July 2017 Plans

July is a wrap. Here’s what I did this month.

Week 1: We played Connect Four to practice note reading.

  • I gave most of them a choice between regular Connect Four, Gravity Connect Four, and the Reversi twist. Almost all of them chose regular Connect Four. All three versions are explained here.

Week 2: We played Phase Six to practice building and clapping rhythms.

  • I am continually amazed by how some kids pick this up immediately and others really struggle.

Week 3: We improvised melodies based on different emotions by making music to go along with a picture book.

  • This one was a hit with everyone. Even my most successful ideas don’t always meet with such universal enthusiasm.

Week 4: We practiced intervals by playing the Colorful Intervals Game.

  • Most of the kids loved this, especially the young ones and the girls. The older boys didn’t mind, though they weren’t as thrilled as the others.


Colorful Intervals

This week I played a game to practice the concept of intervals:

What you need:

  • A set of cards with intervals
  • Two keyboard sheets* printed out and laminated or put in a sheet protector
  • Whiteboard markers, preferably in a variety of colors


  • Shuffle the cards.
  • Each player should label Middle C with a whiteboard marker.

How to Play:

  • The first player draws a card and names the interval. Once you have named it, color in the entire interval (meaning the top note, the bottom note, and all notes in between) on your keyboard. This ends the turn.
  • The second player follows the same process.
  • If you have already colored in some or all of the notes contained in the interval on the card, you can color in an equivalent interval anywhere else on the keyboard. For example, if you draw a fourth from middle C to F, but you’ve already colored those notes, you can draw a fourth from G to B above it.
  • If your keyboard is so full you cannot find an equivalent interval, color in the largest interval you can find and name it.
  • The first person to completely fill their keyboard wins.


*My keyboard sheets are from Kristin’s site at http://www.myfunpianostudio.com/. I highly recommend her Piano Magic improv course.



The Soundtrack (Improv Activity)

In this week’s lessons, we are working on improv. I start out with asking the student to play something that sounds happy and bouncy. Then they play something sad and gloomy. If necessary, we talk about what these things mean in a musical sense. High or low? Staccato or legato? Major or minor? Forte or piano? Allegro or Adagio? A lot of my kids don’t really need that explanation. They get it naturally.

At that point, I bring out a short picture book. Theoretically, any book would work, but my absolute favorite is “My Many-Colored Days” by Dr. Seuss. It’s short, it’s got interesting artwork (not by Dr. Seuss), and it covers pretty much every emotion possible, which makes it easier to decide how to vary the music. I read the book while the student improvs the soundtrack. If I think they can improv it better, I make a suggestion based on the emotion we’re going for. This helps with those students who are liable to play pretty much the same thing every time.

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Phase Six (Music Twist)

Here’s a rhythm game based on the idea of Phase Ten.

What you need:

  • A set of cards with quarter notes, half notes, dotted half notes, etc.


  • Remove any cards the student hasn’t learned yet, such as dotted quarter notes or eighth notes.
  • Deal out five or six cards to each player. (Five will be harder; six will be easier. Neither are particularly hard since the point is to create and practice workable rhythms.)
  • Place the rest of the cards in a stack and flip one card over.
  • Make sure you know what the phases are. You can print these instructions out, but I just hold this list in my head. Not printing it out means you are free to make it harder or easier depending on how the student is doing.
    • Two measures in 4/4 time
    • Two measures in 3/4 time
    • Three measures in 4/4 time
    • Three measures in 3/4 time
    • Four measures in 2/4 time
    • One measure in 3/4 time followed by one measure in 4/4 time

How to play:

  • The first player attempts to rearrange the six cards into the first phase (two measures in 4/4 time).
  • Most of the time, it will be possible to complete the phase. The player counts and claps it. If the player can’t create the phase, she can pick up the flipped over card, or she can take the top card from the stack. She also discards one of the cards she doesn’t want. It becomes the new flipped over card. Her turn is now over.
  • The second player attempts to rearrange his cards into the first phase, following the same rules.
  • Once one player has successfully counted and clapped a rhythm, the other player has one turn to also complete the phase. Whether she does or not, the round ends. All cards are gathered up. New cards are dealt out.
  • Anyone who has successfully counted and clapped a rhythm in that phase can move on to the next phase. Anyone who has not yet completed the phase, must try that phase again on the next round. The person to complete the sixth phase first is the winner.


  • To make it easier, change the phases. For example, you can require only one measure of 4/4 in the first round.
  • To make it harder, remove the Wild Cards or add an additional rule. For example, only one measure can contain a rest or all rhythms must include an eighth note.
  • To make it shorter, say that whoever is further ahead when the lesson ends is the winner, even if not all phases are complete.
  • To make it longer, imagine new phases. You may need to deal out more cards if you go for more measures.
  • To make it more likely the student will win, deal fewer cards to the teacher on each round. Or, tell the student you might make a mistake in your counting and clapping. If she catches you and can point to the place you clapped wrong, you have to repeat that phase on the next round.



Connect Four (Music Twist)

Last week I played Connect 4 with my students. Here’s how the basic game works:

What you need:

  • Music note flashcards
  • Anything to use as markers (coins, pieces from other board games, erasers, etc.)


  • Lay out your note flashcards into at least four columns and four rows. More is better, at least for more advanced students.
  • Divide the markers by color or shape between you and the student.

How to play:

  • When it is your turn, place a marker on one of the flashcards and say the name of the note.
  • The first person to get four in a row wins.


  • For pre-readers, use cards with only the letter. To place a marker on that square, they have to play that note on the keyboard.
  • For readers who have only learned the C position notes, lay out all the flashcards. If they want to claim a space with a note they haven’t learned, they should say only whether it’s higher or lower than the notes they do know.
  • For more advanced readers, use cards with ledger lines or intervals.
  • For an extra twist, make it Gravity Connect Four, where all pieces automatically fall down to the lowest available flashcard in their column.
  • For a bigger extra twist, make it Reversi, where if you flank an opponent’s pieces, they are replaced with your pieces. In this version, the goal is not to get four in a row, but to complete the grid and then count up who has claimed the most flashcards.

Connect Four, loridavisstudio