Tag Archives: 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.

Key-Signature-Chart-Blank

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.

Ages

  • 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.

Material

  • 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.

Directions

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.”

Objectives

  • 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

*Riddles:

  • 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

 

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

My New Autoharp

Autoharp500x224

Not too long ago I got the idea in my head that an autoharp would be perfect to get my students enthused about reading lead sheets and learning chords. When I was about 10 years old our classroom teacher would sometimes let a few of us stay after school and play on an old autoharp. That is where I think I learned about primary chords and a lot of music theory that I didn’t learn in piano lessons. It made learning the guitar and playing lead sheets a lot easier for me.

I started checking on eBay to see if I could afford a used one. I know something about autoharps because I used them when I taught elementary music education.  Every time I started at a new school I would get out the dusty autoharp and tune it up.

For several weeks my husband and I checked eBay often. I didn’t want to spend much, $35.00 tops. I wanted a name brand autoharp in case I needed to buy some parts, one  with all the strings, and a hard case. I figured I could tell by the descriptions if they were playable, but we knew we were taking a chance.

I bought a 20-year-old Oscar Schmidt because you can still get parts for this brand. It was out of tune and a few of the strings are pitchy. But it sounds fine, at least for a $35.00 autoharp. For comparison, on Amazon you can see the cost of a new Oscar Schmidt 15 chord autoharp, so I saved a lot of money buying an old one. It did not come with a tuning wrench, but I picked up one at my local music store for about $6.00. You can also order one from Amazon. I have to tune it more than I want to because it has been so long since it was tuned. Every time I tune it, it stays in tune longer, so I have hope for it. Right now I don’t want to invest in a new set of strings, which will cost more than the autoharp! If you think you might want to buy a used one, be sure you are comfortable with how to tune it, and don’t pay too much! If you can tune a guitar, you can tune an autoharp. It just takes longer.

I made some song charts for my students with easy chords and used it with all ages at my last set of group lessons. The songs had one, two, or three chords, depending on the age of the group. One of my goals with older students was to bridge the gap between playing I IV V7  and C F G7. The students and I had a lot of fun, and I think they learned a lot. What was amazing to me is that my students had never seen one before. I guess they aren’t used in school music programs any more! 

Now I wonder if I can arrange some music for autoharp and piano! Would that sound weird?

A New Piece on Sheet Music Plus

If you didn’t see my notice on Facebook last week, I have a new piece up on Sheet Music Plus. You can listen to Rain Rhythms here. It is a $3.99 digital download at the intermediate level.

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Filed under Group lesson ideas, Teaching Aids, Theory

St. Patrick’s Day Material

Here are some St. Patrick’s Day printables for elementary age students that I’ve made over the years. There is nothing new here, but I’m posting it for new readers.  To download, click on the link below the picture, not the picture itself.

Clover card1

Clover cardOpen2

St. Patrick’s Day Card for your students

I used these last year and my student’s loved them! The are little shamrock cards that fold up. I add a gold foil covered chocolate coin inside! If you don’t have green paper, use some stickers or decorate with green markers.

Shamrock composing activity

Shamrock composing activity

Let’s Go Marching is a pre-reading activity that even beginners can do. Use either finger numbers or note names.

Shamrock composing_blank staffLet’s All Go Marching, a composing activity on-the-staff

This is the same composing activity as above, but designed for students who have learned a five-finger hand-position and can draw notes.

Shamrock kyboard note_raceShamrock Keyboard Game

This is one of the best games for learning piano keys. it is even good for older students. I’ve made this game with designs for all the seasons, and this one works well for St. Patrick’s Day.

ShamrockNotesShamrock Notes for St. Patrick’s Day

This is good way for beginning students to practice writing all the notes on the grand staff. I’ve learned that if students discover that notes on the staff just move up the alphabet, they are less fearful about learning them.

