I have had some interesting developments in my class’s inquiry into student practice and the rewards system. For the first playing test I assigned two short excepts that the students were responsible for being able to play. Both were excerpts that the students had seen before and had been practicing for several weeks. As a result, the scores for the first playing test were overwhelmingly good….which was my plan and hope. All of the students received either a 50 cent band coupon or a 1 dollar coupon, and all students received their weekly star. The students were happy, I was happy, all was well in band land.

The next week things changed….which was my plan and hope. In addition to the rewards system, the students had requested on the pretest that we move more quickly through our weekly playing assignments. They indicated that we were spending too much time on certain pieces (which I did because they were not practicing enough and thusly were not ready to move on). On Thursday I assigned two new pieces in their band books. I spent the entire Monday class rehearsing the pieces and doing my best to make sure the kids understood the rhythms, pitches, and finger positions.

Thursday came (we only have band class twice a week) and I told the students we would be warming up, reviewing the two pieces, and beginning the playing test. “But Mr. Bruno, we’ve only had a week to work on these songs! We can’t play them yet!”  “But,” I told them, “you all said that we needed to move on, and not spend so much time on the same songs.”

After the dust settled on he final playing test only two students had received band coupons and only half of the entire class earned the required points to receive a star on the board. They were crushed.

I explained that the band coupons and the possibility of a party at the end of the year where meant to be REWARDS, not something they would get for showing up and giving it a good try. I told them that I wanted them to all to get the 1 dollar coupon every week, but that they would have to EARN it through practice.  It seemed to be a real wake up call for some of the students. I just hope to see evidence of better practice habits next week.

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