Learning grand staff note names isn’t anyone’s favorite part of music lessons. It’s a long process that takes lots of repetition and patience… and a game or two along the way to spice that process up certainly never hurt! Here are some more game ideas to add to your note name-teaching bag of tricks:
These game cards may look familiar to some of you who have been visiting this site for some time – I posted the file on the games page over a year ago, but realized as I was preparing for an upcoming workshop that I’ve never shared how I use them in lessons. It’s time to fix that!!
To play any of the game variations listed below, you’ll need a floor staff or other staff board or diagram, and a number of note manipulatives (plastic plates, frisbees, or other appropriately-sized objects to fit your staff). If you’re playing with a group of students, the bigger the staff and manipulatives, the better – it needs to be easy for everyone to see the notes on the staff. You’ll also need a printed set of Music Alphabet Word Cards.
Group Game #1 (Guess the Word)
Shuffle the game cards and place the deck face-down by the edge of the floor staff. Place a set of note manipulatives by the cards. Designate which clef students should use for this game (treble, bass, or both).
Choose a student to start. He or she should draw a card and silently read the word, then hand the card to the teacher. The player then uses the manipulatives to spell the word on the staff. Other students should stand or sit in view of the staff, and guess the word that is being spelled. Students may guess the word before it is completed on the staff. The first student to correctly identify the word is given the game card. Play continues with students taking turns as the “speller” until all cards have been used. The student who has earned the most cards at the end of the game is the winner.
Note: Resist the urge to correct students if they mis-place a note on the staff. When the group can’t guess the word because of the mistake, the spelling student will likely catch the mistake on their own.
Group Game #2 (Word Race)
Divide students into 2 teams. Each team will need their own area of the staff, set of Music Word Cards, and note manipulatives. The picture below shows how we adapt the floor staff in my studio for 2 teams, using yarn for clef signs (in this game variation you will need to choose just one clef per game).
It is VERY important that you prep the card decks ahead of time so that when the teams turn over a card at the same time, both teams will have a word with the same number of letters. For example, you might arrange the deck so that the the top cards have 3-letter words, the next cards down have 5-letter words, and so on. The decks do not need to use the same words, just words of equal length.
To play, designate a player on each team to begin. Other players should line up single-file behind their starting teammate. When the teacher says “go” the first player on each team will draw a card, read the word and hand the card to the teacher. He or she will then use the manipulatives to spell the word on the staff. The players standing next in line for each team should both try to guess the words that their teammate is spelling (they may guess before the word has been completely spelled on the staff). The first player to correctly guess their word earns a point for their team.
Play continues with the 2nd players in line drawing cards and placing notes on the staff, and the 3rd players guessing the words. Students continue to rotate until all of the cards have been used. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.
Private Lesson Variation
These game cards can be a fun alternative to traditional flash card drills in a private lesson. Take turns with your student spelling and guessing words on the staff. Let your student spell the first word with the manipulatives while you guess, then trade places. If your student is feeling competitive, keep track of the number of words (or total letters) they can spell on the staff in 100 seconds. At their next lesson, let them try to break their own record!