Monthly Archives: October 2012

Nine Keys – a Key Signature Board Game

Nine Keys Game

If your students take a standardized theory test like mine do, you know how hard it is for some students to learn key signatures. My fifth grade students need to know nine key signatures for the TMTA theory test, so I created a fun board game that they enjoy.

I find that if I make something colorful and kind of silly, they all want to play. And as they play, they learn, even if I have to help them at first. Like we all do, I teach students how to figure out key signatures by themselves using the circle of 5ths. But  it is a good idea to learn to identify them quickly, because it gives students confidence. As time goes by, they realize the benefits of knowing key signatures quickly, just as knowing multiplication tables quickly gives them confidence in math.

How To Print

Read this section before you print all 4 pages. To download, click the link under the image above. This printable PDF includes 4 pages.The first page is the game board. The next two pages are the calling cards. I made the calling cards to fit on business card templates that are perforated for easy separation so that I don’t have to cut them. If you don’t have business card templates, there are some hash marks for you to draw a few lines to help you cut out the cards. The last page is the optional back to the cards.

Under the Pages to Print instructions in the pop-up box, select “Pages”, and then type 1-3.  In order to print on the back, insert pages 2 and 3 into your printer and type 4  in the Pages selection box. You will need to know which side of the paper your printer prints on, so test that out before you waste paper.


  • Nine Keys, the free printable game board from my website
  • The cards, cut or separated, and (optional) printed on the back
  • Two game tokens, such as old car keys or key charms from a craft store


  • Students should have a basic understand of key signatures in order to play. They might need help with the answers at first, and that is how they will learn.
  • Student and teacher take turns drawing a calling card and moving to the correct key signature or following the directions on the card. The player who lands on the last key wins. My students really love the card that says, “If you know the definition of Key Signature, move up 8 spaces. If you are the teacher, lose a turn.” Every time I draw that card I moan and groan, saying, “Who made the rules to this game, anyway?” and my students love it!


  • To learn to quickly identify the major key signatures of C, G, D, A, E, F, B flat, E flat, and A flat.


  • Elementary to early middle school

Why I like this activity

  • I used business card templates for the cards, so there is nothing to cut out!
  • It is colorful and students like color.
  • Students had fun when they played the game. They love it when I lose and I make sure I lose a lot!

Please let me know if you can use more key signature games or worksheets.


Filed under Games, Texas State Theory Test, Theory

Funny Thanksgiving Food for Printing/iPad, and Some Sad “Skitch” News

Funny Thanksgiving Food for iPad and/or print

Some time ago I made a worksheet called Funny Thanksgiving Food, and recently I drew a version  to use on the iPad or Android, and it is also a printable. This  worksheet is a review of the notes around middle C. Click on the link above for this colorful version that looks good on a mobile device. However, since it is a PDF so it can be printed, laminated, and used with dry erase markers.

I also significantly updated the print-friendly version below, which has keys instead of notes on the staff.  Funny Thanksgiving Food has been a very popular coloring printable over the years, but I think I draw better now. The coloring version is good to use with younger children at a group lesson while waiting for everyone to show up. What child can resist coloring food all the wrong colors! (I also have a version where the pilgrim has to be colored, which might be useful for parents or a group class. Email me and I’ll send it to you.)

Funny Thanksgiving Food

The mention of the iPad brings up the subject of Skitch, my (used-to-be) favorite app to use with worksheets. Imagine my disappointment a few weeks ago when I discovered the company that bought Skitch, Evernote, has totally revamped the app in version Skitch 2.0, so that it is no longer useful with my students!  As a matter of fact, it has created a lot of resentment and angst among long time Skitch users. You can do a search on the web to read about it. If you have the first version of Skitch, I advise you to keep using it and DO NOT update it! Once you update it, you cannot get the old version back.

I am looking for a replacement app for Skitch that will work in my piano lessons, and when I find one that is as easy as the first version of Skitch, I’ll let you know.  So far I have tried many apps, and none are simple and easy enough for my needs.

All I want is an app to import and open PDF’s from the web, with some easy tools to draw lines and circles on  the PDF.  It should have an eraser without erasing the PDF, and/or an un-do button. There should be a way to clear the screen to start over. It needs to be so easy that even *I* can quickly figure out how to use it. Please leave a comment or email me if you know of one! I’ve tried various PDF reader apps that can be marked with annotations, but none are simple enough for what I am looking for.  I’ve also tried various whiteboard apps and drawing apps. I’m still looking!

I wrote Evernote very politely asking if they could put the first version back in the app store for those of us who use it for education, but they never bothered to reply.


Filed under Group lesson ideas, iPad Ideas, Note Identification, Preschool Music Resources, Thanksgiving

Father We Thank Thee and Other Thanksgiving Hymns

Father We Thank Thee For the Night

Have you ever noticed the lack of Thanksgiving music for elementary piano students? Today I am posting an arrangement of one of my favorite hymns for children. I even wrote a teacher duet! I remember as a child singing this in elementary school and in Sunday school, where all the children would get together in a large group and sing before we gathered into our age groups. I think this hymn makes a wonderful Thanksgiving song for your students. Maybe they can sing along while they play! Let me know if you see any mistakes. I usually try to get another teacher to check out my duets for errors, but I was not able to do that for this one.

If you are looking for other Thanksgiving music for beginners, check out my website. All of these are Primer level and written on the staff, unless noted. Some of these use clip art rather than my own art.

All Things Bright and Beautiful

American the Beautiful

All Creatures of Our God and King

Bless Us O Lord, and These Thy Gifts That We Receive  Also, check out the easy duet part for this that can be played by a family member. Click here for a pre-reading version for beginners.

Hurray, Thanksgiving Day – Pre -Reading was written for a beginner who really wanted a Thanksgiving piece. I had many teachers ask me for the same 8 measure song but on-the-staff, so here is the staff version. Hurray, Thanksgiving Day – on the staff

There are also several Thanksgiving seasonal games posted on my website, so check them out if you’re interested.

Do you have a favorite public domain Thanksgiving him you want arranged for Primer level? List it in a comment here and depending on the hymn melody, I’ll work on it for next year.



Filed under Elementary Music, Holiday Music, Thanksgiving