Monday Mailbag – Large Group Games

I didn’t receive any questions specifically designated as a Monday Mailbag question this week, but I did receive a really great question asking if I could recommend any activities that wouldn’t require a lot of props or materials and could work in a big class setting with 50+ students? That’s a tall order since most of my regular teaching is done in private lessons of groups of less than 30 students. But here are a few ideas I thought might fit the bill:

Rain Storm – Split the class into four groups and just designate the groups by “drawing” an invisible line to separate the sections. The class has to be totally silent. Point to the first group and start rubbing your hands together, creating a small sound. Then point to the next group and do the same. Continue with all four groups. Then go back to the first group, point to them and start snapping your fingers. Follow suit for the other four groups. On the third rotation, clap your hands. The fourth rotation, stomp your feet. Then gradually work your way back down until everyone is rubbing their hands again. This whole thing creates a really cool sound effect and usually captures the imagination and attention of the students.

The Concentration Name Game – Have the students gather in a circle (you could do two circles to be a little more manageable). Have everyone simultaneously do this pattern in rhythm – tap thighs twice, clap twice, snap right hand, snap left hand. Once everyone gets going with the flow designate one student to be the head of the circle. Everyone follows his lead on when to start the pattern, then when he snaps his right hand he says his name, and when he snaps his left hand he says the name of another student. The student whose name he said on the second snap continues by saying his name on the first snap and then another student’s name on the second snap. Play continues until someone fumbles and doesn’t say the name correctly or in rhythm. If you want the game to be competitive, have the person who fumbles move to the end of the circle (the spot to the right of the leader). The goal is to try to get to the head of the circle. As the students improve, the tempo can be increased for a greater level of difficulty.

Bean Bag Grab – Ahead of time use the masking tape to make two long lines across the floor, parallel to each other with as much space as possible in between (10 feet is good). Place a bean bag or other easy-to-grab object in between the two lines. Divide the students into teams of seven, and have each team stand behind one of the lines, with the teams facing each other. Each student becomes the opponent of the student directly across from them. Assign each pair of opponents the same note, interval, chord, scale, etc. Stand at either end of the playing area so that all the players can see you. Hold up a flashcard with the note, interval, chord, scale, etc. As soon as the student identifies it as the one they have been assigned, they should run and grab the bean bag. Whichever team grabs the bag first gets a point. If you have more than two teams, have each set of teams play a round and then have a waiting team step up to the line on each side for round two. Encourage the waiting teams to watch closely and learn their notes, intervals, etc. really well to improve their own performance. The team with the most points at the end wins! (Obviously, this is a high energy game – it’s a ton of fun!)

Name That… – Divide the students into two equal teams. Place a bell on a solid, flat surface between the two teams. Have one contestant from each team stand on either side of the bell with their hands behind their back. Hold up a card for both students to see. Whoever dings the bell first gets to answer. (To prevent students from dinging the bell before they know the answer, as soon as the bell is dinged hide the card so that it is no longer visible to the contestants.) If the student answers correctly their team receives two points. If they answer incorrectly, the other contestant has a chance to answer. If they answer correctly, their team gets one point. Have these two contestants rejoin their team and have the next contestant from each team approach the bell. Continue the game as long as desired. Whichever team has the most points at the end wins!

Team Rhythmic Dictation – Split the students into equal-sized teams. Give them some blank sheets of white paper and instruct them to draw on each sheet of paper the note values that you specify (one per sheet). Play a rhythm pattern for them. Each team must arrange themselves in the proper order to represent the rhythm pattern that you played. The students should hold their sheet of paper in front of their chest and make sure that their rhythm pattern goes from left to right as you would see it. If you play more than one measure, extra students should stand sideways to represent the bar lines. Each team that correctly represents the rhythm pattern receives one point. Play the pattern for them up to three times so that they can double check themselves.

Let’s let this be our open discussion question this week. Anyone else have any game ideas that could work with a big group?

(Also, we didn’t generate much discussion on last week’s question about scales, but check out the excellent post by Laura in response to the question. Teaching Scales: One Comes Before Two.)

Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail me sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!

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