Last week, I gave away the first of my erasable highlighters to 3 students who showed me that they were consistently “practicing smartly.”  You can read more about how I structured this mini-incentive program here.  I’m really excited about this little program because it is teaching the students to be their own teacher by asking them to “mark up” their music when they make a mistake rather than just trying to practice it randomly and make it better.  It’s asking them to be the teacher and to listen with a teacher/musician’s ear so that they can hear what they need to mark.  Their practicing is much more focused now that they can see where they need to focus every time they open their book.   After I have seen 3 consecutive weeks of their own pencil markings in their music, I give them the erasable highlighter to use for the same purpose.

Today, I had to chuckle at what one of my students did with their erasable highlighter.  To appreciate it fully, you need to know that this particular student has very specific music tastes…rainbows, fairies, and pink would be the best way to describe her tastes!  So, I have to work to expand her taste for other styles.

I’m sure you can imagine the difficulty that I had when introducing Rebikoff’s piece “The Bear” full of tritone dissonance and pesante sounds!  I asked her to make up a story about a bear (she likes movie music) for this piece and to pretend that the piece was music for a film about a bear.  She came back this week and told me that she could “draw the bottom of a bear better than the top” so she made her bear eat berries off of a bush.  This is what her piece looked like this week:

Of course this is only the top line of her piece and there were many other markings that indicated how she should play, but her picture and comment made me laugh and I wanted to share this with you.  Most of the time, the erasable highlighter is used to highlight things that need to be fixed, but for this particular student, it was a way to make the music come to life!  I might not always want my students to use their erasable highlighter so extensively, but I thought it was great since the way she played her piece was so fresh and alive.

Encouraging students to use their imagination in their pieces almost always helps them connect with the piece better and play more musically.  And if connecting and playing musically means that the piece is covered in erasable highlighter, then so be it!