By Dr. Julie Knerr
What are Practice Strategy Cards?
Forty cards present forty strategies for practicing effectively. Each card has a name for the strategy along with a picture. An explanation of the strategy is on the back of the card. The cards are 5.5 x 4.25 inches in dimension.
Here is the front of the Sevenize Small Sections Practice Strategy Card:
Here is the explanation on the back:
As explained in the book, Practice Perfect by Doug Lemov, naming ideas is very important. Lemov says, “Naming the skills you aim to practice in isolation creates a language for your team.”
In the case of piano study, we believe that naming Practice Strategies provides students with a concrete language for how to study pieces. These cards can be used with students of all ages. I most frequently use them with students ages 7-18.
I use the first year to instill the discipline of repetition in my beginning students. All my students know that when I jokingly ask, “What is my favorite word?” the answer is, “AGAIN!” Seeing the word “Again” on a Practice Strategy Card helps the students realize that repetition is not an amorphous requirement by their piano teacher, but an actual strategy for becoming better at playing the piano.
What types of Practice Strategies are included?
Katherine Fisher and I have compiled the Practice Strategies that we most frequently use in our everyday teaching. They cover four main categories:
- Strategies to teach students how to be disciplined and efficient in learning a piece and in preparing for performances. Examples include Sevenize Small Sections, Boxes, and Refrigerator Practice.
- Strategies that help students overcome technical hurdles. Examples include Thumbs Only, Daring Leaps, and Rhythms.
- Strategies for gaining clarity in musical nuances such as phrasing and articulation. Examples include Crazy Phrasing, Some Voices Alone, and Stop Sign Dynamics.
- Strategies for controlling how we think as we play. Examples include Announce the Problem Note, Brain Juice, and Speed Bump.
You can see a slideshow of sample Practice Strategy Cards here:
How Can the Practice Strategy Cards be Used?
Katherine and I each have a set of Practice Strategy Cards on the pianos in our studios. We find the card appropriate for a section in a piece and have the student write the Practice Strategy in their music. The students love the cards and are excited to write the strategies in and use them at home!
You can hang the cards on the wall, tape them together in one long line, keep them in their original stack, or, as Katherine does, punch a hole and put them on a ring.
Parents and Students
Parents and students may wish to have their own set of Practice Strategy Cards at home. In this way, they can find the card for the Strategy indicated by the teacher at the lesson and read the instructions on the back if they need to be reminded of how to practice that particular Practice Strategy.
We hope that you and your students enjoy using the Practice Strategy Cards as much as our students have, and that all our students become more mindful of how they practice.