Mystery Practice Assignments

This post is about the never ending practice war. You carefully write out assignments in your student’s notebook, slowly explain what you wrote, and you wait 7 days. Then you find out your student didn’t even look at the assignment sheet. You give your student a look of shock or disappointment and explain again why practice is so important. Repeat the steps from the previous week. The cycle continues.

I’m sure most piano teachers are familiar with the practice war and some may even have come to accept it as just a normal part of lessons. Well, the rebel in me is standing up today and saying NO! This has got to stop!

So, I have a proposal for any teacher who is ready to accept the challenge to end the war.

This will take a little advanced planning, but I’m betting it will be worth it. This week I’m giving students a different practice task for each of the 7 days in between lessons. My goal is for them to complete at least 5 of these tasks. If they complete all 7, they get to choose something from my treasure box at the end of the lesson. Here is where it gets interesting  – I will assign and explain a really cool practice activity for the first day like one of the ones in Shhh… Your Piano Teacher Thinks This Is Practice by Andrea and Trevor Dow. The other 6 assignments will be given to the student in sealed envelopes with the message – “Do NOT Open Until _________ “! The day of the week will be written on the line. Before giving the student the assignments, I will be making a list of them in my teacher notes so that I can use that in the following lesson.

I can’t wait to see how many of my students will take the mystery challenge!

Will you join me in this quest to end the practice war? Like and / or leave a comment if you’re on board!

9 thoughts on “Mystery Practice Assignments

    • fame1444 says:

      Thanks, Katherine! I introduced the mystery assignments to 4 students yesterday and they were all very excited. I gave each of them a sneak peak at the first one to get them going. The best question of the day – “Why do I have to wait until tomorrow to open another one?” Oh and I used red envelopes. Worked like a charm. Now we wait 7 days to see what happens!


    • fame1444 says:

      Hi Suzanne, right now I’m using assignments from Andrea and Trevor Dow’s book, Shhh…Your Piano Teacher Thinks This Is Practice. They have a few sample pages on their website at If you don’t have this book, you can still do the mystery practice assignments using things you already assign your students – just put it in a sealed envelope. That’s what makes it so appealing. You’ve given me a great project to work on though!


  1. Emily says:

    45 students x 6 envelopes x 48 teaching weeks/year = 12,960 envelopes. $$$$$?????!!!!!! Good idea but how do you actually afford it??!


    • fame1444 says:

      Great question, Emily! I suggest reserving this activity for the students who have the most trouble with practice – those who always have an excuse or forget. The next thing is you don’t want to do this often because we’ll it can become routine and work against you. Do it once a month for a week or even once a month for 3 times in a week. You could do it once a year even! The point is to keep it exciting. The students can also reuse their envelope for multiple weeks and return the assignment slip so you can reuse them. This will work if you laminate them first.


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