Takenoko (Music Twist) (How to Drill Anything)

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.



Turkey Feathers (How to Drill Anything)

There is nothing better than using the same materials you already created for a new purpose. My Thanksgiving turkey from Pluck the Turkey (Note Review) is a multi-purpose turkey for drilling other things as well.

What You Need:

  • A turkey body, plus a lot of feathers
    • I cut mine out of scrapbooking paper so they were already in cute patterns with no extra effort on my part.
    • If you want to be able to reuse it for multiple purposes, laminate everything. Otherwise, don’t bother.
  • Tape or sticky tack


  • Write on the back of the feathers what you want to drill, such as:
    • Phrase 1, Phrase 2, Phrase 3, OR
    • Review Song, Recital Song, Sightreading, OR
    • Rhythms to clap back OR
    • write absolutely nothing and just draw a card from a stack of flashcards when necessary.
  • Hide the feathers around the room or don’t bother and just put them in a heap next to your turkey body.

How to Play:

  • The student finds a feather if they are hidden or just choose one if they’re not.
  • Do whatever is on the flashcard.
  • Tape or sticky tack the feather on the turkey body to make your turkey resplendent.
  • Repeat.


Pumpkin Bowling (How to Drill Anything)

Pumpkin bowling was used with great success during my final lesson before Thanksgiving. We used it to choose variations on “For Health and Strength,” but it could be used for anything.

What You Need:

  • A mini pumpkin
  • Flashcards with whatever you want to drill
    • These could be official flashcards with notes on the staff on them, or they could be scraps of paper that say phrase 1, phrase 2, phrase 3, etc., or practically anything else.
  • Something to use as bowling pins
    • I don’t have actual bowling pins, but I have used stacks of plastic bowls, larger pumpkins, paper towel rolls, anything you have several of and will not break.


  • Place a flashcard under each of your makeshift bowling pins.


How to Play:

  • The student rolls (not throws), the mini pumpkin toward the bowling pins. Whichever one they hit, do the flashcard under it. (If it’s something heavy like a large pumpkin, it won’t actually fall over, but it’s okay just to bump it.)
  • Replace the bowling pin with a new flashcard.
  • Repeat.




Skeleton, Human or Monster? (How to Drill Anything)

This is one of my student’s favorite Halloween activities. We use it every year, which is the only reason I was willing to do all this cutting and laminating. This year I used it to drill rhythms, but it can be used for anything.

What You Need:

  • A giant skeleton, like this printable one here.
    • It will last longer if you laminate the pieces.
  • Flashcards for whatever you want to drill.

How to Play:

  • Ask the first flashcard. If the student gets it right, with or without coaching, they have earned one bone. The bones can be laid out on the floor as they earn them.
  • Some of my students want to create a human skeleton, so they need to go in the right arrangement. (The link above provides a helpful diagram.)
  • Most of my students prefer to get creative with a monster skeleton, in which case they place that bone wherever they feel like it.
  • Repeat.


  • To make it go faster, award two or three or four bones per flashcard.
  • To make it go slower, award one bone for every second or third correct flashcard.
  • If you’re using rhythm cards, you can place two or three in a row for a multi-measure challenge.
  • If you’re using note cards, you can place two or three on the piano for a multi-note sight reading challenge.



Remote Control (How to Drill Anything)

If I found this activity on someone else’s blog, I’d probably roll my eyes and move on. I would never, ever, ever go out and actually buy the equipment to make this work. But maybe you already have a remote controlled car or other such device. Or have a neighbor or friend with kids who’ve outgrown those toys. Or, like me, you could have an absolutely wonderful public library that let’s you check out a LEGO EV3 robot for free for two weeks. If those apply to you, some of your kids will love this activity. If not, just roll your eyes and move on.

What You Need:

  • A remote controlled car, truck, robot, or whatever
  • Painter’s tape
  • Sharpie
  • Flashcards or a list of whatever it is you want to drill
    • Flashcards could have rhythms to clap, notes on the staff to name, alphabetic notes to play on the keyboard, key signatures to identify, etc.
    • If you’re using this to drill sections of a song, the list is optional, depending on how sneaky you are. See below.


  • Use the painter’s tape to create a track on the floor. Put in as many turns and intersections as you like.
  • Use the sharpie to write on numbers at turns, intersections, or really wherever you want. I used numbers one through twelve.
  • Test your device to make sure the batteries are working and you know how to use it. When you’re done, replace your device at the starting point.

How to Play:

  • The student gets five seconds (as counted by me) to drive the device to one of the numbers on the track. They do not have to go in order. Theoretically, they should stay on the track and not take off cross country, but if they do, it’s okay.
  • When the five seconds are up, choose the number they’re closest to. For example, let’s say they got to number four.
    • If you’re using flashcards, choose the fourth card in your stack. (Or the fifth, if they’re on number 5, etc.)
    • If you’re trying to drill sections of a song, choose the fourth measure, line, phrase, trouble spot, or section to work on for several minutes or play three times in a row, depending on what makes sense for the age and ability of your student.
      • If the song only has four phrases, but the car is at number six, just keep counting through the song again, so that 1 and 5 are the same phrase, 2 and 6 are the same phrase, etc.
      • If you want, you can assign some numbers to be brain breaks, such as an improv or play by ear activity. You can also skip over phrases the student already knows really well. This is where sneakiness comes in. You can either write all this out in advance so you’re consulting a list at each point, or you can write out nothing and just pretend to consult a list. Meanwhile, you really manipulate the activity so that they work on what you need them to work on and get a brain break when they need one, regardless of where the robot goes. None of my students figured it out.