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#78 ELEVEN Ways to UP your Practicing or Teaching Game This Year with POST IT NOTES

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

By Christy | The Practicing Pro

There are many ways to make teaching and practicing fun but also effective. One of the ways is to use sticky notes. There are so many ways to use sticky notes and today I'm going to talk to you about a few of my favorite ways!


The first way is for parents to use sticky notes during a lesson to indicate the focus for each one of their child’s review pieces. Suzuki students especially do a daily review of their pieces as a foundational principle in the method. One of the reasons is that you can increase your technique easily and faster by practicing it on a piece that you already know by memory and for months rather than in a new piece. Hence keeping up as many pieces possible in a performance-ready review place makes it faster to improve. It's like “the quick way” to learn.

In the student's lesson, the teacher can focus on a few review pieces at each week's lesson. During that time they can ask the student to focus on one or two things for them to focus on at home. This also happens in group classes - for each one of the pieces that the teacher works on in the group class, they will often offer some bits of gold to the students and parents.

Now here comes the sticky note magic right here!

Parents, while observing, jot down this focus or tip and place it at the particular spot it pertains to in that review song or if it’s a general note at the very top of the piece. Then, your review time at home becomes more effective because they now have something specific to focus on that the teacher wants them to improve while they are also reviewing a piece.

Let's take a look at an example here.


It will also help motivate your child or student doing their review songs because they will have something specific to think about while they're playing it, rather than just playing a song for the sake of playing it. With a specific goal in mind given to them by their teacher, they are more likely to stay engaged.

So remember that Ideally, you should be able to flip through their music book and have sticky notes with one or two focuses on each piece. It is also helpful for their teachers because they can flip through and quickly and clearly see which pieces haven’t been reviewed for a while. One tip is to use the same colored sticky note for an entire month and then switch colors. That way, you can see immediately which pieces need an updated sticky note focus over time.

A general focus like posture, more phrasing, etc... that they are currently looking at for all of their playing can go on the FRONT of their review book volume.

I often will place in my teaching room a small basket of sticky notes and pencils for parents right where they sit and remind them to use them and give them direct instructions during the lesson about what to write and where to place them in the student's books. This helps parents to be engaged in lessons and not just sit on their phones and zone out from the lesson.


My second favorite way to use sticky notes is to use the see-through sticky tabs. This one is great for when you have an upcoming concert, for example. Over the few months before the concert, cover the review piece in these see-through sticky tabs and write down the little details to remember to take the piece to the next level. I call these things “little pickies”. This can really help escalate a performance piece or get a higher mark on an exam. I always tell them they are not errors (maybe one or two and I usually label them “FIX”) but spots that can be looked at to be even better. I also like this approach - it helps to foster a mindset that you can make it even better by focusing on a tiny spot instead of just playing a song over and over each day all the way through.

For several weeks before their concert or exam, place these sticky tabs at each of the little spots that need to be drilled, fixed, or focused on. Write a tiny note with a keyword or phrase to remember what each tab represents. You can change colors each week so that you can see which ones are older. After a few weeks, if there is a tab that is no longer needed because they perfected that part plus did it for a while so they don't forget it, they can rip the tab off and throw it away. This really excites them and makes them feel satisfied.

A third way I like to use sticky notes is to help slow down a student who wants to learn quickly and aggressively, to be the most successful they can be. (this also works for parents that like to go ahead too) I do this by actually covering up the parts of the piece that I don't want them to play. I divide the piece into parts. Once they are playing part A for example at the level I am happy with, then I’ll uncover part B, etc. I really like using this method for my students who like to play ahead and often miss out on the details. If a student is tempted to peek under the sticky notes at home, I will photocopy the sheet music with the sticky notes on top for them to take home. This method of going that extra step and copying a piece and just giving them one or two parts of a piece is also good for students who look at a new piece and get overwhelmed. By breaking it into manageable, bite-sized pieces, they won’t feel discouraged to start. I had a Senior student looking at a 8-minute piece and she was going through a sad discouraging time in her year. I took the original, copied and split it into a few smaller “pieces”. We focused on the harder mini pieces first learned them, and performed them with a modified piano part to make them sound amazing as smaller pieces. It worked like a dream.


Another idea is to use different colored smaller sticky notes to mark different parts of a piece. For example the form A, A, B, A. When a student can visualize with colors what part is coming next, it can help some students to learn quicker.


