Teacher Tip: Implement Deliberate Practice

Kevin Mead, band director at Churchville-Chili High School in New York, shares how he is using SmartMusic to guide his students’ practice.

Our challenge: “Pineapple Poll”

The Churchville-Chili Wind Ensemble is currently working on the first movement of “Pineapple Poll”. I wanted to encourage and reward the students’ use of a “deliberate practice” approach for learning this challenging piece of music.

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Deliberate practice process:

  • I used the large group “pre-defined” assignment feature to automatically schedule specific assignments to all students.
  • Deselected the “Require default tempo” box and told students to select their own best submission tempo.

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In the “Instructions to students” window, I asked students to:

  • Start practicing at a slow tempo and don’t increase the tempo until you can get all green notes (regardless of how slow).
  • DO NOT submit the assignment until the last few days before it is due.

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I gave the students two options for submission:

  • If they played the excerpt at a tempo of mm=100 or greater, the recording grade would be out of 100 points possible.
  • If they choose to play the piece any tempo slower than mm=100, the recording grade would be out of 95 points
  • The SmartMusic “right note at the right time” assessment would be used at either tempo.

The results

  • Students worked at getting up to tempo and playing the notes correctly.
  • It discouraged students from submitting a poor performance at a faster tempo.
  • In either case, the SmartMusic grade remained unchanged, so getting the correct note at the correct time was rewarded.

My next step will be to create a rubric that encourages the same deliberate practice approach to learning our music.

Kevin Mead

Kevin R.Mead has been teaching music for 30 years, most of them in the Churchville-Chili School District in New York State. Mr. Mead is currently the director of the Senior High School’s select Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band. His ensembles have won several awards and honors including many “Superior” ratings and 1st place performances throughout the east coast. Mr. Mead has been honored with several personal awards including his district’s “Triple C” award for service, a “Fish” award for “Making Their Day,” and was selected by the members of the Churchville-Chili Senior High National Honor Society as the 2005-06 “Teacher of the Year.”

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