Christmas Gift (How to Drill Anything)

‘Tis the season. I used this for sight reading, but it could be used for pretty much anything.

What you need:

  • Cards for whatever you want to drill
  • A game piece (I used Christmas ornaments)
  • Dice
  • A box or basket filled with a Christmas gift
    • I used leftover Halloween candy because I’m desperate to get rid of it.
    • I typically don’t like giving out food. You could also use party favors, erasers, printable Christmas jokes, whatever.

Setup:

  • Put your flashcards face down in a circle around the box.

How to Play:

  • Place the game piece on any random flashcard. The student rolls the dice and moves the piece that many flashcards ahead.
  • Remove the flashcard the student lands on. They should play (or answer) that flashcard.
  • Roll again and repeat. Since you are steadily removing flashcards, the circle will get smaller and smaller.
  • The game ends when all the flashcards have been removed. The student can choose one gift out of the box as a reward.

 

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Dreidel (Music Twist)

Yesterday was the first day of Hanukkah. None of my students are Jewish (nor am I), so I thought it was unlikely that any of them had ever played dreidel before (nor had I). My total knowledge of the game comes from My Jewish Learning. We used it to drill rhythms, but as always, it is easily modifiable to drill anything else.

What you need:

  • A dreidel.
    • These are not expensive. Think Oriental Trading Company, Amazon, etc.
  • Cards with whatever you want to drill. I used rhythm cards.
  • Game tokens of any kind.
    • Mine are from the game Reversi, but you could also use pennies, pencil erasers, small chocolates, whatever.
  • Paper and pencil (optional)

Setup:

  • Distribute tokens evenly between the players. I went with six each, but the actual amount doesn’t matter much. Add some to a center pile as well. I put four in.

How to Play:

  • The first player spins the dreidel. There are four possible outcomes:
    • ש – The player adds a token to the center pile, and count and clap a rhythm on from the stack of flashcards.
    • ח – The player gets half the tokens in the center pile and must invent a rhythm, write it out, and count and clap it.
    • ב – The player gets all the tokens in the center pile and must write out a rhythm that the other player claps.
    • נ – The player does nothing.
  • When the lesson time is over, the person with the most tokens wins.

 

If you thought through the statistics, you’ll have noticed that the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of having an empty center pile. Plus it’s all random chance, and I always like to make sure my students win, so here are a few tips:

  • Sometimes I make a mistake in my counting and clapping. If the student can catch me and do it right, they get the tokens I was supposed to collect. If I was supposed to add a token to the pile, I have to add double. I used this strategically whenever I was supposed to get a fair number of tokens.
  • When the center pile has been empty for a couple of turns, it gets boring. A couple of times, I just told the student I was going to cheat and add a few more tokens to the center pile. I did not tell them that I only did that when it was their turn. That increases the likelihood that they end up with those tokens, not me.

 

 

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Pluck the Turkey (Note Review)

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.
    • If you want to be able to reuse it for multiple purposes, laminate everything. Otherwise, don’t bother.
  • Flashcards with the notes of the staff.
  • Some kind of timer (only needed for version 2)

Setup:

  • Write on the back of the feathers. (Use a whiteboard marker if you laminated.)
    • About three should say “Teacher Loses a Turn”
    • About three should say “Freebie”
    • Half of the rest should say “N” for name the note.
    • All of the rest should say “P” for play the note.
  • Lay out your turkey on the floor.

 

How to Play (Version 1, the competitive way):

  • The first player plucks a feather from the turkey and draws a note flashcard.
    • If the feather says “N,” the player should name the note on the flashcard.
    • If it says “P,” the player should play the note on the piano.
    • If it says “Freebie,” they get the feather for free.
  • Take turns until the turkey is completely plucked. Count the feathers to see who has the most.
    • The teacher loses a turn cards guarantee that the student will always have more. None of my kids picked up on this.

