My daughter was given Takenoko for Christmas and she loves it. It’s a fun game about a panda eating bamboo and a gardener growing it. I quickly co-opted it into the studio, and we have played it every day this week. To make it possible to use in a lesson, I have simplified/changed the rules considerably, but it is a fun game either way. My rules will likely not make sense unless you are looking at the game and have played it the normal way, but I’m preserving them here anyway. I have no relationship with the company that makes Takenoko. We’re just a family who enjoyed using it.
What You Need:
- The board game Takenoko
- Three stacks of flashcards
- For most of my students, I used treble clef notes, bass clef notes, and intervals.
- For some of my students, I used key signatures by name, key signatures by staff, and intervals.
- Naturally, you can use whatever your student needs to review.
- Find the pond tile. Place it out in the center of your space with the panda figure and the gardener figure on it.
- Make a stack of the hexagonal tiles to draw from.
- Lay out your three sets of flashcards and assign a color to each (pink, green, or yellow).
- Separate the stacks of goal cards by color. The student will need the purple panda set. The teacher needs the red gardener set. Using the blue tile set is optional.
- Each player should start with three cards from their respective deck. If you are using the blue tile set, one of the three should be a blue card.
How to Play:
- The student goes first.
- A typical turn has three components:
- Draw a hexagonal tile and play it. It should immediately grow a piece of bamboo that matches it’s color.
- Draw a flashcard from the pile that matches the color of the tile and answer it.
- Move the panda (or the gardener, if it’s the teacher’s turn) in a straight line in any direction. When the panda lands on a tile, she eats one piece of bamboo from that tile. When the gardener lands on a tile, he makes bamboo grow by one piece, not only on the tile he’s on, but also on all adjacent tiles of the same color.
- Once the panda has collected the right bamboo pieces to complete the goal on one of her three cards, she can show that card and gain the points from it. Same deal if the gardener completes any of the bamboo groves on his card.
- If a card is played and points are earned, that player can draw another goal card to replace it, so that three goals are always possible.
- Play until you run out of time, and then count up the points to see who won.
A Few Notes:
- The panda cards are easier to complete than the gardener cards, which is why I am always the gardener and the student is always the gardener.
- If students catch me answering wrongly on a flashcard, they get a free panda move wherever they want to go.
- In this version, we ignore all the little symbols on the tiles. No need to worry about irrigation, fertilizer, no-panda-zones, or any of that. It’s a fun game with it, but it would take the whole lesson time to explain it all. As it is, it’s a little heavier on explanation than I generally like. But it was a big hit, and several of my students really needed the review to be in a fun format, so it was worth it.
Here’s what we did last month:
Week 1: We practiced sight reading with the Christmas Gift activity.
Week 2: We celebrated Hanukkah and practiced rhythms by playing Dreidel with a music twist.
Week 3: We practiced playing to a lead sheet with Jingle Bells.
After that, we were off for Christmas break.
In the final week before Christmas, we were playing around with lead sheets and accompaniment styles. Jingle Bells is a great one to use because the kids all know it, and the right hand never goes out of a standard 5-finger pattern. Songs like that are rare.
When I planned this, I was worried it would be hard and frustrating for some of my kids, so I had planned a lot of Christmas jokes to use as interludes to break the tension. I needn’t have worried. They all enjoyed it, and I didn’t end up using any of the jokes at all.
What You Need:
- For older kids, no setup required.
- For younger kids, you could lay the cards out on the floor and use dice and a Christmas ornament to select a card.
How to Play:
- The student starts by sight reading just the right hand of the melody.
- Beginners could do just the first line, or they could learn it by rote instead of reading.
- Introduce or review the concept of a lead sheet.
- Reinforce the concept by playing Jingle Bells with the Root Note Accompaniment. That card has a carrot on my cards.
- Depending on the student, they could either play both hands or just the left hand.
- Once they’ve got the idea, start drawing cards (or rolling dice) and play Jingle Bells as many times and in as many ways as you have time for.
- The notes on the bottom of each card are there as a reminder only. The student should play by understanding the pattern, not by reading.
- The accompaniment styles vary widely in difficulty. For each card, make a quick evaluation about whether this student should play right hand, left hand, or both. As the teacher, you play whichever hand the student is not using. Many of the styles can be made easier by using both hands to play it.
- At the end, spread out all the cards the student has used and ask their opinion on which style of Jingle Bells they liked best. They liked being able to give their own musical review.
‘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)
- 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.
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.