Motivating Practice Over the Summer

It’s summer! The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, the pools are glistening and vacations are long overdue. So how do we keep students motivated to practice over the summer when what they really need is a break?

Breaks allow us to re-energize, re-assess, rejuvenate. Do you see a theme going on here? Breaks are healthy. My students need them and I know for a fact that I need them.

While I would hope my students do play over the summer, I don’t expect practice to be the quantity/quality it usually is. Sometimes they surprise me though and get in even more! Whatever they can do during their time off from school  is great, as long as they do something.

Summer is a great time to do different things, get a little more out of the box. A short background- I take off around 7 weeks of teaching after I do several weeks of camps. So my students get a good 2 months of a lesson break. However I do encourage my students to continue playing over the summer.

Whether you continue teaching over the summer or not, here are some ideas to keep students motivated to learn new pieces and continue playing.

I recently mentioned practice projects in the recent episode of Just Ask Jennifer! You can listen to it here if you would like. For 6 years now, inspired by Philip Johnston, I have had my students work on Practice Projects each summer. (I used to call them practice prop project but this year decided to simplify the name a bit) Practice projects are physical representations of students practice time or goals. Students can make ANYTHING! I suggest to them they make something that they would enjoy making anyway. I’ve had students make summer scrapbooks, Lego projects, quilts, pet rock projects, 3-D animation projects, compositions, drawings, paintings, the list goes on and on…

So what do these projects have anything to do with practicing?

As stated earlier, students are building a physical representation on what they are accomplishing with their practicing. They can make it quantity based or goal based. Here are 3 examples below…

  • Student 1 is building a Lego village. They decided to have their practice project based on time. Student practices piano for 20 min. Then applies 20 min. to their Lego village.
  • Student 2 is building a pet rock collection. They decided to add to their collection for every piece they learn over the summer. After they finish learning 1 piece, they add another pet rock to their collection.
  • Student 3 is making a quilt. They decided to make their project goal based. Every time they complete a particular goal (play 3 x’s in a row correctly, add dynamics, play through section 4 up to tempo…) they add a patch to their quilt.

After our summer break, students return in early August for our fall kickoff. The fall kickoff is when students showcase their practice project with each other.

Below is what I give my families explaining what the practice project is. The 2nd page is for students to fill out in conjunction to their project and return it along with their project at fall kickoff.


Summer is a great time to hold a practice contest or hold a short incentive program. A fun “prize” during summer is if students accomplish a set amount of practice time, they are invited to an exclusive all you can eat ice cream party at the end of summer.

Practice Charts

Practice Charts can be in conjunction with an incentive and reward party. Here is a free one you can download and use. It has 30 ice cream cones for students to color in each day they practice. How you want to use it is up to you! Enjoy!

Visit my blog and join my email list for monthly freebies: MusicEducatorResources blog

Beethoven and the Bagatelle
Matthew Edwards