Christmas Gift (How to Drill Anything)

‘Tis the season. I used this for sight reading, but it could be used for pretty much anything.

What you need:

  • Cards for whatever you want to drill
  • A game piece (I used Christmas ornaments)
  • Dice
  • A box or basket filled with a Christmas gift
    • I used leftover Halloween candy because I’m desperate to get rid of it.
    • I typically don’t like giving out food. You could also use party favors, erasers, printable Christmas jokes, whatever.


  • Put your flashcards face down in a circle around the box.

How to Play:

  • Place the game piece on any random flashcard. The student rolls the dice and moves the piece that many flashcards ahead.
  • Remove the flashcard the student lands on. They should play (or answer) that flashcard.
  • Roll again and repeat. Since you are steadily removing flashcards, the circle will get smaller and smaller.
  • The game ends when all the flashcards have been removed. The student can choose one gift out of the box as a reward.





Dreidel (Music Twist)

Yesterday was the first day of Hanukkah. None of my students are Jewish (nor am I), so I thought it was unlikely that any of them had ever played dreidel before (nor had I). My total knowledge of the game comes from My Jewish Learning. We used it to drill rhythms, but as always, it is easily modifiable to drill anything else.

What you need:

  • A dreidel.
    • These are not expensive. Think Oriental Trading Company, Amazon, etc.
  • Cards with whatever you want to drill. I used rhythm cards.
  • Game tokens of any kind.
    • Mine are from the game Reversi, but you could also use pennies, pencil erasers, small chocolates, whatever.
  • Paper and pencil (optional)


  • Distribute tokens evenly between the players. I went with six each, but the actual amount doesn’t matter much. Add some to a center pile as well. I put four in.

How to Play:

  • The first player spins the dreidel. There are four possible outcomes:
    • ש – The player adds a token to the center pile, and count and clap a rhythm on from the stack of flashcards.
    • ח – The player gets half the tokens in the center pile and must invent a rhythm, write it out, and count and clap it.
    • ב – The player gets all the tokens in the center pile and must write out a rhythm that the other player claps.
    • נ – The player does nothing.
  • When the lesson time is over, the person with the most tokens wins.


If you thought through the statistics, you’ll have noticed that the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of having an empty center pile. Plus it’s all random chance, and I always like to make sure my students win, so here are a few tips:

  • Sometimes I make a mistake in my counting and clapping. If the student can catch me and do it right, they get the tokens I was supposed to collect. If I was supposed to add a token to the pile, I have to add double. I used this strategically whenever I was supposed to get a fair number of tokens.
  • When the center pile has been empty for a couple of turns, it gets boring. A couple of times, I just told the student I was going to cheat and add a few more tokens to the center pile. I did not tell them that I only did that when it was their turn. That increases the likelihood that they end up with those tokens, not me.





November 2017 Plans

Here’s what we did last month:

Week 1: We pulled out the drums for Drumming in Eight.

Week 2:  We practiced notes with Pluck the Turkey (Note Review).

Week 3: We learned to play “For Health and Strength” by rote memory. Once they had it down, we used Pumpkin Bowling to play “For Health and Strength” as a duet. Based on which pin they bowled down, my accompaniment was either country-western, block chords, oom-pa-pa, etc. For those students who were sufficiently advanced, I sometimes played the  melody while they played the accompaniment.

Week 4: We chose Christmas songs for the season, which took a lot of the time. Once that was determined, we played the Musicality Activity, using my nutcracker as the game piece. For some of the older students, I just held the signs and they chose one. I wasn’t sure they would go for the game version, and it went fine.



Musicality Activity

Most of my kids pick up on the concept of things like diminuendo and ritardando pretty quickly. Getting them to actually play a diminuendo or a ritardando is something else again. A lot of them just can’t do it, so here’s a very simple activity to review it.

What You Need:

  • A set of cards or signs with various musicality terms. I used the following: adagio, andante, allegro, presto, accelerando, ritardando, forte, piano, crescendo, diminuendo, and fermata.
  • Two blank cards or signs to use as wilds (optional)
  • Some kind of game piece to move along the cards. I’m doing this shortly before Christmas, so I used a nutcracker.
  • Dice


  • Lay out your cards face down in a path of any shape

How to Play:

  • The student should first choose a review song or phrase. They should be totally confident of the notes in the section chosen.
  • Roll the dice and move the game piece along that many spaces.
  • Flip the card and play the review song using that musicality term. If they get a wild card, they can choose whatever musicality term they would like to use.
  • Go again.
  • If you get to the end and there is still time, turn around and make your way back again.

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