Practice Records: Motivation and Accountability, or a Waste of Paper?

The district I teach in requires all elementary students to turn in a monthly practice record. It’s a simplified version of a weekly practice record and progress report we used to use several years ago. I’ve had extremely mixed results and reactions from my students, and I’m guessing you may have experience the same thing.

Some students use the practice records exactly as they’re intended: Students keep truthful records of the number of minutes they’ve practiced, and the visualization of these numbers often motivates them to practice more. Many students totally blow off these practice records and have never turned one in. Other students are somewhere in the middle. I always get a kick out of seeing the practice records with outrageously high numbers turned in by students who can’t play their way out of a paper bag.

So what do we do about this? Do we let students get away with being dishonest (or maybe delusional!) about their report? Do we let students get away with not turning the sheets in every month?

By the way, I really like Ken‘s concept of outcome based practice rather than time based. I plan to revise the practice record format and add a few questions at the bottom of the sheet, like “What did you accomplish this month?” and “What are your musical goals for next month?”


3 thoughts on “Practice Records: Motivation and Accountability, or a Waste of Paper?

  1. Hey Steve-

    If I were keeping track of practice times again, I would try an online system. Maybe google docs or google spreadsheet might work. I blogged about using the google spreadsheet survey function Google Docs can save your life…
    Not sure how you would get a parent signature…but it was a time management nightmare when I was collecting sheets in class with a large ensemble…
    Also- for the record my website is (just checking your link on my name in your post…)
    Thanks Steve for your thoughtful posts. I some ideas about copyright and your previous post- more later.

  2. Ran into the same situation as you did this year. Have you heard of a program call “SMARTMUSIC”? It is a computer program which the students play their music in front of a computer (using a mic) and it calculates obvious mistakes in their individual playing as well as keeps a record of how long/much they are using the program. I am going to try it starting in the fall and hope that this could be a better solution from the never-ending paper trail.

  3. Great idea, Prescilla. However, I teach in a primarily inner-city district where relatively few students have access to computers at home. I’ve had one student who explored all the bells and whistles that came with his Essential Elements DVD and emailed me a SmartMusic report, and I was blown away. First of all, I was thrilled that the student and his parent took the initiative to figure out the operating system, and second, how cool the program is. But unfortunately, it just wouldn’t be realistic to require everyone to do it.

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