Target Practice (How to Drill Anything)

Target Practice (How to Drill Anything)

This activity requires a giant target. This may come with an archery set, but mine is a homemade job made out of an old curtain otherwise destined for the trash, a sharpie marker, and some spray fabric paint, which I didn’t even bother to try to keep in the lines. Regardless of how professional (or not) yours looks, the kids will have a good time with this.

What You Need:

  • Giant Target
  • Beanbag
  • Flashcards for whatever you want to drill


  • Lay the target out on the floor.
  • Place a flashcard on each color of the target.

How to Play:

  • The student tosses the beanbag onto the target. I vary the starting position based on the throwing ability of the kid.
  • Pick up the card for the color the beanbag landed on and have the student answer it. Replace the card and go again.
  • Some kids will like to keep score. If so, give them 1 point for a bull’s eye, 2 points for the next color, etc. The goal is to keep the score as low as possible. If they are motivated by competition, the teacher can play too. In that case, miss some of the answers and offer them a point off their score tally if they catch you making a mistake.

Spider Web (How to Drill Anything)

The specific board I use for this game is created by Hatch Patch Creations. It is intended for a church lesson on honesty for kids, and I did originally use it for exactly that purpose. But I am all about repurposing, so here it is again in a different form.

What You Need:

  • A printable spider board game
    • Basically, it just needs a spider web and some numbers going around it. See the picture below.
  • Die
  • A few plastic spiders
    • Mine were rings in a previous life
  • Two small items to use as game markers
  • Flashcards for whatever you want to drill


  • Place your game markers in the middle of the web. The goal is to escape it.

How to Play:

  • Have the student place the plastic spiders on any numbers they choose.
  • The student rolls the die. In order to advance, they need to correctly answer a flashcard. If they get it wrong, they stay where they are.
  • The teacher takes a turn. Repeat.
  • Whenever anyone lands on a number with a plastic spider, that is a wild space which could mean different things, such as:
    • Double or nothing: move forward twice
    • Teacher loses a turn
    • Go back to start
    • Write your own flashcard
      • I was drilling rhythms, so my spiders meant you had to write your own rhythm.
  • Whoever escapes the web first wins.


  • To make it easier or harder, just vary your flashcards.
  • To make it shorter, declare whoever is ahead the winner.



Primary Chord Drill

This hardly counts as a game in and of itself, but I made it up this week to use in conjunction with Skeleton, Human or Monster? Most of my students were drilling note names, but several are beyond needing that so we drilled this instead. You could use it with anything in my How to Drill Anything series.

What You Need:

  • Notecards that have the keys you want to practice
    • I always start with C major, G major, D major, and F major. If they’re doing well on those, then expand to A major, E major, B-flat major, and E-flat major.
    • You can use generic note name cards, or write it out on index cards. It won’t take more than 30 seconds to create.
  • Blank Die
    • These things cost 29 cents at my local teacher supply store and are invaluable.
    • On the die, use a sharpie marker to write on the six sides: I, IV, IV, V, V, and *


  • None

How to Drill:

  • Student draws a card. That determines the key signature.
  • Student rolls the die. That determines which chord they need to name in that key signature.
    • For example: in the key of C major, the IV is F major, in D major, the V chord is A major.
    • The asterisk can change meaning depending on the student.
      • If the student’s doing well, use it to call out another chord, such as the vi chord or the iii chord.
      •  If the student’s struggling with the concept, use it to mean roll again.

Primary Chord Drill

Paint Chip Board Game (How to Drill Anything)

Paint Chip Board Game


The problem with most music board games is that they are so specific to one concept that at any given time, they aren’t appropriate for most of my students. Here’s a generic one that is practically free, takes about 10 minutes to make, and can be tailored on the fly for any student.

To Create the Board:

  • Paint chips with three obviously different colors. I did yellow, green, and blue.
  • Card stock in a contrasting color
  • Sharpie Marker

Cut out the paint chips so you have stacks of squares or rectangles in each of your three colors. Mine range from pastels to brights, but as long as each stack is identifiably one of your three colors, it’s fine. Glue your squares onto the cardstock in alternating colors. The layout should make a wavy line (see the picture below). With the Sharpie, label the first one as Start and the last one as Finish. To add interest, draw a few arrows from certain squares to shortcut either forward or backward. In a couple of squares, write things like “Teacher loses a turn,” or “Go Again” or “Bonus Question (move forward two more spaces if you get it right).” When you’re done, I suggest laminating the cardstock to make it more durable, but you could also just slip it in a sheet protector.

What You Need to Play:

  • Your game board
  • Two game pieces (you can use coins, erasers, paper clips, whatever)
  • One die
  • Three sets of flashcards, separated by subject
    • For example, treble clef notes, bass clef notes, intervals, key signatures, or rhythms.


  • Decide which set of flashcards corresponds with which color on your board.
  • Place two game pieces on Start.

How to Play:

  • The student rolls the dice and moves forward that many squares. She then draws a flashcard from the stack that corresponds with the color she has landed on and answers the question. (If she gets it wrong, I just give her enough hints so that she eventually gets it right.)
  • I take a turn. The only difference is that if I get it wrong and the student catches me, I have to move my game piece back to where I was before.
    • This encourages the student to pay attention during my turn and also ensures that they always win. If my dice throws happen to be luckier than the students, I just start getting a lot of questions wrong.
  • First person to get to the Finish line wins.


  • The difficulty of this game is entirely controlled by which flashcards you choose. To make it harder, just use progressively harder concepts, even if you don’t have exact flashcards for it. For example:
    • Draw a note flashcard and play the major (or minor or diminished or augmented) chord with that note as the root.
    • Draw a note flashcard and name the note that is a perfect fifth above it (or any other interval).
    • Draw a key signature flashcard and improv a melody in that key.



Cup Tower (How to Drill Anything)

So much of music comes down to drill, and I’ve never yet had a student who didn’t enjoy this method of doing it.


What You Need:

  • A set of plastic cups (any number you want).
    • With a permanent marker, write a challenge on each one. For example, you could say Section 1, Section 2, Section 3, Section 4, Trouble Spot, Improv, Play by Ear, Review Song, Curved Fingers, Name that Note, Rhythm Flashcard, etc. It’s good if the majority of them are drill that need to be done, with just a sprinkling of more fun ones like improv or review song. My set has duplicates of the four section numbers so we can get to those sections more than once.


  • Determine which part of the student’s current piece should be Section 1, which part should be Section 2.

How to Play:

  • The student builds a cup tower. Whichever cup makes the tower fall is the next challenge. The student then has to do whatever is written on the cup, whether it’s play that section of the piece, clap a rhythm, name the notes on a predetermined number of flashcards, play a section with perfectly curved fingers, etc. Depending on the length of your sections, you may want to say they have to play it three times or just once, or that they have to play it until you are satisfied with the quality.
  • Then build another cup tower and accept the next challenge.


While students of all ages enjoy this, the danger is that the older ones with better fine motor skills will spend a long time making a very good cup tower that doesn’t fall, and not get to the actual music. Here are some additional rules to make it harder. I usually start out without any of these rules, until I see how good they are at the cup tower and whether I need to do this.

  • No more than three (or even two) cups can touch the ground.
  • The teacher is allowed to randomly be a hurricane and attempt to blow things down.
  • The student must jump on the ground next to the tower after every third cup to see if an earthquake can dislodge it.