their sticker boards. This system is known as a token economy, and they would motivate people to finish.

Second, experiment with practice competitions. Middle and high schoolers find encouragement to work together to win, sparking friendly competition. You could try individual games or have each instrument group compete as a team.  

Last of all, let your kids acknowledge the fullfiilment that comes with the joy of music. To play together is a privilege. To emphasize this, tell them stories about your teenage years: how you found your groove in the music world and the thousands of hours you spent honing your craft. This may serve as motivation for them to tune up their instruments, and their skills. 

As a music student myself, I gotta be honest. Daily quizzes could stress students out, especially those with heavy workloads outside of your class. They might find orchestra less intriguing because, sometimes, life just gets in the way. But with some rewards, modeling, and pep talks, I hope your learners share your passion and begin to take more interest in class. Once they do, you can ensure a steady crescendo of happiness.        

Sincerely, Jimin

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  • D

    Daniel BeckApr 13, 2023 at 7:24 pm

    I think that making a sticker board and a formative assessment for the assessments are a good idea, however, this, as you mentioned, can stress students out. Rather than that, l think you can give out a piece of paper to students to get signs from their parents if they practice. You can notify them to let them know their children have music homework ^_^ :>

    • J

      Jimin ShinApr 13, 2023 at 7:29 pm

      Thank you for your comment 🙂 And yes, that is also a good way! We, students, should definitely think of ways to practice effectively and more often.