Category Archives: Group lesson ideas

Composer Memory Game

Composer Memory Game

Composer Memory Game

Would you like your students to learn a little bit about famous composers, but you don’t have a lot of lesson time? I’ve made a set of composers you can cut out and glue on the inside of a milk caps. I used card stock and Elmer’s ‘Extreme School Glue Stick’.

If you don’t have a set of caps available, ask your piano parents to collect them for you. My students really enjoyed bringing the caps to me. I have enough now to last as long as I teach piano!

If you don’t have caps, the printable is made with a cutting grid, so you can cut out the composers as small cards. However, my students really liked the milk caps and thought they were a lot of fun, so I encourage you to make them that way.

I had a hard time deciding which composers to include. If I’ve left off your favorite classical composer, leave a comment and when I get enough suggestions, I’ll make a second set!  Stick to the old composers because the portraits of modern composers are protected by copyright, although I can use just their name and not a picture.

An important part of the game is for students to say the composer’s name as they turn over the cap to help them learn the correct pronunciation. After a while, they will be saying Tchaikovsky and Chopin like a pro!

This printable is for private use only. You are welcome to print this and use it with your students. Please read the first page and follow the terms of use included in the PDF.


  • To become familiar with the names of the great classical composers.
  • To learn how to pronounce their names.
  • To reinforce visual recognition skills.


  • All ages of students.

 Number of Players

  • Two or more players. The teacher can play with a student, or students can play in groups.


  • Sixteen plastic beverage caps (lids) the size of milk jugs.
  • The PDF printable included in this post.
  • Scissors and glue stick to construct the playing pieces.
  • If caps are not available, the cards can be cut out and used.


  • Print and cut out the pictures of the composers, cutting them in small circles that fit the inside of the lids.
  • Glue the composer pictures on the inside of the plastic caps.
  • Place the caps on a table, face down, with four rows and four columns and the composer face not visible.
  • Players take turns selecting two caps and turning them to the picture side to see if they match.
  • Students say the names of the composers as they turn the caps.
  • If the two caps are the same, the player gets to keep them. If not, they return the caps to the same spot, face down again.
  • Play continues until all the caps are matched.


Filed under Games, Group lesson ideas

Fifteen Keys – A Key Signature Game

Fifteen Keys

 Fifteen Keys

In our state theory test, students in the 6th grade need to know all of the major key signatures.  Minor keys are added in the 7th grade.  Like many teachers, I show them how to use a chart to help with accuracy and possible careless mistakes.

This year I made a board game to give students some guided practice in using a chart and learning key signatures. First we downloaded a blank chart and filled it out. You can get it below.


Blank Key Signature Chart

I encourage you to use this chart with the game, too, unless your students are very experienced in key signatures. One good thing about this game is that by using the chart, even beginning students can play.

I had fun making the cards for this game.  Some of the cards have silly riddles and puns on the word “key.”  I hope your students enjoy the humor. I thought of more riddles after I made the cards, and if you think of any, let me know!  The answers to the riddles are here.*

This game is similar to the Nine Keys Game that I posted a few years ago, except that this one has all new cards,  and the Nine Keys Game only has, well, 9 key signatures, rather than 15! Nine Keys

There are 7 pages in this PDF. The last page is an optional back to the cards. You will need to print the cards separately because I formatted the cards  for a business card template, such as this one on Amazon. First, I printed just the game board on card stock. Then I inserted the business card stock and printed the cards. Finally, I reinserted the cards and printed the backs. If you don’t have business card stock, connect the short lines and cut them out. But I am so happy to use the business cards! [I also found the business card stock at Sam's for less.]

I’ve played this two ways. The longer version has the tokens moving all over the game board, backwards and forwards, which makes it fun, but takes a little longer to finish.


  • This game is for middle school students, but I’ve successfully played it with younger students.
  •  Remove the minor key cards from the deck to play with students who are learning only major keys.
  • The game is also good for group lessons or music camps.
  • It helps if students have a basic understanding of key signatures, but it is not a requirement if they use the chart.


  • Fifteen Keys, the free printable game board from my website.
  • Key signature chart, or Circle of Fifths chart
  • The cards, cut or separated.
  • A small game token for each player.
  • If you don’t know how to print individual pages of a PDF, go here and scroll down.


Fast version

  • Place the key signature chart in full view.
  • Players take turns drawing a game card. Depending on the card, they either move forward to the key on the card, or answer the question and follow the directions. Students can look at the chart to find the names of the key signatures.
  • If they draw a key signature that is not located past their token, they do not move to a key they have already passed, but draw again.
  • The game is over when a player lands on or moves past “win.”

