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.
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
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.
To make it easier or harder, just vary your flashcards.
To make it shorter, declare whoever is ahead the winner.
Every St Patrick’s Day, I play the Lucky Penny game with my students. This is not my original idea, and you can find the original brief instructions at Sing a New Song. It is a very simple game to review notes on the staff. I particularly like it because it isn’t just a drill of finding the note name. They also have to connect it through to the correct note on the piano. I always have some students who are great at naming the note, but still have no clue which octave they ought to be playing it in. This game helps.
What You Need:
Flashcards with the notes you want to review
As many pennies as you have flashcards. One (or more) should be marked on one side in some way as the lucky one.
I use Euro pennies. My American students are always delighted by how small they are and the fact that they really are Irish pennies. Of course, if you don’t have a source for Euro pennies, any other small coin works just fine.
My lucky penny has a sticker of a four leaf clover.
How to Play:
Since I am not the originator of the game, I will just direct you to Sing a New Song to get the instructions on how to play.
My modifications are as follows:
I only have one lucky penny, not 2-5. If they have to go through two full octaves to find the penny, I don’t consider that a bad thing. It’s just more practice.
I don’t give out candy, since I try to keep that at an absolute minimum. If they aren’t expecting candy, students are still interested in seeing how lucky they are (i.e., how quickly they find the lucky penny).
To make it easier or shorter, limit the number of notes you ask.
To make it harder, don’t have them remove the penny on the note on the staff. Instead pick an interval and require them to remove the penny a third above or a fourth below the note on the staff. You can then ask them to name whether that interval is major, minor, diminished, etc.
Occasionally, I discover that some of my students who should know their finger numbers backwards and forwards, do not actually know their finger numbers at all. This week, we got a head start on St. Patrick’s Day, learned an Irish song by rote, and reviewed those finger numbers with absolutely everyone.
The song we learned was the traditional Irish tune called “The Rakes of Mallow.” You can listen to a symphonic version by Leroy Anderson here.
The key to teaching a song by rote is to break it up into easily remembered sections. Here’s how I did it:
The first six notes. I played them and had the student tell me what finger numbers I used and then play it back.
The next four notes. I slowed it down so they could call out the finger numbers as we went (4-3-2-1). We pointed out that this is just a scale, which all of them have done. Then they played it back.
The main theme. I played steps 1 and 2 together in time. They played it back.
The variation on the main theme. We have done motifs before, so we talked about how our ears like repetition. The next phrase is the same motif that we have already learned. We just need to slide our hand down one note and play it again. (This is not necessarily the fingering I would use if I were playing it myself, but it is the easiest to remember when you are learning by rote.) After learning this step, we played everything we knew so far. We are now half way through the song.
The third phrase is another variation on the theme. We slide our hands back up to C position, so we think we’re going back to the beginning, but at the end there’s a surprise. Again, we played everything we knew.
After the surprise, we get to have the same scale that we skipped at the end of the last phrase.
Except we keep going past the C and then come back up to an E. Here I fingered it differently, depending on the student. For beginners, they brought up their left hand to play the B. The more advanced students did a 2nd finger cross over. This was the hardest step for everyone.
The very easy grand finale.
For some of my students, this took all the time we had. For others, we had time left over, so we:
Played it as a duet. I accompanied.
Played it with different dynamics.
Played it with different speeds.
Made it minor.
If you’d like to see the entire song together, check out Rakes of Mallow here. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Sight reading is an important skill, but practicing it is inherently boring for most students. Anything to make it more interesting is a welcome relief. In Chinese culture, seeing a dragon is a sign of good luck, something that is definitely helpful when you are trying to sightread. So to celebrate Chinese New Year this week, we present the Sight Reading Dragon.
I find that picking music that is two levels behind their current level usually works. For the students in the first level, I just use a different series, go back as far as I can in the book to the easier pieces and, if necessary, break it up into one measure at a time.
Loop one strip of paper, staple it closed and staple, tape, or glue or glue it to the back of the dragon’s head. This is necessary to get the paper chain started.
How to Play:
This is a studio-wide game, it will not be complete until all students have had their lesson for the week.
For every measure or section the students correctly sight read, they earn one strip of paper to add to the paper chain.
The goal is to make our brightly colored dragon as long as possible. I’ll be leaving mine up for a week so that everyone can see how long it grew.
For some students, I made it more competitive. I told them what the highest number of strips earned was and challenged them to beat that number. I didn’t do this with everyone, for the obvious reason that as a competition it’s totally unfair. They didn’t all get the same amount of time, some of them are beginning readers, some of them had longer sight reading selections, etc. But for some kids, the desire to win kept them going.
Among my students, Valentine’s Day is controversial. Their reaction ranges from love to hate, with most hovering around total indifference. Fortunately, there is a way to make a Valentine’s activity that appeals to all of the above because the poems range from the traditionally sweet, through the silly surprising, down to the frankly insulting. I used this activity with all my students of all levels. The only difference was that the more advanced students could do it faster and with less help.
Show the student all the Valentine poems so they can pick their favorite.
Determine the time signature.
I do this by telling them I’m going to clap and say the first measure (“Roses are”). Once they figure out that it’s in 3/4 time, they can write that before the first word of the poem.
Draw the first bar line.
Since I’ve already told them that the first measure ends after the word “are,” they need a bar line there.
Draw the first three notes above the first three syllables.
Repeat counting and saying the first measure. Some students may need a few hints to realize that each of those syllables gets a quarter note.
Finish the first line.
Count and say the entire first line. I made the final word a dotted half note. Obviously, alternate rhythms are possible, but the main point is not what the rhythm is, but whether the student can identify and write whatever rhythm you do.
Dictate the second line.
I did it as a whole line now that they have the idea of what to do.
Point out that the rhythm between first and second lines are exactly the same. That is normal and expected in this type of poetry. In music, it would be called a rhythmic motif.
Repeat the process for the third and fourth lines. The rhythms here will not be the same.
Have the student say and clap the whole poem in rhythm.
If there is still time, move to the piano and compose a song. The notes can be any note in C major (all the white keys). The rhythm should be the rhythm they wrote down.
To make it easier, you can put in all the bar lines and time signature first, and do only one measure at a time.
To make it harder, don’t use the natural speaking rhythm. Syncopation or other unexpected rhythms usually go over well.
To make it longer, have the student change the rhythm after having written down yours.
To review the rhythms again afterwards, use percussion instruments to play it.