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.
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.
If anything falls off the stand, just add it back into the pile at the bottom.
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
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)
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.
This is my spin on a traditional educational game listed on many places on the Internet. I use it for rhythm, but the principal can be used for anything. My version is a little different. It’s for two players only (teacher vs. student). The kids love beating me, and they have yet to point out that they always win. It takes a bit of prep work to create the game in the first place, but absolutely no setup during or right before each lesson.
What You Need:
Popsicle or craft sticks with rhythms (or whatever you’re drilling) written on one end
You can buy different colors or sizes to make different levels of rhythms.
All the rhythms are two measures long. I have mixed time signatures.
A few sticks with “Zap It!” written on one end
(Optional) A few sticks with “Instrument” written on one end, plus a selection of percussion instruments
An opaque container to hold your sticks
How to Play:
The student draws a stick. She identifies the time signature and then counts and claps that rhythm. If she gets it right, she keeps the stick.
In reality, I have the kids do it again until they get it right, so they always keep the stick.
As teacher, I draw a stick. I identify the time signature and then count and clap the rhythm. If I get it right, I keep the stick. If the student catches me getting it wrong, the student gets a chance to do it right. If the student gets it right, she can keep the stick instead of me.
I do this strategically, not only to make sure they are paying attention during my turn, but also to ensure they always win the game.
Alternate turns until someone draws a Zap It! stick. At that point, everyone counts their sticks. Whoever has the most sticks is the winner.
If someone draws an Instrument stick, they draw another stick to get a rhythm and can choose a percussion instrument to use instead of clapping. They keep both sticks at the end of the turn.
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.
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.