Slower version

  • Place the key signature chart in full view.
  • Players take turns drawing a game card. Depending on the card, they either move forward to the key on the card, or answer the question and follow the directions. Students can look at the chart to find the names of the key signatures.
  • If it is a key signature card, the player moves to the closest key signature specified on the card, even it they have to move backwards to a key they have already passed by.
  • The game is over when a player draws the exact number to land on “win” or when a player moves past “win.”


  • To learn to quickly identify all the major and/or minor key signatures.
  • To learn how to draw and use a key signature chart.

This game works on identifying key signatures. However, I have also made some worksheets for writing key signatures. If your students have trouble learning how to draw key signatures on a staff for written tests or composing, these are a lot of help!

Simple Sharps

Fearless Flats

Down a 5th, Up a Fourth

Up a 4th, Down a Fifth

The Noteboys Circle of Fifths Poster


  • 3 things that need a key: House, car, scale, door, music, etc. 
  • What barnyard bird can open doors: Tur”key”.  (or Turn”key”)
  • Key signature’s favorite dance: Ho”key” Po”key”
  • What jungle animal loves key signatures? Mon”key”
  • What barnyard animal sings off key? Don”key”
  • When you are slow you may be called: Pokey
  • What kind of key can you type on: Keyboard
  • Another name for the tonic is: the Keynote



Filed under Games, Group lesson ideas, Music Printables, Texas State Theory Test

Summer Piano Camp Experience



When Kathy Williamson started telling me about the summer piano camp that she organized with some other teachers, I knew that I had to share it with my readers! It was such a well organized and fun camp, but what else can you expect from experienced elementary classroom music teachers?  If you are not used to working with groups of children, getting together with another teacher would be a great way to start a camp.  And now is the time to start planning for next summer. Kathy graciously wrote the following article to share her experience with you. 

Summer Piano Camp Experience

One of life’s fun adventures is our vision of what can be!   Our life experiences continually build those visions, so when three music classroom teachers joined together to think of the possibilities of Summer Piano Camps, the visions turned into 4 Piano Camps for ages 5 – 13.

The Piano Camp Team:  Carmen Carpenter currently teaches in the elementary music classroom as well as private piano and voice students at home.  Lindy Peterson has also been teaching elementary music but is now leaving the classroom to open a full-time piano studio.  Kathy Williamson has retired from public school music teaching and currently has a full-time piano studio of 34.  So developing musicians has always been their vision.

The planning began in February with work on a logo, website pages, brochure, setting up PayPal, choosing a location and of course, lesson plans!  It was decided that our neighborhoods were the best choice for locations as that is where the children are, so our homes became Camp.  The first two camps were held the first week of summer vacation at Kathy’s house with 4 campers in the morning and 12 campers in the afternoon.  The third camp was at Carmen’s where she did a combo camp of Discovery and Adventure objectives and activities for 4 children with little to no experience.    The fourth camp was at Kathy’s house again for a group of 6 late elementary to early intermediate piano students.  Furniture was rearranged – keyboards were set up – and Camp was in full swing!


Discovery Camp was for beginning 5 and 6 year olds – children with no experience at the piano.   Monday-Friday, 9 AM – 11 AM:  5 days, 10 hours.  The daily schedule:

  • 9:00 Outside Games
  • 9:20 Keyboard
  • 9:40  Lapbooks
  • 10:00 Snack – Outside
  • 10:10   Keyboard
  • 10:30   Outside Games
  • 10:50   Keyboard

The goals for Discovery Camp included topography (not technique), associating that each finger has a number and a purpose, beginning rhythms, and playing simple songs on the black keys and the music alphabet.  No staff work was introduced.


Adventure Camp was for ages 5 – 10 – children at the early and middle elementary level or older beginners.  Monday-Friday, 1 – 4 PM: 5 days, 15 hours.  The daily schedule:

  • 1:00  Outside Games
  • 1:30  –  1:50 – 2:10 Stations     (1) Lapbooks     (2) Games      (3) Keyboard
  • 2:30 Break / Snack and Outside Game
  • 2:45  –  3:00  – 3:15 Stations    (same groups with a continuation of learning)
  • 3:30 Outside Game
  • 3:45 Ensemble Keyboard  (ear training and ensemble work)

Since the majority of the campers at Kathy’s house had a minimum of 6 months of piano, the main goals for this camp were to reinforce vocabulary, rhythm and reading skills.



