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Saturday, August 2, 2014

My favorite and most fun bow game/exercise - Pennies!

Bow games are a big part of my daily routine in beginning orchestra and I have students do bow games every day for many months.  That means that I need to keep bow games interesting so that students don't get bored with doing them.

At the start of the year, students are in a new school as 7th graders and they tend to be extra quiet and a little reserved.  I want them to bond in my class and start making friends in orchestra as soon as possible.  This is one bow game that really helps students have fun together and start opening up.  It may be a little roudy for some teachers out there, but I absolutely love it and my students beg to play it over and over.  It's great for making your orchestra class FUN!

First, I give every student a penny and I have them balance it on their bent thumb.  The whole point of this exercise is for students to focus on their thumb as they hold the bow and help them remember that the thumb must stay bent.  I have students do all of the regular bow exercises with the penny on their thumb...stir the mush, circle face, arm wave (you can read about all of those on my previous post about bow games).  Students try to do all of the exercises without dropping the penny and they start getting just a tad competitive to see who can keep the penny on their thumb the longest.

When we get to the elevator bow exercise (holding the bow horizonally and moving it up and down), students put the penny on top of their hand.  This is so important for the students to know...that they must keep fingers bent while hold the bow so that the hand is flat!

Now to my favorite part.  We play a game called Sabotage.  When the weather is good, we go outside and spread out.  Each student balances the penny and they all run about with their bow and penny and try to knock the penny off of other people's thumbs.  The rules are that students may not use their left hand and they must maintain a proper bow hold the entire time.  When the penny falls off, they are out and must stand on the side to watch.  We play until there is one person left and then the students all beg to do it again.  If it's too crazy, you could make another running.  Students really bond during this game and it gets the class lively and fun.  So far, I have never had a bow break or anything.

I have also used Sabotage as a small classroom game.  It works in Minute to Win It as 4 to 6 students compete against each other for one minute.


  1. Great ideas! I will be using this.

  2. That will improve my terrible bow hold.(I don't bend my thumb etc.) Thank you!

  3. I can't wait to use these in my future classroom- thanks so much for sharing all of these fun ideas! -a music education student

  4. Love this game! So smart! Now I just have to get a hold of some pennies, as we don't use pennies any more up here in Canada....

  5. OK wait.....I can't picture them knocking the pennies off each other's thumbs....they can only use their bow hand, I got that. But how do they knock it off? By bumping into each other?

    1. I allow them to walk around the room...and just by walking a waving the arms by each other the pennies fall off.

  6. Wow that's an excellent idea, do you happen to have videos of it? By the way, thanks for all this resources, I'm very happy that I founded you while looking for orchestra curriculum.