How to Play (Version 2, the timed way):

  • With input from the student, determine how long the student will need to completely pluck the turkey. (The amount of time varied from 1 to 5 minutes, depending on the level of the student and the number of feathers on the turkey.)
  • When the timer starts, the student plucks one feather at a time and plays or names the note. In this version, the teacher loses a turn feathers are just like a freebie feather.
    • (Occasionally, I surreptitiously stop the timer while they aren’t looking to make sure they finish in time.)

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Slash the Note Race

Here’s a game to practice note reading. It’s based loosely on any number of digital games where you have to slash, shoot, or twist a series of items before the time runs out.

What You Need:

  • At least two pages with notes on it. You can use copies of actual music, or you could use any number of note drills like this one from Making Music Fun or this one from Susan Paradis.
  • Sheet protectors
  • A set of cards with A through G on it, shuffled
  • Whiteboard markers
  • Timer

Setup:

  • Put your pages of notes in the sheet protectors.

How to Play:

  • The student draws a card to determine what note to look for. If necessary, go over where those notes are on the staff, so they have it in mind. You can do this just by talking it through, or you can show them a flashcard with the note on it, depending on the age and skill level of the student.
  • Set the timer. I generally start with 45 seconds for the student.
  • When the timer starts, hand the student one of the sheet protectors with music in it. The student has 45 seconds to use a marker and slash through each instance of the note on their sheet.
  • As the teacher, I have to wait until there are only ten seconds left before I can begin slashing the notes on my sheet. (Having only ten seconds means I generally can’t finish the sheet, which brings my score down below the student’s score.)
  • When time is up, swap sheets for scoring. Both teacher and student get two points for each correct slash, but they lose one point for each note they slashed incorrectly or should have slashed and didn’t. There is also a four point bonus for having found everything on the page.
  • If time permits, play another round with a different note. Vary the amount of time according to the student’s ability.

Variants:

  • To make it easier, use music that only has treble or bass clef on it and stays within one position. For example, music where the only C will be Middle C.
  • To make it harder, use more complicated music with lots of notes, including notes that are in harmonic intervals or notes where a key signature needs to be taken into account.
  • To make it harder or easier, give either the student or yourself a different amount of time to complete the task.

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Pictionary (Music Twist)

Here’s a music game based loosely on Pictionary. I teach private lessons, so we never have enough people for the actual game of Pictionary. This is a non-competitive version for two people.

What you need:

  • At least one set of cards with the letter names on them A through F.
  • Optional: a set of cards with other musical concepts on them. I wrote these out by hand in a few minutes, but some examples would be: quarter note, whole note, soft, loud, crescendo, repeat sign, bar line, etc. It is important that you actual write these out; don’t use the symbol.
  • A bag or bowl or something to draw the cards out of.
  • Whiteboard (or paper) with a large staff on it. Click here for a paper version.
  • Whiteboard markers (or other writing utensil)

Setup:

  • Put the cards in the bag or bowl.
  • Determine how many points you are going for.

How to Play:

  • The first player draws a card out of the bag and does not show it to the other player. If it’s a note name, she draws it, including the clef. If it’s a concept, she draws the symbol for it, such as “p” for soft, “f” for loud, etc.
  • The second player guesses what was on the card. If he gets it right, a point has been earned. You can keep track of this with tally marks if you’re trying to be quick and simple. I did it with smiley faces, and most of my students enjoyed drawing those. You’re working together as a team, so there is only one set of points to keep track of.
  • On the next turn, the second player draws and the first player guesses.
  • The game ends when the points goal has been achieved.

Variants:

  • For pre-readers, use a printout of a keyboard, instead of a staff.
  • For more advanced readers, specify an interval, such as a third. Draw the note a third above the note on the card, instead of the actual note on the card. The second player still guesses the note on the card, not the one drawn on the staff.
  • To make the game move along if you’re running out of time, make the last one a double or nothing challenge, or a triple or nothing challenge.
  • If the player draws a card and doesn’t know what it means, either set it aside and draw again, or show it to the teacher and have a discussion about it.

 

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