Practice, Practice, Practice - How to encourage students to put in the time and work

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May be a bit cliché, but this is a topic worth visiting ten times over. Students may not always understand or consider the amount of practice and work it takes to master a skill. This includes improving their grades, playing a new instrument, learning a new language, or becoming an athlete. We dive into the value of practice and provide some tips for encouraging your students to be consistent with their practice schedule.


Erika Carson, Eds.
Trilogy Mentors, Chief Learning Officer

Practice to Form Connections

Practice has proven to be beneficial because as everyone practices (and practices) a new skill, it takes less effort to execute that new skill. Connections in the brain that help the brain execute that new skill or recall newly practiced knowledge grow.

basketball

But don’t be mistaken – practice isn’t always the same for mastering each skill or understanding new knowledge. Yes, sometimes practice means memorizing information or repeating actions over and over again until you get them just right… like a ballerina preparing for a performance. But think about all the smaller skills a ballerina must master before they are even ready for the stage. Chances are, a new ballerina, or even a new basketball player, just doesn’t understand why they must do hundreds of pliés each class or drills up and down the court every practice. They must stick with it until they can connect the movements to a performance on the stage or a game on the court.

Applying New Knowledge

Other times, practice means applying new knowledge and/or skills to a variety of experiences. For example, applying writing skills to send letters to family members, figuring out measurements to build a birdhouse, or estimating how much upward force it might take to lift a 20-pound turkey off of the table. These don’t have to be actual activities, but reinforcing information and skills through scenarios is fun, engaging, and helps grow more connections inside the brain. Helping students find unconventional ways to practice their skills can lead them to make new connections and grasp new concepts, and who knows, they might even forget they are learning!

But in the end, practice means repeating a skill or knowledge so that it becomes reinforced in the body and brain. We encourage mentors and parents to work with your students to set up a “training schedule.” 

Challenge Your Student to Practice!

Try having them:

  1. Spell new words by singing them 3 times a day.

  2. Push and pull different objects throughout the day and record their observations about what happened to demonstrate and understand force.

  3. Practice percentages and probability by counting the number of people that wear sneakers vs. the number of people that wear boots or flats each day at school. Then, figure out the ratios and probabilities of sneaker wearers to other shoes at the end of each day. You can also do this with you and your child's favorite sports teams. Find their performance averages, track their stats, and see if you can predict their performance through the season.

Although getting discouraged comes periodically throughout the course of learning any new skill, encouraging your student to stick with it and try their best will get them to the finish line. Setting a routine for practice is the key to success.

And remember,

“Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

– Li Proverbe au Vilain


Benefits of Practice - additional resources

Interested in learning more about the benefits of practice?
Check out the articles listed below.

TeachThought.com – The Neurological Benefits of Practice

The British Psychological Society – Practice, Practice, Practice – The Benefits are Ongoing