top of page

#47 Get to know your teen/teen students practicing activity

Updated: Jul 12, 2023

By Christy | The Practicing Pro

Read the Blog HERE and get your FREE download activity for teens.

Last week we talked about teens and the two things that THEY would like to change about music practice, as well as nine ways to help teens have successful practicing this coming year. If you missed it, it's #46 Success with teeneir Music Practice - you can read the Blog or watch /listen to this episode from the Blog.

Last Easter, I did a fun “get to know you” “this or that” practice activity. I was pleasantly surprised by all the positive feedback I received about it. Asking children a fun, quick, one-word answer to "this or that" questions is a wonderful way to move quickly through your practice checklist. This can be done at an in-person lesson, zoom lesson or home music practice session. If you ask these questions in-between tasks, I find it motivates kids to work through each task. It’s also a double-win because you get to know each other better! Who doesn't want to know their child or student better while practicing and having fun?

You can find a link to 150 example questions further below.

As a teacher, I love this activity.It’s especially great to use during back to school or with a new student. I'll jot down bits of their answers in my lesson notebook to refer back to later. It's a bit like being a detective and then later you can surprise them with how much you know about them. This can make them feel noticed and important at just the right time when they are having a down week and might need a boost of confidence, knowing that someone cares enough about them to remember something personal. It can be something as simple as when they need a pencil, you pass them a blue one and say "blue - is it still your favorite colour?" It may seem insignificant, but at the right time it can make a huge difference in a child’s day.

A few tips:

Some teens feel uncomfortable and self-conscious when talking about themselves. So tread lightly and be completely non-judgemental. For older kids and teens avoid any questions that may embarrass them.

Some teens, as they get older, may want to feel more independent and therefore might start sharing less about themselves. This could also be a form of self-protection because they don’t want to be judged or corrected.

When you ask your "get to know you questions", visually imagine a door between you and your teen. If you are open-minded, accepting, and truly interested in your teen and show no judgment - each question they answer will open the door a little wider. On the contrary, the door will creak more closed with each response of yours that contains any form of judgment, disapproval, or challenge.

Remember that lessons are not a social time, but a teaching time. Some students are very chatty. They either are seeking a friendship OR they want to avoid doing the work associated with learning. These are two traps teachers can easily fall into, so beware! At home, parents may find their already chatty child is even more chatty when they are trying to avoid practicing.

The solution for the chatty child/teen is to give one-answer questions and ask them for an answer that is a set word count answer. “Describe your dog. But you can only use three words”, for example.

We are talking about teens here though. Generally speaking you won’t need to worry about this. But it depends on the group!

Play with a parent:

Some teens might be more enthusiastic to participate at home if the parent does as well. These "get to know you" questions can instead work as "get to know each other" if you both participate.

Parents do need to be honest though and not give “the correct or best answer”, but a real answer. If you open up and share, then your teen will be more likely to as well.

You can take turns each answering one question, or you can both answer the same one.

Or you can have a list of questions and you can write them down to be shared at the end of the practice.

If you play this game with multiple children, you can save them and read them later at the supper table, for example. It would be a fun game to guess who’s answer is whose. Just be sure not to share any answers that your child told you in confidence that may be embarrassing if you share them with their siblings.

Teach independence in their practice

Have your teen decide what requires the most amount of motivation to do in their practice - is it scales, drill spots, or review songs? What is the one thing that they always avoid doing? Have them assign a time for this task and commit to a schedule. When kids are young, it is the parent who decides their schedule. However, as they get older you should teach THEM how to organize their time so that they have this skill when they are on their own.

Teach your teen to decide at the start of each practice what to focus on, and to reflect at the end of each practice how they improved and what they need to work on. . Teach them to write these things down in a journal when they practice.When life gets busy, teach them how to prioritize their time and make choices. Such important life skills!

An example:

They have an extra load of homework tonight and don’t have enough time to finish it all and get all of their practice in. So present the options and have them choose to do one of the following:

Finish your homework and:

  • Half of your practice in a row on your chart, tomorrow start where you left off and loop around

  • Just play review songs carefully with your main technical focus in mind

  • All of your regular practice but leave your orchestra excerpts for tomorrow

  • No practice but tomorrow morning you will wake up 20 minutes early and practice then.

  • Do your review/ upgrade pieces later tonight in a mini-concert for Grandma when she comes to visit.

It's a life skill to "postpone, not cancel” and to be flexible and modify a schedule and still have success completing your goals. You’ve got this! Daily practice time is a PERFECT time to teach this invaluable skill.

Here is what a practice chart might look like for a teen:

Review /upgrade song - pick a card

3 scales - Use Magic Practicing Formula for repetitions (MPF)

Review /upgrade song - pick a card

Study - practice nuggets first with the MPF, then play the whole song through with slow metronome through once - parent marks any spots for tomorrow's nugget practice (Nuggets are the tricky identified drill spots)

Review/upgrade song - pick a card

3 scales - use Magic Practice Formula

Review/upgrade song - pick a card

New piece nugget practice (drill spots in new pieces coming up)

Review/upgrade song - pick a card

New songs

Review/upgrade song - pick a card

Sight-reading - pick a card for BOTH you and the child to answer

Orchestra work (set timer to end)

Another version of this activity:

Use this practice game to “foster connections”. There is a shorter but still very fun version of this game in blog #28/29, which is available in both video and audio from the blog.

150 plus questions to ask: Shorter answers / Longer answer options:

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.

INVITATION from Christy Hodder:

Speaking of amazing practices, let me tell you all about the digital course, the Practicing Pro Academy. This is for the serious practicing parents and music teachers and is an at-your-own-pace, step-by-step, online course to bring you more effective, positive, and fun home music practices. Registrants receive a special package in the mail from me, and I am with you in person with Q&As to answer all your questions.

Learn more about PPA and join the waitlist HERE for the next Practicing Pro Academy course. It's only offered once a year so you don't want to miss it. The registration will only open for a few weeks and I'll let everyone on the waitlist know immediately so that you can grab one of the spots.

LIKE, FOLLOW, and SHARE on Instagram and/or Facebook to be inspired and join the positive practicing music community.

Facebook: Practicing Pro

Instagram: @practicingpro


bottom of page