Group class activities for a small beginner class

Rachel said: Oct 4, 2012
Rachel JenkinsViolin
Kuna, ID
1 posts

I am just starting out as a Suzuki violin teacher and I have four students. They are 6th-8th graders and have never seen a violin before. I am at a loss as to pre-twinkle activities to use right now, as they are all at basically ground-floor beginner level and they are a lot older than the traditional pre-twinkler. Also, the class is pretty small, so a lot of the suggestions I’ve read on the forum so far are for groups much larger than this. I don’t know where to go to find good ideas to use in my situation—can anyone give me some good ideas? Other resources (books, websites, etc.) might be helpful, as well. Thank you!

Amy said: Oct 5, 2012
Suzuki Association Member
50 posts

Dear Rachel,
Congratulations on getting started as a Suzuki teacher! It’s a lot of work at the beginning, but well worth the effort.

You might try reinforcing aural skills by assigning each student a different pitch, and each student is responsible for playing his/her own pitch at the right time. Also, I like using group class time to teach note-reading skills. (I do this even with young students, although the prep skills I do with young children is very different than what would be appropriate for middle schoolers.) Also, as soon as they are confident to play without you as a leader, you can play a duet part, piquing their interest in ensemble work as they advance and forcing them to develop some independence in their playing.

Hope those ideas help.

Sarah Strickland said: Oct 16, 2012
Sarah Strickland
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
22 posts

I have found that a lot of the ideas for younger children can be adapted for older students as well. I like the taking turns playing as mentioned above, and using the time for note-reading, rhythm practice, and even listening. (They need to be taught how to listen too!)

I have also done a group class where we had a large mirror and did Twinkle rhythms on open strings in front of the mirror watching for straight bows, open from the elbow, etc.

Barb said: Oct 16, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

Hi Rachel!

I would suggest using a bit of group time to work on performance… audience etiquette, walking onto stage and introducing themselves, or maybe introducing each other. At the start they don’t have to perform a piece, but they could simply put the violin in position… maybe play one note? Or even just tell a joke or do a mock introduction to a song—the sillier the better. Then bow, acknowledge an accompanist, etc. This can be really tough for some kids to do in front of their peers, especially at that age, and I think it is helpful to practice without actually having to perform at first, and in front of a small, friendly audience.

Listening was mentioned earlier. Sometimes in group we have played “Name that tune.”

You’ll probably find some fun general music ideas from Natalie Wickam’s Music Matters Blog. She is a piano teacher who has some amazing creative ideas for group classes and piano camps, often dealing with theory or history.

I’ve found some good games like Music Bingo at Susan Paradis Piano Teaching Resources and blog I see a Skittles game on the first page of the Denley Music blog at the moment for learning the violin fingerboard.

And have you seen this discussion here? You may find some of the ideas will work with a small group of older kids. Sometimes things normally done with young children can be spiced up a bit for the older ones. An example (with nothing to do with music, really, but more about “changing the rules”), is the party game using the Tupperware sorting toy… it is played blindfolded with a sighted “coach” partner. Teams are timed to see who can sort the shapes most quickly.

I think it was in Ed Kreitman’s Teaching from the Balance Point…. I read that what we see when we observe at summer institutes when we are training often involves lots of fun and games, but we shouldn’t feel we have run our regular group classes that way. Just using it for review time is okay. He may have said it more strongly than that even—I’m not sure—but I do know he was emphasizing the importance of review.

Hope you can glean some ideas here! Best wishes!

Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
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Mary said: Oct 17, 2012
 39 posts

I’m not a teacher, but a parent. These are a few games that I recall my son’s violin teachers did in group class over the years that should work with pre-Twinklers of any age.


For the repeated B section of the twinkle variations split the group in half and have one group play louder and the other one softer for the echo. Students experiment with how to keep good tone while playing louder or softer.


  1. Do a follow the leader clapping out different Twinkle rhythms. To make it like Simon Says can get faster or trickier for a fun game.

  2. Students can take turns doing a phrase combining 2 or 3 the Twinkle variation rhythms.

  3. Bring in piece of music and have students look for the Twinkle Rhythm patterns. One of his group teachers did this when he was very young and not yet reading music. She just played an excerpt from a well-known piece and students were able to recognize the rhythms from the different variations. With older children you could do the same or bring in sheet music of a piece and have them find the Twinkle rhythms on the page.


  1. Mystery Note Game. Have students turn their back on you and you play a note for them to guess.

Hope these ideas help.

Julio Cesar Anselmo Possette said: Dec 19, 2012
 Cello, Suzuki in the Schools
10 posts

Hello Barb,
I would like to reinforce what the teacher Ed Kreitman speaks volumes about the review. In a stroke Suzuki just over a month ago, (with David Evenchick—cello and Ed—violin) saw that the student actually learns with the review, maybe 80% or more of the class of revision is very important.


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