# Compose Your Own Rhythm Duets

I’ve got some kids who just aren’t feeling the rhythm. This is what I came up with for them.

What You Need:

• A die
• A blank sheet for rhythm duets.
• I printed it only once and put it in sheet protectors.
• Pencil (or whiteboard marker if you’re using the sheet protectors)
• Alternatively, you can skip the composing your own rhythm idea and just use flashcards with rhythms on them (each one needs one measure).
• Special 6 Cards

Setup:

• Shuffle the Special 6 cards
• Write out what note values you want to go with each number on the die. For example, 1 = quarter note, 2 = half note, etc. Depending on the ability level of the student, some might be two eighth notes or a dotted quarter note. Reserve 5 for wild and 6 for the Special 6 card.

How to Play:

• Student rolls the die. They need to create a measure in 4/4 time that includes at least one of whatever note value they rolled. Write their rhythm in one of the measures on their line (it does not have to be the first measure).
• For most students, I had them count and clap the measure first and then write it because I want them to feel the beat more than I want them to be able to add up to four beats. But if they struggle with that, you could do it the other way around.
• Most students also wrote their own rhythm down. I only did it for the youngest ones.
• If you roll a 5 (wild), there are no restrictions. Any note values are fine.
• If you roll a 6 on the first turn, just roll again. If you roll a 6 on subsequent turns, draw a special 6 card, follow the instructions, and roll again.
• Teacher takes a turn and creates a measure on her own line.
• Once you both have a measure, count and clap your lines as a duet.
• If a measure has nothing in it yet, treat it as a whole rest.
• For every measure done correctly, award one point. (Don’t count the rest measures.)
• Repeat the process, except count and clap the duet and award points after each person has a turn. This ensures the student always has a chance to remain a point ahead. Continue until you fill all the measures or you run out of lesson time.

# Suspend (How to Drill Anything)

This balancing game is one of the kids’ favorites. I like it too, since it’s infinitely customizable to each student. It does require owning a specific game, but you can do a similar thing with blocks or plastic cups, if that’s easier to get.

What You Need:

• Suspend (a Melissa and Doug Family Game)
• Flashcards of anything (optional)

Setup:

• Set up the basic stand for the game.
• The game comes with a die that has six colors on it. Assign a different type of flashcard or challenge for each color. For example, note names, rhythms, chords, key signatures, improv duets, play by ear challenges, sight reading, review songs, hard spots in their current song, etc. You can even leave one color to be a freebie.

How to Play:

• Ignore the rule book entirely.
• The student rolls the die and completes the challenge for that color. Then she can place a metal stick of that color on the stand.
• Repeat.
• If anything falls off the stand, just add it back into the pile at the bottom.

# July 2018 Plans

I’m a bit behind schedule, but here’s what we did in July. There were only three weeks of lessons because of vacation.

Week 1: We played the Slap Game, which is one of my favorite ways to review note names because it is quick, easy, requires no prep, and kids of all ages love it.

Week 2: We practiced ear training with Sharks and Dolphins to hear the difference between a half step and a whole step.

Week 3: We practiced notes again with the Flower Game.

# The Flower Game (Note Review)

I made this game up years ago when I had a small studio and all the students were girls. If I were doing it again, I’d probably go with a more gender-neutral theme, but the idea works well.

What You Need:

• A game board (see the picture below). I made mine out of tile samples, so I don’t have a downloadable, but you could easily print a blank board game like these and create this in a couple of minutes. The main features are:
• Each tile labeled with one of the note names (A through G in order)
• An occasional tile that has a special color (in my picture, they’re pink)
• Game pieces
• Note flash cards
• Special flash cards which are not note names. You could use rhythms, dynamics, symbols, whatever.

Setup:

• Place two game pieces on Start.
• Shuffle both decks of cards.

How to Play:

• The first player draws a note flash card. After naming the note, he can move his game piece up to that letter on the game board.
• If the game piece lands on a tile that has a special color, he can draw from the pile of special flash cards. If he can correctly identify or explain whatever is on that card, he can move up two extra tiles.
• The second player takes the same turn. The first person to reach the end wins.
• As teacher, I play under several disadvantages. I always go second. I sometimes make a “mistake” in naming my note. If the student catches me, I don’t get to move up. If I land on a special color, the student is still the one who gets the special flash card and the two extra spaces. Also, my special flash cards include a few cards that say “Teacher loses a turn.”

Variations:

• To make it easier, identify notes on the keyboard instead of using flashcards with staff notes, or limit the flashcards to those notes the student knows how to read.
• To make it harder, require intervals. For example, the student should move to the tile that is a third above whichever flashcard he draws.

# Sharks and Dolphins (Ear Training)

Here’s a fun, no prep way to work on ear training.

What You Need:

• Nothing

Setup:

• Nothing

How to Play:

• First, we talk about the movie Jaws. None of my students has ever seen it, but some of them have heard of it. Many have heard the main theme, which is only two notes a half step apart. The two notes repeat, first slowly and then gradually gaining speed as the shark approaches. It is said that when John Williams originally discussed it with Steven Spielberg, Spielberg laughed because he thought it was a joke.
• After showing the students how easy it is to play the theme, we talk about how different it would be if Williams had used a whole step instead of a half step. I call this the theme for an approaching dolphin. It’s not nearly so threatening.
• Once the students understand the difference, it’s time to play. The student turns away or closes their eyes while I play either the shark approach (with a half step) or the dolphin approach (the same thing with a whole step). The students’ task is to call out either “Dolphin” or “Shark” for each time I play the theme in different registers.
• Many students have no trouble with this. If they are having trouble we talk a little more about which version has a higher note. That sometimes helps. Even if it doesn’t, they have a 50/50 chance of getting it right, so even the kids who are not getting it, feel like they are doing all right, which is important.