Maintaining Motivation in a Virtual World

As this pandemic continues to be prevalent, our music studio had to make the difficult decision to remain teaching only virtual lessons. Some of you parents might be in the same boat right now, where you’re having to decide how your kids should start this school year, and how many virtual activities you want them to continue pursuing. You may be asking yourself, how will my child stay motivated during virtual lessons, when they’re already doing so many other virtual activities, as well as school? Don’t worry, it can be done! Especially when both teachers and parents are working together to make virtual lessons a fun and positive experience.

Check out these 3 ways in which your child can stay motivated during virtual lessons:

1. Regular Reinforcement:

Regular, positive reinforcement is probably the best way to maintain motivation for student learning. Be consistent with your positive reinforcement, and make sure that you are providing 3 compliments and forms of encouragement, for every criticism you give. This will help your students really want to continue learning their instrument, and when they want it, they’ll do it! Get in the habit of encouraging your kids as they’re practicing their instrument, or after a lesson. It could be as simple as “I love how you went to the piano and started practicing all on your own!” or “That song sounded great, keep up the good work!” Complimenting and encouraging is a great and easy way to keep your kids motivated and help them succeed. You can also use more structured forms of positive reinforcement.

Here are 3, easy ways to provide positive reinforcement:

  • Sticker charts: Sticker charts are a really easy and inexpensive type of positive reinforcement. You can use sticker charts to track practicing, or to track engaged/positive behavior during lessons. Simply place a sticker on each day the student practiced, or had a great lesson, and when they’ve earned 5 stickers, they can then get an agreed upon prize (pizza for dinner, dollar store item, pool time with mom, movie day, etc.). Make sure that the prize is something they actually want and will work for. You can discuss the prize with your child and their teacher before implementing the sticker chart, and then keep reminding them, “Remember, when you get 5 stickers you get ____. Keep up the good work!” Make sure your child’s teacher is on the same page so that the teacher can also remind the child what he/she is working for during lessons, and encourage the student as well. “I can tell that you practiced a lot this week. I can’t wait to see what prize you get!” Or “You’ve been doing great so far!  Stay focused so you can earn that sticker at the end of the lesson.”
  • Games Galore: I love using games during my virtual lessons to keep students engaged! There are several different types of games Mindful Music instructors can play with your mini-maestros during lessons, such as: listening games, writing exercises, improvisation games, note-naming games, and even online games and apps. I like to reward students with these fun activities during the last 5-10 minutes of my lessons when a student has worked really hard during the lesson, or has practiced a lot the week before, to encourage them to keep up the good work. Another option is to do an entire lesson of music-games, as a reward for consistent practice, or excellent behavior during lessons. This can either be given as a prize earning all 5 stickers on your sticker chart, or it can be a little less structured. To use games to reinforce practicing, parents and teachers can use a practice log.  When the student has practice for an amount of time previously agreed up by the parent, teacher, and student, they receive a game day at the next lesson. This, of course, is something that has to be discussed beforehand with your child’s teacher. As a teacher, I love when my students’ parents are onboard and involved in the child’s learning and are looking for ways to help the child to practice consistently to achieve his/her goals.
  • Lesson Leaders: Have students take the lead on their lesson. Children love to be permitted to be in charge and make decisions. Of course you would need to discuss this incentive idea with their teacher first. Talk to your teacher about this incentive to have your child be “in charge” of his/her lesson. Having students decide what they want to do during the lesson, and when, can be an easy way to switch things up and have the student take control of their lesson time! (You want their options to be pre-approved activities/songs. Your teacher can decide on the list of choices). Giving students more choices and options, and having them take the reins on their lesson will help them be more motivated and excited to participate and learn.

2. Persistent Practice:

Creating a practice routine and strong practice habits is really going to help your children stay motivated and keep moving forward in their lessons. I love that my students can use their Practice Logs and timers when they are logged into their student portal in My Music Staff. This helps them see and track how long they have practiced each day, and the total amount of practice for the week. They are able to set a timer that automatically starts tracking their practice time. Another great way to track practice is by using a hand-written calendar/goal sheet. With your teacher, create practice goals for each week, and then your child can write down the amount of time practiced for each day, or even put a sticker on their sheet each day they practiced. It really helps students to practice when they have added practice into their daily routines, and it becomes a habit. To do this, have your child practice at the same time each day, while also using his/her practice log to stay on track during practice time. Then, see the magic happen as they begin to progress more quickly and start asking for more challenging music to learn!

Practice Log for Teens
Practice Log for Young Students

3. Make it Fun:

I really want my students to love playing their instruments and coming to lessons, and it makes a world of difference with those students who do. They are more motivated, they enjoy participating, and they typically go above and beyond what I ask them to do. But, if your child isn’t wild about taking lessons, what can you do to help him/her enjoy it more? One thing you can do is allow them to choose their own music. Talk with your teacher about music that would be appropriate for your child’s level, and let your child play a song he/she is really into. This will help your child become more motivated to practice, and once they practice more, they’ll see they are able to achieve and accomplish their goals, which will help get them excited about learning their instrument! Of course, including games, having students take charge of their lessons, and providing regular positive reinforcement also makes lessons more fun and enjoyable!

It may seem overwhelming at first to think about all the ways in which to improve your children’s lessons and keep them motivated, especially during virtual lessons, but, once you start getting in the habit, and create a plan with your teacher, it’s actually quite easy, and will make a huge difference! So, talk with your teachers and your kids about implementing some of these ideas in your child’s lessons.

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