Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tremendous Results from The Great Sight-Reading Challenge!

You may remember late last summer when I first wrote about The Great Sight-Reading Challenge. My initial goal was to give my students a reason to play the piano, at least for a few minutes each day, during a 3-week break from lessons. This break occurred between summer and fall sessions, and I had two goals I wanted them to accomplish during the break: I didn't want them to forget most of what they had learned during the summer, and I  wanted them to strengthen their reading skills so they would be more motivated to learn new music once the fall session began.

Cue "The Great Sight-Reading Challenge"!  

This project turned out to be a much larger project than I initially thought it would be, but I wouldn't change a thing about it the next time around because the results speak for themselves.


Along the way, I had to create tons of sight-reading materials for the beginning students who were learning to read music  off and on the staff by using several of the most prominent and wonderful piano series that are widely available in America. This means that if the student was learning Landmark Notes, for example, I created a set of sight-reading sheets (four pages, each with four 3-measure examples - see photo below) specifically for that student, specifically for that week. Likewise, if the student learned a new note the next week, I created a specific set of sight-reading materials for that week as well. This would continue for several weeks until the student could read enough notes that I could then have him or her use some early elementary collections as well as the Bastien Sight-Reading series books 1 and 2, which contained many four-measure examples gradually increasing in level of difficulty. Students who were not yet reading music on the staff used these pages that I created especially so they could participate too. 

I printed all of my sight-reading sets as I created them, and placed them in plastic sheet protectors. I made a master binder of all the printed materials, then I used that binder as a partial sight-reading library for my students. 


All of my students were required to participate in The Great Sight-Reading Challenge. Each week I prepared and gathered enough sight-reading sheets for each of my beginning students to borrow, and enough books of appropriately-leveled literature collections for each of my late elementary through advanced students to borrow. Students were required to participate in the program as soon as they started reading music on the staff, even if it was just two notes such as Middle C and Treble G. Students' sight-reading assignments always consisted of music that was below their current level of study. 

Early elementary students were required to follow a specific sight-reading protocol with each example, every week. Please view a video tutorial of how we did this. While following the protocol, early elementary students sight-read three 4-measure examples three times each to earn one star on their charts (see the example page from Middle C Position Skips below). On their weekly assignment sheet I typed "three examples, three times each, equals one star on your chart". Their goal was to play each example to the best of their ability the first time, then figure out how to make improvements the second and third times. I had them play each example three times so they could experience the sight-reading process more fully, and so they could improve their error-detection and problem-solving skills as well as their sight-reading skills. 

Elementary students were required to sight-read three short pieces from an appropriate collection. Three pieces, three times each, equaled one star on their chart.

Intermediate and advanced students were required to sight-read two or three (or more) pages from a standard literature book, pop book, jazz book, or other collection. Two to three pages, two times each, equaled one star on their chart. 

Students earned one star on their sight-reading chart only if they completed their entire sight-reading assignment for that day. I wanted them to spend about 5 minutes each day sight-reading new material, and I wanted them to see for themselves how important the skill of sight-reading is. 


Over the course of the past school year, my students earned a total of 3,661 sight-reading points! Not all of the student participated for the entire year due to being beginners and reading pre-staff music for several weeks, or transferring into my studio mid-semester, etc. 

Several students earned enough stars to fill one chart, and some students earned enough stars to fill two charts! I kept track of the number of points they earned each week by marking their stars on their charts, multiplying the number of stars by 3 (one point for each piece/example they sight-read), and using a dry erase marker to write their accumulating points on their points sheet that I placed inside a plastic sheet protector and onto a poster. See the photo below for an idea of what it looked like. 

Completed Sight-Reading Challenge Charts


So, what does this all mean? If my 13 eligible students earned 3,661 points this year, they collectively sight-read approximately 81,143 measures of music during the past 9 months! I am so proud of them for all of their hard work. The following photo shows the number of points each student earned. Hannah R. earned 648 points, the highest total for this year's challenge, which equals approximately 14,362 measures of music this year! When I asked her if she was enjoying sight-reading, her response was "I'm addicted to it!" 

Total Sight-Reading Challenge Points for 2012-2013


Did the sight-reading skills of my students skyrocket? Without a doubt! Some of my students improved by at least 2 or 3 levels in their sight-reading this year. The improvements in sight-reading led directly to improvements in efficiency in learning new music, improvements in their internal motivation to be successful learning their new music, and overall improvements in their weekly lessons!


Were any prizes awarded? No, not this time. Did students win anything for their efforts?  This wasn't a competition, and there were no prizes, but students still received the best prize of all: a deeper appreciation and understanding of music, stronger sight-reading skills, better error-detection and self-evaluation skills, and a greater understanding of why sight-reading is so important.

Will I do this again? Absolutely! Will I need to purchase lots more music? You bet I will! Come on, summer music sales :)

If you would like a copy of all the early-elementary/elementary sight-reading sets I created for this challenge, they will be available for purchase soon. You can purchase the pre-staff sight-reading pieces here. 
**Updated version is now called "Sight-Read Like A Rockstar" and can be purchased at the following shop:

I also recently blogged about the ultimate pre-staff sight-reading program for beginners: 

Happy sight-reading!