Continuing my tour of assignment books, here’s a peak inside of my GPS (Great Practice System) assignment book and practice incentive program.

My friend Meghan Grayless, who drew Captain Crescendo, also designed most of the components of this assignment book.

When you open it up, you see a page of instructions and a clever map.  The road on the map is filled with dots that I check off as students earn their points.

Similar to Captain Crescendo, the goal is to earn 200 points over the course of a school-year.  Each day of practicing equals 1 point.  Students mark of their practicing on Practice Pl.  When I give other assignments during a lesson, I check off the corresponding destination box in the lower right corner – Listening Ln., Construction Zone, Sight Reading St., App Ave., and Scale Ct.

Here I ways that I use these destinations:

  • Listening Ln. – Each semester I create 10 listening assignments of music that I find relevant or useful to my students.  They are usually made up of several links to YouTube videos and students fill out page while they listen.
  • Construction Zone – If a student is working through a trouble spot or hasn’t practiced much, I’ll have them work independently with headphones.  Sometimes when a student arrives and hasn’t practiced, I’ll make sure they go to the construction zone first, to make their lesson time a little more productive.
  • Sight Reading St. – Most of my students are working their way through the Piano Adventures sight reading books.  They check off exercises as they go.  For more advanced students, I’ll have them sight read something new that we’re working on so that they will have read through the music before we work on it together.
  • App Ave. – We have a lot of great apps that help with a variety of music theory skills.  Note reading and rhythm are some of the most common skills we work on with apps, but we also use them for intervals, chords, ear training and much more.
  • Scale Ct. – All of my students have scale charts that they are working through.  As we learn new keys we try to bump up the metronome to play them faster.  Students working on Scale Ct. practice scale fingerings and different tempos with headphones at a digital piano.

After a large section of Practice Pl. pages, there is a section of Listening Ln. pages.  This is where students write or draw something inspired by their listening assignments.

At the end of the book, I added my own collection of reference pages – a labeled keyboard, a circle of fifths and staff paper.  The very last page is Recording Rd. where students keep track of what they have recorded for their CDs.

Normally, the back cover is a plain sheet of card stock, but this year I found some handy pockets to use as the back cover.  We keep sight reading charts, scale charts, and other stray papers back there.

In addition to keeping track of points on the map in the front of the book, each student also has a car that moves around to 10 different musical streets on the studio wall.  For every 20 points they get to move to the next street.  At the 10th street, they have earned their CD.

If you’re interested in using this GPS practice incentive with your own students, it is available in the Pianissimo Store.



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    1. Sara, I have two Clavinovas side by side in my studio. I teach on one and the second has headphones. “Construction Zone” assignments are generally any kind of work that doesn’t fit into another category. If a student needs to practice a little more or warm up before working with me or if we work on something together and I want them to practice it on their own right away, they go to the “construction zone”.

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