At this time of year I switch to focussing on Christmas Carols. With careful choice of book, many of the students will make great gains in confidence and motivation.
As well as choosing “off-the-shelf” books, I’ve also transposed carols into unlikely keys to introduce new key-signatures in a stress-free, low-technical-demand setting.
So, for some cellists transitioning between Grade 1 and Grade 2, I printed out Jingle Bells, Little Donkey and Away in a Manger in F major and Bflat major. Teaching the carols at the same time as the scales made it possible for them to learn the new fingers, hear when they had got them right, and also have to tunes for the Christmas holidays. When they came back in the New Year they were more than ready to make short work of learning their exam pieces, without having to cope with unfamiliar finger patterns as well.
Pianists will develop note-reading skills; I’ve been using the new Paul Harris “A Piece a Day” series this term, but I’ve put these to one side in favour of Pauline Hall’s “Pianotime Carols” for beginners, or Alan Bullard’s Pianoworks Christmas for post grade 1. The students are able to get to grips with a new carol most weeks, and develop a renewed interest in practising if the happen to have gone off the boil recently!