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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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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