Black Cat Strut (Improv)

The black cat strut is not my own activity. It comes from 88 Piano Keys. My students enjoyed it so much this year, I wanted to remember it, plus a few notes from my experience.

  • As she recommends, I didn’t show my students anything. It was entirely done by memory and ear.
  • For the youngest students, you can give them just three melody notes: C, D, E.
  • More advanced students can handle all the ones she mentions in the instructions.
  • If the student hasn’t learned dotted quarter note rhythms yet, just explain the left hand pattern as a dotted half note and a quarter note.
  • I don’t have iRealPro, so I didn’t use her recorded drum beat. It’s a great improv even without it.

 

Spider Web (How to Drill Anything)

The specific board I use for this game is created by Hatch Patch Creations. It is intended for a church lesson on honesty for kids, and I did originally use it for exactly that purpose. But I am all about repurposing, so here it is again in a different form.

What You Need:

  • A printable spider board game
    • Basically, it just needs a spider web and some numbers going around it. See the picture below.
  • Die
  • A few plastic spiders
    • Mine were rings in a previous life
  • Two small items to use as game markers
  • Flashcards for whatever you want to drill

Setup:

  • Place your game markers in the middle of the web. The goal is to escape it.

How to Play:

  • Have the student place the plastic spiders on any numbers they choose.
  • The student rolls the die. In order to advance, they need to correctly answer a flashcard. If they get it wrong, they stay where they are.
  • The teacher takes a turn. Repeat.
  • Whenever anyone lands on a number with a plastic spider, that is a wild space which could mean different things, such as:
    • Double or nothing: move forward twice
    • Teacher loses a turn
    • Go back to start
    • Write your own flashcard
      • I was drilling rhythms, so my spiders meant you had to write your own rhythm.
  • Whoever escapes the web first wins.

Variations:

  • To make it easier or harder, just vary your flashcards.
  • To make it shorter, declare whoever is ahead the winner.

 

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Poison Rhythm Game

Poison Rhythm Game

 

The poison rhythm game is commonly done in group settings, but here is an adaptation for a private lesson.

What You Need:

  • Paper
  • Writing utensil
  • Drums or other percussion instruments (optional)

Setup:

  • None

How to Play:

  • Write out one measure of rhythm in 4/4 time and place it where both players can see it. This is the poison rhythm.
  • The teacher plays a measure in 4/4 time (not the poison rhythm). If you’re not using instruments, just clap the rhythm. The student should listen carefully and play or clap it back.
  • Repeat the call and response rhythms as many times as you like.
  • At some point, the teacher should play the poison rhythm. The student should NOT play back the poison rhythm. If they stop and do nothing, they have earned a point. If they are not paying attention and do play it back, the teacher earns a point.
  • Write a new poison rhythm and go again. The game ends whenever you run out of time.

Variations:

  • To make it easier, use only basic rhythms, count out loud, and give the student multiple chances to play back each rhythm.
  • To make it harder, use more complicated rhythms or make each rhythm two measures long.
  • To make it more creative, switch roles so that the student is generating all the rhythms.

 

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.

Setup:

  • 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.

 

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Halloween Practice

I always like being able to make one set of materials and use it in multiple ways. Most of my kids used these Halloween cards to compose a rondo, but one lucky girl also used it to work on her current songs.

What You Need:

  • These Halloween cards, printed and cut (you won’t need the second page)
  • Dice
  • A mini pumpkin or anything else you can use as a playing piece
  • A list of Halloween jokes. I have a little book of jokes, but you could also use these, either printed out or just available on a device.

Setup:

  • Make a list of the pictures on the cards and assign them to things you need to practice. It’s okay to repeat, it’s okay not to use all the cards, and it’s good to include a few things in there that are more exciting. For example, here’s a sample list:
    • moon: current song, section A
    • raven: current song, section B
    • haunted house: current song, hardest phrase
    • jack o’lantern: current song, hardest phrase
    • skeleton: current song, hardest phrase
    • bat: review song
    • trick or treat bag: review song
    • cat: current scale or arpeggio
    • witch: current scale or arpeggio
    • spider: next step in the composition book
    • skeleton:¬†Halloween improv duet
    • mummy: sing a Halloween song
    • ghost: sight read
  • Arrange the cards face down in a circle on the floor and place the pumpkin or playing piece on one of them.
  • Hide the jokes so the student can’t see them all at once.

How to Play:

  • Roll the dice. Advance the pumpkin that many cards, moving clockwise.
  • Flip the card. Spend a couple of minutes practicing whatever goes with that picture.
  • Keep the card just as it is and roll again, continuing the same pattern.
  • If you land on a card which has already been flipped over, you have earned a Halloween joke. Conveniently, the likelihood of getting a joke increases the longer you play.

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