In the final week before Christmas, we were playing around with lead sheets and accompaniment styles. Jingle Bells is a great one to use because the kids all know it, and the right hand never goes out of a standard 5-finger pattern. Songs like that are rare.
When I planned this, I was worried it would be hard and frustrating for some of my kids, so I had planned a lot of Christmas jokes to use as interludes to break the tension. I needn’t have worried. They all enjoyed it, and I didn’t end up using any of the jokes at all.
What You Need:
- For older kids, no setup required.
- For younger kids, you could lay the cards out on the floor and use dice and a Christmas ornament to select a card.
How to Play:
- The student starts by sight reading just the right hand of the melody.
- Beginners could do just the first line, or they could learn it by rote instead of reading.
- Introduce or review the concept of a lead sheet.
- Reinforce the concept by playing Jingle Bells with the Root Note Accompaniment. That card has a carrot on my cards.
- Depending on the student, they could either play both hands or just the left hand.
- Once they’ve got the idea, start drawing cards (or rolling dice) and play Jingle Bells as many times and in as many ways as you have time for.
- The notes on the bottom of each card are there as a reminder only. The student should play by understanding the pattern, not by reading.
- The accompaniment styles vary widely in difficulty. For each card, make a quick evaluation about whether this student should play right hand, left hand, or both. As the teacher, you play whichever hand the student is not using. Many of the styles can be made easier by using both hands to play it.
- At the end, spread out all the cards the student has used and ask their opinion on which style of Jingle Bells they liked best. They liked being able to give their own musical review.
‘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)
- 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.
- 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.
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)
- 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.
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.
Certain of my students are really struggling with developing an ear, so a simple song that can lead to success without a lot of tears along the way is a good thing.
“For Health and Strength” is a traditional song, which is appropriate for Thanksgiving, fairly well known, and easy to learn, so it ticked all the boxes for ear training this month, and every one of my students picked it up pretty quickly, following this method:
- Place the hands in middle C position.
- Starting in the right hand, play four notes, three of which are the same:
- Then play the same pattern, but start on E:
- Play the same pattern again, but start on C:
- Start at the top and play the whole sequence:
- Our song doesn’t sound finished until we add a long home note at the end:
- G G G F E E E D C C C B C
- The last thing we add is the pickup note at the beginning. It’s a low G. So our final sequence is:
- G (low) G G G F E E E D C C C B C
Once they knew the basic song, we did a number of things depending on interest and ability level:
- Play it in a round.
- Play it with duet accompaniment in various styles.
- Create a variation in the melody by shaking up the rhythm or articulation or dynamics or making it minor.
Alternatively, you could also use this fakebook version to practice a different skill set with the same song.