Helping your students develop habitual practice habits

Weekly Teaching Tip – Feb. 15, 2016
by MaryAnnKehler

One of the most challenging parts of achieving and maintaining a high level of excellence at anything is regular practice, whether it’s singing, sports, writing computer code, playing an instrument, or driving a car.

I was wondering a few months ago what it is that allows some students to easily incorporate regular practice into their schedules, and others to flounder hopelessly, saying things like “I’m trying to practice every day.”

I started to observe the language they use to talk about practice. For the students who practice regularly and therefore make good vocal progress, it most often seems that practice is tied to a particular time or activity. They practice at 9 a.m. every day, or after they go to the gym, or for “15 minutes after dinner.” On the other hand, the students who “try” to practice can’t typically even name how many minutes they practiced in the previous week, and their progress is slower than those who practice regularly.

Now, when I talk with students about practice, I present the idea of tying practice time to something in their regular routine. I’ve been amazed at the change that has made in vocal progress. It’s so simple and yet so effective.

If you would like to read more on the subject of building productive habits, I’d strongly suggest The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. It’s been translated to 31 languages and is the best book I’ve ever read on this subject.

Hope you have a great teaching week!

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