Motivating tired students

In an ideal world every student that walks through the music room door would be enthusiastic to learn, ready to fully listen, and engage 100% with the lesson.

Sometimes though they arrive after a full day of school or work and might be tired out or have had a bad day. Even though you try your hardest, you just can’t get them to completely focus.

Let’s take my fictional student – we’ll call her Sally – who has an exam coming up. We start with sight reading so I put the book in front of her and pick out an exercise. After a while I can tell concentration isn’t really there and she is having a go at it, but it’s all a bit half hearted.

I don’t think Sally feels it’s worth waking up for that uninspiring book of sight-reading exercises or F sharp minor scale!

Time for a rethink! So I load up ‘Don’t Wake Lenny’ on my tablet or computer and (instead of using the inbuilt questions), I ask her to play two or three bars of music from the sight-reading book whenever a question card appears.

The scoring in the game allows me to give her points out of 5 for the sight-reading exercise, which is automatically added to her total game score. I have a leaderboard up in my music room and the desire to reach the top suddenly gives her a burst of energy!

Having done this with lots of students in real life, I’ve even heard ‘can we play again?!’ many times. Result!

While the game is great fun (students have to collect gems without waking Lenny the lion), the best part has been how keen students are to play the sight-reading (or scale) correctly to earn the most points. Both engagement and accuracy increases.

‘Don’t Wake Lenny’ is part of my pack of games for music teachers. All of the games in this pack will work using this method – simply add in your own question instead of the inbuilt question – whether this is a piece of sight-reading, a rhythm exercise or scales. Or you can use the inbuilt question by dragging the notes on screen into position to use any way you wish.

Pin up the printable leaderboard template for games like ‘Don’t Wake Lenny’ or ‘The King and the Thief’ on your music room wall and use those little post-it notes you can get to record scores, moving them up and down each week (scroll down to see my studio leaderboard).

The pack is available here and there is a short video demo below. Let me know how it goes!

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