I don’t generally hand out candy at lessons. But for the occasional holiday I will make an exception. This year it was Valentine’s Day, since the kids around here no longer get any candy at school. But there is no reason why this has to be a Valentine’s Day game.
What You Need:
- Flashcards for whatever you want to drill
- I did it with cards with the note names on them. Depending on the student’s level, they either had to find the note on the keyboard or on the staff or play a major chord based on that note or play a major scale based on that note.
- A handful of extra flashcards that say “Be careful! Answer the next one right to earn a treat!”
- It is important that these cards feel the same as the original flashcards: same size, same paper weight, etc.
- If you are using pre-made, laminated flashcards, you could even use a whiteboard marker to write it on a few of the cards.
- An opaque bag or box to hold your flashcards.
- A bowl of small treats.
- Shuffle your flashcards (all of them) and place them in the bag or bowl.
How to Play:
- The student draws a card.
- If it’s a regular card, they answer the question. If it’s a treat card, keep it in hand, but draw another card and answer that one. If they get it wrong, toss the treat card back in the bag. If they get it right, set the treat card to the side.
- When all the cards in the box are gone (or you run out of time), count up the number of treat cards you have on the side. Choose that many small treats out of the bowl.
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.
What You Need:
How to Play:
- 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.
I’m always on the lookout for ways to make lessons more interesting. Here’s what worked this week.
I cut out lots of hearts out of different colors of paper. On one page, I actually had a heart template, but I quickly discovered that it’s a whole lot easier just to make a random fold in your paper and cut hearts in random sizes.
On the back of each heart I wrote things like:
- Sight Read
- Student’s Choice of Past Song
- Current Song – Right hand only
- Current Song – Left hand only
- Rhythm Challenge (this means they pick a random rhythm out of my rhythm cards and clap it back)
- Note Challenge (this means we open a music book at random, I randomly place my finger on a note and they tell me what it is)
I also wrote some that were specific to each student, like a measure number or a phrase that was causing difficulty.
During the lesson, they picked hearts from the pile, do the challenge and tape it on to our Giant Studio Valentine, which formerly was just blank piece of poster board.. The picture above was early on in the week, but we ended up with it covered with hearts, and the kids enjoyed approaching the practicing in a new way.
**This post originally appeared on my other website here.