You can use “numbering sticky notes” to help students with multiple books on the go to quickly and easily see what pieces they need to review at home. It can be overwhelming for them to know where to start. At the end of a lesson, I put a sticky note on each of the three pieces they're playing for their exam or on the pieces that need review more, for example. Then at their next lesson, if they’re ready to move on, I can move them through the book onto the next pieces. This really helps students visualize where they are in the book and to see the work they have done so far, as well as to focus their attention where you want it when they are practicing at home. This also works for practicing scales if they’re doing a Royal Conservatory exam for example - simply place a sticky note tab on each scale and remove it when they’ve done it correctly by the third time, then put them all on again and remove the ones they can do perfectly by the second time, then again and remove the ones they do perfectly the 1st time.


I am a huge fan of using a practice chart or a practice plan. With these, you can head into your practice and know exactly what to practice and in what order. A fun and easy way to make your practice chart is to use - you guessed it - sticky notes! Write each review piece or practice task on a sticky note on a grid on a poster board, wall, or window. Once they have done it, they can pull off the sticky note. To make it extra fun, put the sticky notes over top of a coloring book picture. For example, if you’re going to practice 12 seconds of a large piece 10 times perfectly each, then you can write those 12 sections on sticky notes and put them on the color book picture. As they practice and pull sticky notes off, the picture that they get to color after their practice gets revealed!


For an older student who is practicing scales, they can use sticky notes to help mix up their practice. For example, they can write each scale on a sticky note and then cover it up with another sticky note and place them on the wall. Then they get to pick one and flip the top sticky note up to see which scale they need to practice. So if they're reviewing for an RCM exam and they have 30 scales in the exam, for example, then you would have 30 sticky notes with 30 mystery scales underneath. Be sure to mix them up well so they don’t know which scale is which.


Another fun idea is to put little notes of encouragement in random places in their books. It’s so encouraging and sweet when they open up their book and see words of support and praise from their parents, teacher, sibling, etc.


I also like to use sticky notes to track the due dates of exams, concerts, etc. We have a rule/guideline that students should be performance ready three months out from a concert. Three months is a long time! Sometimes you can forget and the date sneaks up on you. Using a sticky note, once they’ve perfected a piece, you can put the date three months out on the piece and sign them up for a concert that week. That way they can see which pieces are ready to perform and be reminded of the upcoming concert. It’s sometimes also helpful to have them grade themselves on their pieces. For example, if a piece is nearly performance-ready but just needs that little bit of tweaking, they can write “9/10” on a sticky note and put it on that piece. For a song that they just learned and have a ways to go, they can write “3/10”. This helps them see exactly which pieces need review, and how much review they need.


A fun idea for preparing for a concert is to put a Post-it note on the wall where a student can LOOK and smile when they are performing, or while they bow. Place the Sticky not in the best place in the room and then every time they play through their performance add a part of the face to a drawing of a happy smile. Add as many parts to the smile face that you need to run the performance. This is a fun one for at the lesson.


I love teaching with reminders that are not vocal and nagging. A sticky note can help with this. Just last week I had a student who was bringing her violin too far in front of her twisting her upper torso. I said “belly button to me and scroll to the stick note” I put the Post it on the wall and a few times in the lesson without saying a word I would tap the sticky note with my bow or point to it with a smile and she responded to that so much more positively than a verbal reminder! It was a positive experience that could have not been otherwise.


The last and final idea I want to share for using sticky notes is to use them for a 100-day challenge. They can pick a celebration or gift to strive for if they complete the challenge and print out a picture of it, or draw it onto a large piece of poster board. Then they cover it in sticky notes. Each sticky note can represent a practice that they can rip off after they complete their daily practice. At the end, when all the sticky notes are gone, they can celebrate by getting that toy or activity they chose. For example, I remember my daughter wanted a special dress for an event. We drew the dress on a piece of poster board and then she filled in the dress with 100 little sticky notes. Once the dress was revealed (i.e. she completed the challenge) we went out and bought it together. It was so fun and it was a great way to keep her motivated! Another version is a LONG snake or train of sticky notes along the wall. Write on the notes a new number each day from 1 to 100. Each day write and add the new day's number until you reach one hundred.

All in all, I think sticky notes are an amazing tool that has such a variety of uses. I hope you got some fresh new ideas from this blog & live today and are motivated to go out and buy all sorts of colorful sticky notes! Have fun!

Bye for now and see you next time!

Check out my Free PDF download Checklist for a Successful Music Practice for teachers and practicing parents.

Your easy checklist for successful home music practices from Christy, the practicing pro. Whether you are a new or seasoned practice parent or music teacher, this checklist will help you organize before, during, and after practices for effective and fun practices.

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