Catch My Mistake Sight Reading Game

Catch My Mistake Sight Reading Game

Some of my students were dismayed to learn that sight reading never ends. I still practice it regularly. Here’s one easy way to make it more fun for some students.

What You Need:

  • Sight reading measure cards OR plenty of sight reading material at various levels
  • 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.

Setup:

  • 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.

Variations:

  • 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.

Giant Staff—Twister (Music Twist)

For this activity, you need a giant staff. I made mine by using a Sharpie marker to draw five evenly spaced lines on a piece of heavy white fabric. The fabric was leftover from a friend’s IKEA curtains adventure, so the whole thing was free. Alternatively, you could check out the curtains/tablecloth section in Goodwill. No need to spend a lot of money on a nice, new piece of fabric.

What You Need:

  • A giant staff
  • A treble or bass clef
    • It doesn’t have to match the size of the staff. Mine doesn’t.
  • Cards with the musical alphabet on them, such as these
  • Hand and foot cards

Setup:

  • Lay out your giant staff and place the clef.

How to Play:

  • The teacher draws a hand/foot card and a letter card and calls them out. The student has to place that body part on that note.
  • If they are still more or less upright when the time runs out or the cards run out, they win.
  • If they fall down, just start from scratch.
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Giant Staff—Twister

Giant Staff—Hopscotch

For this activity, you need a giant staff. I made mine by using a Sharpie marker to draw five evenly spaced lines on a piece of heavy white fabric. The fabric was leftover from a friend’s IKEA curtains adventure, so the whole thing was free. Alternatively, you could check out the curtains/tablecloth section in Goodwill. No need to spend a lot of money on a nice, new piece of fabric.

What You Need:

  • A giant staff
  • A treble or bass clef
    • It doesn’t matter if your clef doesn’t match your staff in size. Mind doesn’t.
  • Some kind of marker, such as a bean bag, bottle cap, whatever

Setup:

  • Lay out your giant staff

How to Play:

  • Stand beneath the staff and toss your marker onto the staff.
  • If the marker lands on a space, you’ll be hopping spaces. On one foot, hop to the first space and name the note you’re on. Then hop to the next space and name it. Skip the note with your marker. When you reach the top, turn around (still on one foot) and hop back.
  • If the marker lands on a line, do the same process with the lines.

Variations:

  • To make it easier, don’t do all the hopping. Just jump to the note your marker is on and name it.
  • To make it harder, change the interval. Jump up in fourths or fifths. You may or may not want to even use the marker in this case.

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Giant Staff—Bean Bag Toss

For this activity, you need a giant staff. I made mine by using a Sharpie marker to draw five evenly spaced lines on a piece of heavy white fabric. The fabric was leftover from a friend’s IKEA curtains adventure, so the whole thing was free. Alternatively, you could check out the curtains/tablecloth section in Goodwill. No need to spend a lot of money on a nice, new piece of fabric.

What You Need:

  • A giant staff
  • A treble or a bass clef
    • It doesn’t have to match the size of the staff. Mine doesn’t.
  • Bean bag

Setup:

  • Lay out the staff on the floor and place your clef.

How to Play:

  • Stand together beneath your giant staff.
  • Mutually decide on your teacher handicap. For my beginners, I give a five second handicap. More advanced students get only one or two seconds.
  • The first player tosses the bean bag onto the staff. The student should call out the name of the note it lands on. The teacher silently counts out the handicap seconds and then calls out the name of the note it lands on.
    • Note: Because the spaces are so much wider than the lines, I tell them that if even a tiny corner is touching the line, they should call the line note, not the space note.
  • Whoever called the correct note first gets a point.
  • Take turns tossing until someone has 10 points. Adjust the handicap as needed to make sure the student wins.

Variations:

  • To make it easier, limit the number of notes you have to call to the ones the student has learned. If the bean bag lands on a note outside that range, have them say “Haven’t learned it!”
  • To make it harder, shorten the teacher handicap.
  • To make it even harder, use the game to practice intervals. Instead of naming the note it lands on, they should name the note a third above the note it lands on (or a fourth, fifth, whatever).
  • If the student is consistently throwing the bean bag way beyond the staff or aiming so that it always lands in the same place, take over all the throwing duties yourself. They shape up quickly under that threat.
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Giant Staff—Bean Bag Toss

Winter Intervals

I have yet to have a student who can remember the definition of an interval (the distance between two notes). They sputter a bit, and I sigh and say, “Okay, play me a fourth.” That they can do.

Understanding intervals is not just great music theory, it also is enormously helpful in reading music. Your brain doesn’t have to process all the note names if it knows the relationships between the notes.

For this activity, I am indebted to Teach Piano Today for a great little free printable called Wintervals. It’s a lovely idea for private lessons in January, and their instructions are fun. I played it differently, in several different ways, as you can see below.

What you need:

  • The sheet Wintervals, printed from Teach Piano Today
  • One game piece to represent a snowman
    • I drew one up on cardstock in about 30 seconds. Teach Piano Today recommends a mini-marshmallow. Anything would work.
  • One die
    • I used a ten-sided one, but you could use a regular one.
  • Staff paper/pencil or giant staff/manipulatives (optional)

Setup:

  • Place the game piece above the first square (“A”).

How to Play on the Keyboard:

  • Roll the dice. That number specifies what interval you need to play. The bottom note should be the letter on the square your game piece is on (A for the first turn). For example, if the die says 3, play A and C because that makes a third.
    • My 10-sided die included a 0. If they rolled that it meant teacher gets to pick the interval.
  • If the student plays the interval wrong, the game piece moves up one space. If correct, the student can choose between moving up one or two spaces. That choice is pretty important because if the game piece lands on a hot spot, she melts and goes back to the beginning.
  • Repeat until the game piece makes it to the finish line.
  • Talking points along the way, depending on the level of the student:
    • Which intervals sound pretty?
    • Which intervals sound harsh?
    • Which intervals are so important they have a special name? (1=unison; 8=octave)
    • Which intervals sound harsh but could be resolved into something pretty? (7th to 8th, 2nd to 3rd, etc.)
    • How many half steps are contained within the interval?
    • Is the interval major or minor?

How to Play on the Staff:

  • Follow the same instructions as above, but instead of playing the notes, draw them on staff paper or place manipulatives on a giant staff.
  • Talking points along the way, depending on the level of the student:
    • Odd numbered intervals always go from line to line or space to space.
    • Even numbered intervals have a line and a space.
    • Knowing intervals allows you to correctly place notes on ledger lines, even if you don’t know what the name of the note is.

How to Play Backwards on Either Keyboard or Staff:

  • Alternatively, you could also skip the number die entirely. Instead, have the student draw letters A-G out of a bag. Then they play or write the start note from the Wintervals sheet, play or write the note from the bag, and name the interval the two notes make.

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