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#59307 - 05/30/12 09:43 AM Incentive program - do I go there?
Leigh Online   content
Resident Member

Registered: 02/05/09
Posts: 365
Loc: Michigan
I'm considering beginning an incentive program during the summer, as a trial to see if I want to continue it. Here are the questions/concerns rolling around in my head:

Is is wiser to reward accomplishments (e.g. memorize a song, play a whole lesson with good hand shape)rather than minutes spent practicing? Practice times can be faked, and it really isn't about time spent at the piano, but the results.

What about the students who don't need incentives? They are already practicing enough, progressing rapidly, loving piano. Do I start rewarding them for doing what they're doing, or what can I do to keep it "fair." Should I give them a bigger challenge? Every student is different, so do I adjust the expectations accordingly?

What kind of reward is best? I'm thinking non-food, perhaps a gift card? I can't afford to give out too many of those! Perhaps a sticker chart with small rewards along the way and one big one at the end of the summer?

I'm afraid to start something I'll be sorry for, if it gets too complicated.

Any input will be appreciated!

#59308 - 05/30/12 09:58 AM Re: Incentive program - do I go there? [Re: Leigh]
Arlene Steffen Offline
Star Member

Registered: 06/20/00
Posts: 2972
Loc: Fresno, CA USA
Some students respond to incentives, others don't. I've always found them to be more trouble than they are worth in the end. For me, it takes the focus off the real goal.

I am doing a scale challenge this summer, but there is nothing tangible as a reward at the end of the summer. I set a pretty lofty goal for the students (well, lofty for most of them) -- 4 octaves in 16ths with the quarter at 96. They're working pretty hard. Most of the students want to start their lesson showing me what they've accomplished with their scale during the week.

I know I'm the odd man out here. Lots of teachers do incentives. I just have never liked doing them -- too much work for me and I didn't like the attitude it set.

#59310 - 05/30/12 10:03 AM Re: Incentive program - do I go there? [Re: Leigh]
April H. Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 01/14/11
Posts: 348
Loc: Denton, Texas
I'll tell you what I do in my studio to give you an idea.

I reward the younger students (age 11/10 and younger) with "prizes". I buy $1 toys/notebooks/art stuff at a dollar store, office depot, or any other number of places that offer $1 things. Each student must work towards a prize by completing about 10 pages in lesson, theory, and performance book. So 30 boxes to "highlight" on their paper and then they get a prize! It has them working for a while, unless they are speeding through a book.

I started this mainly to encourage students to complete the theory book pages at home. It definitely has given them motivation to do it! And the times when they don't complete it, they visually see how it affects their ability to get a prize.

It's worked well so far.. the downside of incentives is having to keep up with yet ONE more thing during the lesson. It's kind of like juggling. lol smile But I think the parents and students appreciate a little reward of sorts for putting in effort. I don't give any reward for older students, because I figure they are mature enough to do the assignments and get their full reward from the music itself.

I may not always do this incentive program, but I like it for now. smile

Good luck!
April's Piano Studio
Check out my Blog at the studio website!

#59315 - 05/30/12 10:30 AM Re: Incentive program - do I go there? [Re: April H.]
EllaCat Online   content
Resident Member

Registered: 04/03/08
Posts: 359
Loc: Atlantic Canada
I have a program with a sticker chart and a "treasure chest" (with dollar-store prizes in it). I have two "levels" of charts - at level 1, they get to pick a prize from the box after completing every 10 pieces, and they get a GC at 50 and 100 pieces. Level 2 takes more pieces to get a prize from the box, but they still get a GC at 50 and 100. I haven't had anyone complete level 2 yet, but when that happens likely I'll tell them that's the end of the game - most are old enough at that point that dollar store prizes aren't that exciting anymore.

I started it to try to motivate a couple kids - mixed results. I do it with all younger kids whether they need motivation or not - just to be fair. It's not a huge expense and doesn't take up much time - and it's cute how excited the young ones get over a little toy/necklace/etc. smile

#59316 - 05/30/12 10:52 AM Re: Incentive program - do I go there? [Re: EllaCat]
marciac10 Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 05/02/10
Posts: 192
I only offer incentives if a student is struggling. Many of my students don't need them. When I did try out an incentive program based on practice minutes a few participated and carefully wrote out practice times (some of them did practice, some obviously didn't), some never wrote down times (again, some of these did and some did not practice). So I decided that it really wasn't worth it, plus I don't like rewarding students who put down their times (with parent signatures) but don't show signs of actually practicing (I did this myself when I was a child).

So I only offer an incentive to a student who needs one and base it on what will motivate them. For the one student I did this with the reward was computer time. Five minutes if he had his keyboard skills prepared, five minutes if he had his two recital pieces prepared (I had more specific instructions pertaining to each piece as in play measures 10-15 without stopping).

Another student wanted time on the Clavinova, so we did that. If we got through his assignment and new material, the remaining time would be on the Clavinova: playing one of his pieces with different voicing for example.