Shamrock rhythmsShamrock Rhythms Game

Last year I re-made the graphic of this game because my original used a ton of ink. But you only have to print out one copy.  Students draw cards to find missing rhythm values in a measure. There are some circle shaped cards to cut out. It is game for older elementary students who are comfortable with note values. It also can be used as a theory class game or file folder game. Print on cardstock and laminate for durability.

CloverFullONotesClover Full of Notes Rhythm Worksheet

This is a worksheet, so you can print one copy of this and either laminate it or place it inside a sheet protector and use dry erase pens. I made this as a review for students who have already learned rhythm values. This also looks fine printed in black in with no color. Does anyone want an outline only copy they can color in group lessons or music class?  Let me know and I’ll try to make one.

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Filed under Holiday Activities and Worksheets, St. Patrick's Day

Jingle Bells with Rhythm Instruments at a Group Lesson

Jingle Bells with instruments

I bought the electronic version of the new book by Philip Johnston called The Dynamic Studio: How to keep students, dazzle parents, and build the music studio everyone wants to get into. (Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate because I get questions about where to buy the things I write about. Amazon sends me a few cents if a reader buys something from clicking  the book link.) Philip Johnston writes inspiring books that get me enthused to teach in different ways. One of his main ideas is to be different; don’t always do the same thing. Maybe that was on my mind when I decided to use rhythm instruments in my group lessons.

After an unsuccessful search for an easy piano/rhythm band ensemble I could use in a group lesson without a lot of preparation, I wrote my own.  I arranged this specifically to be easy enough that they could be successful without having to practice, so please keep that in mind.

I  wrote the second piano part for an electric bass, which some students can play. This part can also be played on the piano, so I call it Piano 2 in the score. You can also use bells or any other tuned instrument, and it sounds fine to omit it.

The first group was my youngest students. They absolutely loved the instruments. But if you have ever used rhythm instruments with young children, you know what a challenge they are.  I didn’t mind that some of them could not play the written part and just played the steady beat.  I was surprised that a few of them actually followed the score. I let the little beginner on the bells shake them through the entire song rather than the way I wrote it in the score. No one in that group reads well enough for the piano part. I had to play by ear because I could not find the piano score! That seemed to amuse the young group.

The second group of 9 and 10-year-old students was absolutely the right age for this activity. Without any practice, (except for the Piano 1 part, which I gave to a 5th grader the week before) they were able to read the score and play the correct rhythm. We traded instruments and repeated it a few times. I am only sorry that I didn’t record it, because they did really well. The student playing the piano part was thrilled to be part of an ensemble.

After that, we changed directions and performed on the piano for each other using good performance skills. Everyone had learned a Christmas song or a favorite piece. That did not take too long and we went on to the next activity.

They had all been looking at the electric bass and wondering why it was there. We discussed the history of the electric bass and how it was like the double bass. I also got in some theory with the older groups, as we discussed the root of chords and how that is an easy way to play the bass. This is where taking our state theory exam really helped. I demonstrated with my meager guitar skills (Me on the electric bass, how funny was that!) and then let them all try it.

Our last activity was playing a Thanksgiving board game, with different level cards for each age group. I was relieved my students enjoyed the game because I had not tried it out with a group. Even my older students had fun and reviewed some theory at the same time. Finally, we just had enough time to pass out cookies and candy canes, and they all left happy.

Later I asked what was their favorite activity. Can you guess what it was? The rhythm instruments! So with that in mind, I am sharing my simple score with you. Feel free to change the instruments to whatever you have on hand, even homemade instruments.

Obviously you don’t need a score for this simple rhythm section, but my students found it interesting, and it helped me focus. If one of your students has a family member who can play the Piano 2 part on the electric bass or any other instrument, that would be really fun, especially for a Christmas recital! Please alert me if you find any mistakes in my score, as I don’t have an editor. Have fun and if you have a successful performance, let me know!

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Filed under Christmas, Group lesson ideas, Holiday Music, Rhythm