The   4th Camp, Kaleidoscope Camp, was for the Late Elementary to Early Intermediate Piano student.   Monday – Thursday, 9 AM – 3 PM, 24 hours.  The goal for these campers was to give them activities to inspire their growth and technique, provide opportunities to explore the keyboard and learn more about improvisation.   The daily schedule:

  • 9:00 Outside Games
  • 9:15 A conversation about what 1st lessons look like for 5 and 6 year olds.
  • This conversation led to reflection about their personal Piano Journey.
  • 9:30-9:50-10:10 20 minute individual piano coaching
  • 9:30 Piano Journey Notebook (creating anchor charts and starting a scrapbook of how their piano journey began with pictures and a brief history/Board Games/Cup Game
  • 10:30 Break and Outside Games
  • 11:00 Kabalevsky at the Keyboard  (24 Pieces for Children, Op. 39)
  • 11:30 Lunch (each camper brought their own)
  • 12:00 Special Guests
  • (Day 1:  Steinway resident artist, Esteban Alvarez)
  • (Day 2:  Piano technician, David Floyd)
  • (Day 3:  Claire Carpenter, high school student on how and why she uses lead sheets)
  • 12:45-1:05-1:25 20 minute individual piano coaching
  • 12:45 Keyboard Fun and Lead Sheets
  • 1:45 Break and Outside Games
  • 2:00 Kabalevsky at the Keyboard  (24 Pieces for Children, Op. 39)
  • Chopsticks: chords, improvisation and ensemble playing

This camp also squeezed in a trip to the local music store to tour their Piano Music Department and Keyboard Department with demonstrations in each.  The special guests and field trip were definitely a big hit with everyone.


Because there is a wealth of music games online via blogs and Pinterest, as well as games the team had developed and collected throughout their teaching experience, the task was definitely overwhelming in what to choose.   The important thing became matching the games and activities to the objectives and goals.  This just takes a lot of planning time and has become an inspiration to continue to organize the collections the Team has.

The music for the Discovery and Adventure Camps was a combination of music from the free music downloaded from the Susan Paradis collection, and music we created on Finale.

Music for Kaleidoscope Camp was inspired by Elizabeth Gutierrez’s ‘Piano Play Along’ Blog : 24 Pieces for Children, Op. 39, by Dmitri Kabalevsky.  This was supplemented with piano lead sheets.  Wendy Stevens’ Rhythm Cup Explorations was also selected as a fun way to practice rhythms with Kaleidoscope Camp.


There were many discussions about what the camp tuition should be, especially since three us were working together.  We basically decided on an average price comparable to the monthly tuition which seemed fair, plus a materials fee.

Setting up keyboards was really a challenge!  We had quite an assortment between the three of us.  Besides a grand piano we had an 88 key Yamaha digital, an 88 key Roland, six 61 key keyboards and two small 2/3 octave Casios which were great for demo purposes.  We used a combination of batteries and power supplies.  The biggest problem though was not having enough stools.  But an email sent out to parents with the need for stools solved our problem quickly.


In our follow up discussions it was agreed that our camps were a success, the curriculum and games were a success and everyone (including us) had a good time.  With our combined classroom experience and Kodaly training, we value a strong curriculum and planning.  We  will continue to revise this to meet our student needs.  Since Lindy’s and Carmen’s studios are growing we are sure our camps will look differently next year but one thing we learned is the need to set our dates early and let parents know by January as they are already making their summer plans.

There are still many other things to consider in our future planning but we believe that to have a successful camp we need to be sure there are enough hours to meet the goals and objectives.   Of course we each would have made more profit if we’d conducted the camps individually – but we supported each other with an equal division of planning and teaching which definitely contributed to the overall success of our first Piano Camp experience.


  • Planning with goals and objectives in mind
  • Activities that give everyone a break
  • Breaks that give children time to be themselves
  • Music that is fun and easy
  • Homework was given each day to continue the camp experience throughout the week

There are many things we did not address here such as the week the refrigerator was on the blink and the repairman had to listen to all the keyboards playing while he was trying to diagnose the problem.  We did not talk about the many details of running a camp out of your house such as fresh towels in the bathroom, water cups, buying snacks and supplies, etc.   We did not list the games or how we approached improvisation.  We did not discuss specific curriculums or how to set up stations.  We did not tell you about the profound effects of the special guests.  These are conversations for another day and another place.  However, the most important thing to remember is to have a vision – and for us that vision included happy children enjoying music while developing their musicianship.

