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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Reader Question: Games for the Orchestra Classroom - Halloween Game Idea

I received the following email earlier this week and would like to answer this here on my blog:

Hi Angela,

First, thank you for all of your awesome blog posts!  I've used several of them with great success in my classroom.  You mentioned in one of your posts about Halloween compositions that you usually play Halloween themed games with your students that required more complicated setup than you had time for that year.  Would you mind sharing what you do for those games?  I'm searching for ways to make orchestra more fun and incorporate more games into our curriculum.  


A few years ago when my classes were smaller, I spent a lot more time on games that required a lot of preparation.  Now that my classes are so large, I do much more simple games that allow more students to play at the same time.  I believe that games must be selected carefully based on the size and ability of your class.  Games are an amazing learning tool because they are fun and everyone loves to have fun.  This year, I have incorporated 'Friday Fun Day' (see my post about Friday Fun Day)- where I play a game with my beginners every Friday.  The game is always based on the things we were working on during the week.  For the students, it is just a game.  For me, it is all about learning outcomes - I can instantly see which students need extra help and which students need to be challenged.

For the Halloween game I did with my students when my classes were smaller, I printed pumpkin cards at the following website:

Next, I came up with mini-games and labeled the cut-out pumpkin cards with the names of my mini-games.  (I also printed a sheet of cards that said 'treat' and some rhythm examples)

Here what I did for the games:

Spell it out:  Students race (one student per team) to the whiteboard and draw notes on the staff for any words that I say.  (I had a list of words using only letters from the music alphabet.)  Words like Badge, baggage, bead, cafe.

Noteworthy Dash:  Students race to the whiteboard (one student per team) and must be first to draw whatever notes I ask them to draw.  

Treat:  The student who draws this card gets to pick a treat/candy.

Printed Rhythm:  The student who draws this card must clap the rhythm for me with no mistakes.

Picture This:  One person from each team comes up and shows me their best bow hold, instrument position, vibrato technique, shifting technique (this can be adjusted based on the level you teach).  The person with the best position gets the point.  You could also do a pictionary type challenge with this one.  Have students draw something orchestra related on the board and the teams have to guess.

Show me the RHYTHM:  Students race to the board (one student per team) and must write a rhythm that I clap.  The first one with the correct rhythm gets the point.

Sightreading Showdown:  I bring some old method books and select a few lines for sightreading.  When a student draws this card, they get to select any student from any other team to compete against.  Each must sightread the same line.  The student who can play the longest without making a mistake is the winner.

Scale Jail:  The student who draws this card must play any scale I ask them to play.  If they play it right, they get a point.

Daring Duel:  Students duel against a student from their choice from another team.  You could have them play a passage from concert music to see who is best, or you could let them play bow game challenges.  I give them each a balloon and see who can keep it in the air the longest.  Or I let them play 'sabotage' where they can try to knock down the other person's balloon, but must keep their own balloon in the air at the same time.  The first person whose balloon drops loses.

To play the game, I divided the class into 5 or 6 teams of about 5 people each.  We sat on the edges of the room to leave the center clear to play the game.  One student from each team took turns coming up to choose a card.  They had to complete the mini-game on each card and points were given to the winning teams.  The team with the most points at the end of the class period was the winner.  Some of the mini-games are team games - where each team sends a student up to compete and any team can earn the point.  Other games were individual where the person drawing the card had to earn the point themselves  This game worked great when my class sizes were between 20 and 35.  I wouldn't recommend this game in a larger class because the teams would be too large - students would be sitting too long before getting a turn and they become restless.

I hope this post gets your creative juices flowing and that you have fun with your students!

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