I’m also always on the lookout for a good Halloween activity to keep our lessons interesting in October. Here is a roundup of the activities and games I’m using this year.
1. The Skeleton
This is a perennial favorite with me and the students. We do this every year. I printed, cut out, and laminated this almost life-size skeleton. Most of the time, I use it to drill notes. I show the student a note on the staff. If they name it correctly, they get a bone. Some students like to use the little human skeleton picture that comes with the set to arrange their human skeleton on the floor. Some students like to ignore the little picture and place their bones in some weird arrangement to build a monster. The point is, you can use this to drill anything: rhythms, key signatures, notes on the keyboard, whatever you need.
2. The Poison Rhythm
This is a classic rhythm game. Write out a rhythm in one or two measures. This is the poison rhythm. I like to give my students three spider rings to be their three lives in this game. Then I clap rhythms and they clap it back. If I clap the poison rhythm, they should stay silent. If they do clap the poison rhythm, one of their spiders dies. The object of the game is to still have at least one spider life left when we run out of time.
3. Ghost Notes
Print out a large staff on orange paper. Print out little ghosts for notes. Cut them out and laminate everything. Then you can use a whiteboard marker to draw either a bass clef or a treble clef on the staff and start composing, using the ghosts for notes.
4. Improv in A Minor
My early students mostly play in C major and G major, though they don’t necessarily know those terms. It’s easy enough to teach them to move their hands to A position, where both hands have their lowest finger on A. They are then playing in A minor, and they can improv their own spooky song.
5. Make It Scary
Pick a piece that the student has recently passed off. Make it scary by playing it in one of the following three ways, or use a combination.
- Lightly write in the accidentals needed to make it minor instead of major. For most early repertoire, this means that Es become E flats or that Bs become B flats. It’s a good exercise to make the student find all of those notes in the piece.
- Pick a note (without telling me which one) to add an accent, which is the musical equivalent of shouting “Boo!”
- Play it very slowly, in a very low octave.
6. Are You Scared? (also known as Double or Nothing)
For this game I use a Halloween-themed board (see below) that I picked up as a free handout from a library in Germany. It would be pretty much impossible to get another copy, but you could use pretty much any game board or you could make your own Halloween-themed board with the help of free graphics on the Internet. As usual, the object of the game is to get your piece from Start to Finish quickest. On your turn, you roll the dice. If you answer a flashcard correctly, you can move that many spaces forward. As with the Skeleton activity, the flashcards can be anything you need to drill: notes, rhythms, major chords, etc. If you happen to be starting on a square with a number in it, you have the option of double or nothing. You still have to answer the regular question, but if you also answer a second flashcard correctly, you can move forward double the number of spaces. I usually make my second set of flashcards from a different category, like rhythm vs. notes. I also like to put that set of flashcards in a plastic jack-o-lantern. If you are using a different game board, you’ll need to find a different way to determine when double or nothing is an option. Or just make it an option all the time.