I would like to thank Kathy for taking the time to write such a helpful, detailed article, and also thank her team and the parents for allowing me to share it with you. These students are so fortunate to be able to participate in a wonderful week of music right in their neighborhood! -Susan




Filed under Games, Group lesson ideas, Teaching Business

RoboRama – A Fun Robot Board Game!



My husband made some robot figures on his 3D printer and gave them to me. Since I have a lot of students who like robots, I thought it would be fun to make a game and use them.

Keeping with my piano game philosophy of only playing fast games so we can spend most of our time learning artistry at the piano, (yes, that is my goal, after all!) I created a game called RoboRama. I tested it out on my K-5 students and both girls and boys liked it, so I decided it is worth sharing. This game can be played in less than 5 minutes if you play it the way we did.  It’s over so fast they were excited to have time to play it more than once.

This is a game to review theory terms, so I made the cards in different levels, starting with primer. I actually went through all the primer level books I’ve collected over the years to make sure I was using common primer level symbols.  So keep this game in mind when you start new students. If your student is really new, you can print out several pages of just the keyboard cards and play with those. Texas teachers, the key signatures for the 5th grade of the TMTA test are included.

To allow the different levels to be easy to use, I made 2 different ink-saving colored backs for the theory cards. This allows me to customize a game using cards from several levels, and to easily put the cards back in the correct order. You can do the same thing by using different colored card stock for each level, or even writing, drawing, or using stickers on the back to help you keep the levels straight. I don’t know about you, but I have different levels of students who come back to back and if I want to use the game with all of them I need to be able to separate the cards quickly. Check out my FAQ above if you don’t know how to keep from printing the entire document.

I used a business card template, because I have a large box of business cards that I bought on sale some years ago, and I have plenty left. If you don’t have business cards or you want to use colored card stock, there are cutting lines on the edges. Here is a link to Amazon if you want to order a large box of 1000 cards at a good price that will last you years and years. [Amazon pays me a few cents if you buy something I link. It helps support the growing cost of maintaining this site.]

When I was writing the directions for this game, it seemed so complicated, but it’s really not. Actually, it’s a fast and easy game, because that is all I can think of!

Students answer a question, roll a die, and move the number on the die. They move on the green dots on the outside oval. If they land on a big green dot next to a house, they start moving toward the center. If they draw a RoboRama card, they try to knock over an opponent’s token. That’s all there is to it!

Your students might be interested to know that robotics clubs often have contests with motorized robot vehicles that are programmed to move ping-pong balls. My husband and son have made these kinds of robots and I love to watch robot contests, so that is where I got the idea for this game.


  • To review musical symbols, intervals, key signatures, a few notes in middle C position, and some music vocabulary words.


  • Grades 1-5, using the appropriate cards for the concepts students have learned.

 Number of Players

  • Two to four players. The teacher can play with a student, or students can play in a group lesson.


  • Game board and symbol card printables.
  • One die.
  • A different, small token for each player that stands, so it can be knocked over.
  • One ping-pong ball or another small rolling ball.


  • Print the game board and cut out the cards.
  • Each player puts their token on a house on the game board. The first player draws a card and identifies the symbol. If students do not know the symbol, give them hints until they get it correct. No one loses a turn if they don’t know the answer in my games! We are not trying to teach life lessons about winning and losing, just learning a little music theory.
  • After drawing and answering the card, the student rolls the die and uses that number to move their token on the green dots of the large outside oval, not toward the center. Players take turns drawing cards, rolling the die, and moving their token on the green dots on the outside oval.
  • When a student lands on one of the large green dots next to a house, they turn and move toward the center, playing the same way as before.  The first player to reach the center is the winner.
  • If no player lands on a large green dot, the game is over when a player goes completely around the oval and passes or lands on his starting “home.”
  • However, if a player draws a RoboRama card, he rolls the ping-pong ball to try to knock over an opposing player’s token. If he is successful, he gets 2 more turns to draw and the opposing player starts over at “home”. If he is unsuccessful, you can adjust the rules to the age of the student. The older students let to set the rules before they start. There is a big difference in kindergarten and 5th grade. Really any way you play is fine, as long as the students are having fun and learning something.
  • Students always ask me if they need to roll the exact number as they head toward the winning center. That depends on the age of the student and how much time we have. In a piano lesson, if they roll a number over the required number to get to the center, they win. In a piano camp or a long group lesson, I might require the exact number to get to the center.

Why I Like This Game

  • It doesn’t take much lesson time.
  • When I play this game with students, I discover right away what they know and what they need work on. So it is like an achievement test, only a lot more fun!



Filed under Games, Group lesson ideas, Music Printables, Theory