Summer Theory Challenge

Ultimate Music Theory Summer Theory Challenge

Have you ever wondered how to encourage your Students to complete Theory during the Summer?  Creating a Summer Theory Challenge will help!

Summer is the perfect time for Students to complete Theory without the pressure of also having to complete School Work and a zillion after-school activities.

In this blog, I will explore 3 Summer Theory Challenges that have most definitely encouraged my Students to embrace the benefits of completing Theory during the Summer.

I have also included instructions that can be sent to Parents to help them support their child.

Are you ready to be inspired?

Summer Theory Challenge #1 - The Stop Sign

True Story:  Lorraine is a first year beginner piano student.  As with all my beginner students, she is working through the Ultimate Music Theory Beginner A Workbook along side her piano method books.  I have been assigning her one page a week in her Beginner A Workbook.  At a recent lesson, she came into the studio in tears.  She looked at me and said "I am so sorry!  I did 6 pages of theory.  I was having so much fun, I forgot to stop."

Here was this little 7 year old upset because she had forgotten to stop and had completed extra pages in her Theory Workbook!  She was worried that I would be mad at her!

When I told her that she could do extra pages in her Music Theory Beginner A Workbook (and I would NOT be mad!), she was thrilled.  (Yes, this picture was taken at the moment that she discovered that she COULD DO more than 1 page each week in her UMT Workbook!)

In my work with my own Students and with supporting UMT Teachers across the world, I hear the same statement over and over:  The Ultimate Music Theory Workbooks are written so clearly, Students can complete their work with minimal (or NO) Teacher input.

Summer Theory Challenge #1 is The Stop Sign!

Summer Theory Challenge - The Stop Sign

Instruction to Teacher:  To encourage your Students to do Summer Theory Challenge #1 - The Stop Sign, simply look through your Student's Ultimate Music Theory Workbook (ANY level) and place a "Stop Sign" several pages past the last completed page.

I use post-it notes and write on them "Stop Here!  Want to get the Stop Sign moved?  Email, Call or Text to book a Summer Mini Theory Lesson!"

I then offer Summer Mini Theory Lessons.  These are 15 minute lessons.  I find that this is just enough time to mark the completed Theory Pages, review new concepts with the Student and to move the Stop Sign.

Scheduling Summer Mini Theory Lessons also provides me with some pocket money during the Summer Months.  (Win-Win!)

Instruction to Parent:  When completing this Challenge, I send the following Email to my Studio Parents:

Your child has been encouraged to complete Extra Theory during the Summer.  Want to help?  Encourage your child to complete theory pages in their Ultimate Music Theory Workbooks.  For example:  before they have "screen time", one page (or one question) in their Theory Workbook needs to be completed.  When your child reaches the "Stop Sign", please email, call or text your Teacher to arrange a Summer Mini Theory Lesson!  At this 15 minute lesson, we will mark the completed pages and move the Stop Sign!  Thanks for supporting continued learning.

Summer Theory Challenge #2 - The Bonus Bribe

Yes, I will openly and honestly admit this.  I will bribe my Students to complete their Theory but I call them Challenges and the "Bribe" is a "Bonus"!

Instructions to Teacher:  To run The Bonus Bribe Summer Theory Challenge, all you need is a Notebook to write the Page Numbers that you are Challenging your student to complete during the summer (a "Summer Theory Challenge Page List") and a "Bribe" (or "Bonus").

I have used:

  • "Stickers" - I hang personalized "Challenge Sheets" in my Studios.  When Students come back for lessons in the Fall, each page of theory that was completed in the Summer earns one special Sticker on the "Challenge Sheet".
  • "Pony Beads" - these can be purchased at a Craft or Dollar Store.  At the first lesson in the Fall, I mark the completed Theory Pages.  Then I "clip the corner" off of each completed page (which makes finding the next page to mark so very easy).  For each clipped corner, the student earns a pony bead.  They can be strung on a colored Pipe Cleaner (to make a simple bracelet) or you can buy necklaces on Amazon that you can string the beads on to.
  • "Bonus Draw Entries" - to put their name in a draw for a special Music Item.  Every "clipped corner" earns the student one entry into the Summer Theory Challenge Bonus Draw.  My students have done Summer Theory Challenge Bonus Draws to win their very own a So-La and Ti-Do Stuffies Set, a small Student Whiteboard or an Ice Cream Date with the Teacher!
Ultimate Music Theory Summer Theory Challenge - The Bonus Bribe

Instruction to Parent:  When completing this Challenge, I send the following Email to my Studio Parents:

Your child has been encouraged to complete Extra Theory Pages during the Summer in order to earn a Special Bonus at their first lesson in the Fall.  These pages are listed on their "Summer Theory Challenge Page List".  Please support your child's Summer Learning by keeping their Ultimate Music Theory Workbook handy.  If your child is bored, challenge them to complete a question (or even an entire page) in their Workbook.  Celebrate when they "check off" a completed page from their Summer Theory Challenge Page List (the list of theory pages that I have challenged them to complete).  Your enthusiasm and encouragement will make working ahead in their Theory Workbooks a positive experience for your child.

Summer Theory Challenge #3 - The Personalized Concept

Summer is a time for students to practice memorizing a specific theory concept.  Some ideas are:

  • Identify (and play) all the White Keys on the Keyboard.
  • Write the Circle of Fifths (up to 4 sharps/flats OR up to 7 sharps/flats) in less than 2 minutes.
  • Write the order of 7 Sharps and 7 Flats on the Treble, Alto, Tenor and Bass Staves.
  • Memorize all the Terms on a specific page in the Workbook.

Instructions to Teachers:  I like to make this a personalized "So-La" or a "Ti-Do" Challenge.  I will clearly mark (using a post-it flag or a post-it note) a specific page in the Workbook and review the Personalized Concept that So-La or Ti-Do has selected for the student to memorize during the summer.

For example:

  • Prep 1 Rudiments Workbook, Page 102:  I will write "So-La Says to Memorize these Articulation Terms and Marks".
  • Prep 2 Rudiments Workbook, Page 89:  I will write "Ti-Do Tempo Challenge - Ti-Do wants to know how many Tempo Marks can you memorize this summer?".
  • Basic Rudiments Workbook, Page 71:  "Ti-Do is Timing You!  Can you write out the Circle of Fifths in less than 2 minutes?".
Ultimate Music Theory Summer Theory Challenge 3

This Challenge does not require a lot of time and is perfect for those students (and parents) who don't like to make practicing or completing any kind of "written work" a part of their summer schedule.

Instruction to Parent:  When completing this Challenge, I send the following Email to my Studio Parents:

Your child has been encouraged to complete a PERSONALIZED Summer Theory Concept Challenge this summer.  So-La (or Ti-Do) has challenged your child to memorize [insert the specific theory concept].  To support your child, please take 5 minutes once each week during the Summer to help your child read the Challenge Concept in their Workbook.  (This page is clearly marked in their UMT Workbook.)

At the first lesson of the new Teaching Year, So-La and Ti-Do can celebrate how well the Student memorized their Personalized Concept.

I hope that this Blog gives you some ideas on how you too can encourage your Students to complete theory during their "time off".  If you have a Summer Theory Challenge that inspires YOUR students to complete some extra work, please share it in the Comments Section.  I would love to hear what works for you.

Don't forget to also check out the Blog on how to to run a Summer Theory Group.

Summer is also the PERFECT time for Teachers to spend time learning too!  Check out the Ultimate Music Theory Courses for ways that you too can learn during the Summer.


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Shelagh McKibbon-U'Ren


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