In the end I found that studio wide incentive programs only work for a handful of students, which makes them not worth the time and effort. Incentives for students who need a bit of motivation, based on what the two of you want (what you want the student to achieve and what the student wants to get) work best. And the incentives I used weren't tangible items, but parts of the studio (playing Dolphin Don or Music Ace on the computer and so enhancing their theory, or working on their more polished pieces on the Clavinova and in the process enhancing their creativity, listening, and playing skills) so that to me is a win/win situation.
Marcia C.

#59318 - 05/30/12 11:58 AM Re: Incentive program - do I go there? [Re: marciac10]
Louise Mann Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 01/22/10
Posts: 186
Loc: Wisconsin
I'm with Arlene -- I don't do incentives. But they work really well for other teachers, so I say go for it, if you have the time, money and organizational skills to pull it off!

I'm hoping the music will be the reward. When I start incentives, I begin to forget about them as the work progresses OR I think of a great incentive at the end of something, but it's too late to institute it. Sigh. So I stick with the basics--the music.

#59322 - 05/30/12 01:16 PM Re: Incentive program - do I go there? [Re: Louise Mann]
xstitch4me Offline
Star Member

Registered: 08/15/04
Posts: 2167
Loc: Idaho
I've done more incentives in the past. The only one I did this year was a practice chart. To receive a sticker, they had to have 4 or more practices during the week with a parent's signature. After 10 stickers, they got a prize ($1 things or box of candy). My really good students really liked this and excelled. My older students didn't care about it but practiced anyway. The students who really didn't want lessons this year didn't do well on the chart. I think I'll do this again next year.

In previous years I did the Mystery first it worked really well. Two years ago, I only had two students who completed and guessed the mystery composer. I didn't do it again.

I really believe there is a problem with kids today. (I know I sound like my grandparents years ago). Honestly, they don't want to do hard work, they don't care about achieving goals, parents don't care and they just float by thinking the world is going to reward them with all of their hearts desires. I know this isn't true about all students, but a LOT of them are like this.

My best students are those whose parents really care about lessons and encourage them and make it a part of their daily routines. Without a parent's encouragement they just don't care.

It's kind of like religion....if a parent doesn't care about it, why should they think their kids will?

#59326 - 05/30/12 02:12 PM Re: Incentive program - do I go there? [Re: xstitch4me]
am&a Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 08/25/10
Posts: 330
Loc: Georgia, USA
I also don't do incentives.

Reasons & excuses: I don't have any room to keep a "treasure box", I have enough trouble staying organized as it is, I don't want to spend time/money to shop for treasures, I don't want to worry about keeping things "fair" between siblings & create unnecessary competition or rivalry, I don't want to spend any lesson time on it b/c I never have enough of THAT anyway.

I'll be most of the kids would REALLY like it, though.

Amanda Latona
online at

#59356 - 05/31/12 05:48 AM Re: Incentive program - do I go there? [Re: am&a]
KylieG Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 11/01/08
Posts: 418
Loc: Tasmania, Australia
Honestly, I'm so sick of trying to use incentive programs, because whatever we do I don't think it actually motivates them to do any EXTRA. They just get happy when they get a reward for doing what they already do. I can't believe they don't even care for earning a medal. It does take up lesson time, it is annoying to keep track of. I keep forgetting to move my kids up the chart each lesson. They don't seem to remind me. Mostly I just don't know why i'm bothering. It feels like i'm handing out little treats too frequently for what is necessary work anyway, and they can't see ahead far enough to think they can reach the end for a medal by december. Next year I may ditch it.

I do think getting a flashy sticker every now and then is a good simple award for little kids that makes piano fun and happy. And I also think they enjoyed me handing out certificates at the last recital for kids who had finished a method book level this term, or a rhythm menagerie unit, or done an exam. I will definitely do that again.

You are right about kids of today. There is a culture shift. And i'm only 27. It must be so different for you older teachers than when you were taking lessons as children.
Incentives are probably being over done. They must be getting lots of rewards at school, and parents are even putting up star charts at home to bribe their kids. Everything today is flashy and cool and fun and parents don't enforce commitment to things as much. The kids must be incentived out!

#59361 - 05/31/12 09:24 AM Re: Incentive program - do I go there? [Re: KylieG]
pianojazzgirl Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 07/26/03
Posts: 847
Loc: Montreal
Originally Posted By: KylieG
You are right about kids of today. There is a culture shift. And i'm only 27. It must be so different for you older teachers than when you were taking lessons as children.
Incentives are probably being over done. They must be getting lots of rewards at school, and parents are even putting up star charts at home to bribe their kids. Everything today is flashy and cool and fun and parents don't enforce commitment to things as much. The kids must be incentived out!

I was shocked to find out that my daughter's teacher regularly gives out candy in class for good work.

I'm 36, and when I took piano lessons as a kid I can certainly say that there was nothing close to a prize ever mentioned (besides Festival certificates). The only treasure box I ever saw was at the dentist (and hell, I earned that prize, lol!). My first teacher (when I was little) would give out stickers for completed pieces, and I did always love that.

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