Everyone loves Christmas music enough that even sight reading can become bearable. This is not a game, but most of my students found it fun anyway.
What You Need:
Books of Christmas music at various levels.
I find that choosing a book two levels below where the student is works best.
That’s not possible if your student is in the first two levels, but it may still be possible to go to the beginning of the book, or have them sight read just one line or measure while you play the rest. If worst comes to worst, learn it by rote instead of sight reading.
What to Do:
Open up the book and just have them start playing!
If they are doing well enough, play a duet part along with them.
Everybody loves Christmas music, but some of the students just aren’t ready for reading them. Here’s a fun way to incorporate a lot of Christmas music into a lesson, regardless of the student’s level. Naturally, you could do this at any time of year with other lead sheets.
Lay the lead sheets out on the floor in a circle, with the bottle in the middle.
I put out a stack for each song, with all key signatures in the stack, but that’s optional.
How to Play:
Have the student spin the bottle. Whichever page it points to is your lead sheet for the round.
Depending on the level, you can do one of the following:
Student plays root note only. Teacher plays the melody.
Teacher may need to point to each measure to keep the student on track.
Student plays root chord only. Teacher plays the melody.
Student plays a basic pattern, such as oom-pa-pa or Alberti bass. Teacher plays the melody.
Student makes up their own accompaniment pattern. Teacher plays the melody.
Student sight reads the melody. Teacher plays an accompaniment.
Student plays the melody with root chords below.
Student plays the melody with an accompaniment pattern below.
When you’ve gone through the song, spin again for another one.
Most of the variation comes in what part you have the student play, but you can also make it harder or easier by controlling the key signature. My beginners played only in C major. My more advanced started in C major, but if they spun the same song twice, the second time I changed the key.
Chips, tokens, marbles, coins, buttons, or whatever small thing you have a lot of and can be used as game tokens
I used the flat glass marbles that are used for filling vases. They look sort of like gems, and a lot of my students enjoyed pretending they were rubies, sapphires, emeralds and diamonds. But anything will work.
Give five marbles to the student and five to yourself. (We kept ours on our own side of the piano keyboard.)
How to Play:
Display the first card in the deck (or select the first sight reading measure or phrase, if you are using a book for sight reading). Make sure it’s easy and short enough that the student should be able to do it perfectly.
The student’s job is to take a close look and then play it perfectly. If he succeeds, the teacher owes him a token. If the teacher catches him in a mistake, he owes her a token.
Display the next card in the deck.
The teacher’s job is to play it with a deliberate mistake. If the student can pinpoint where the mistake occurred, the teacher owes him a token. If after two repetitions, the student cannot find the mistake, he owes the teacher a token.
Repeat until someone runs out of tokens. Or if lesson time is up, count the tokens to see who has the most.
To make it easier, use only the first set of cards in the deck (treble clef notes in C position with seconds as the only intervals). Or you could give them more than one chance to get it right.
To make it harder, use the whole deck, so any interval is possible. Or flip two cards each time to make a two measure phrase. Or use harder sight reading material from a book. Or give the student only one chance to identify the mistake.
To make it longer, rob the bank when someone runs out of tokens instead of ending the game.
Sight reading is an important skill, but practicing it is inherently boring for most students. Anything to make it more interesting is a welcome relief. In Chinese culture, seeing a dragon is a sign of good luck, something that is definitely helpful when you are trying to sightread. So to celebrate Chinese New Year this week, we present the Sight Reading Dragon.
I find that picking music that is two levels behind their current level usually works. For the students in the first level, I just use a different series, go back as far as I can in the book to the easier pieces and, if necessary, break it up into one measure at a time.
Loop one strip of paper, staple it closed and staple, tape, or glue or glue it to the back of the dragon’s head. This is necessary to get the paper chain started.
How to Play:
This is a studio-wide game, it will not be complete until all students have had their lesson for the week.
For every measure or section the students correctly sight read, they earn one strip of paper to add to the paper chain.
The goal is to make our brightly colored dragon as long as possible. I’ll be leaving mine up for a week so that everyone can see how long it grew.
For some students, I made it more competitive. I told them what the highest number of strips earned was and challenged them to beat that number. I didn’t do this with everyone, for the obvious reason that as a competition it’s totally unfair. They didn’t all get the same amount of time, some of them are beginning readers, some of them had longer sight reading selections, etc. But for some kids, the desire to win kept them going.