Group class games for elementary school setting

Alexandra said: Nov 9, 2012
Alexandra Jacques
Suzuki Association Member
Mesa, AZ
35 posts

Hi everyone,

One of my jobs is a part-time Suzuki in the Schools position at an elementary school, where all of the 2nd and 3rd grade classes get Suzuki violin twice a week (it’s awesome!). I sometimes use games during class as incentives for good behavior/playing, and I was wondering if anyone with experience teaching Suzuki in a public school setting, or teaching larger group classes might have good ideas for games. My classes have 24-28 students, so I worry that some of the games I’ve used in smaller group classes might not work as well in a big class. I’ve used the cup game, which was a lot of fun. I’ve also done some Music Mind Games, but I don’t want to use those games too often, since these students already have General Music, so I think the games should relate more to violin playing. I have yet to try games like Hide the Mute, because I worry about how that would work in a big class, with not a lot of space in the classroom.

Also, just a little background: The 2nd grade classes are beginners, just having started this school year. They know the first 4 notes of Twinkle Variation A. The 3rd graders have mostly been playing since the beginning of last year, except for a few students in each class who were new to the school this year. As far as I know, none of the students take private lessons. Some students have rented violins to practice at home, but the majority of the students do not have their own violins, so the only playing/practicing they do is during class.

Thanks, everyone! :)

Alexandra said: Nov 9, 2012
Alexandra Jacques
Suzuki Association Member
Mesa, AZ
35 posts

Oops, I also meant to say that the 3rd grade classes are finishing or have just finished learning Lightly Row (some classes are a little ahead of others), and a couple classes have started learning previews for Song of the Wind.

Christiane said: Nov 10, 2012
Christiane Pors-Sadoff
Suzuki Association Member
New York, NY
47 posts

I’ve never had a public school Suzuki class, but Bravo that they are getting instruction twice a week! I love group classes and have taught many over the years. If the kids don’t get too silly and unfocused, you might try the old Suzuki partners game—one student becomes the Bow “er” and the other the left hand. Works well for Twinkle level. Great for teaming up and also for seeing the same thing from another perspective. But you might have already tried this. Good luck…wish all public school kids could get instruction like this.

Christiane Pors
Mikomi Violin Studio
Kaufman Music Center
NYU Steinhardt

Catherine said: Nov 10, 2012
Catherine Mikelson
Suzuki Association Member
8 posts

I have done some inner-city group teaching in the past, although, never with more than 8 students at a time! It sounds like you have a great program going.

One alternative to “pass the cup” is “pass the pretzel.” You hook one loop of the pretzel on the tip of your bow, and have the next student pick it up with the other loop.

My students have always loved the “detective game,” which can be modified in many different ways. You can pick one or two students to be the “detectives.” Have them stand outside the room while you pick one poor technical thing for the kids to do while playing (everything else has to be perfect!). When the detectives come back in, they have to figure out what it is. I like the idea of two or more detectives because it promotes team-work and discussion. You can also pick certain people to play out of tune and have the detectives figure out who the out of tune people are. Or, have certain people play with short bows when they should be using long bows, etc.

You can have “One Note Twinkle” where each person is assigned one note to be responsible for. Since you have so many students and there are only 6 notes in twinkle, you would have small groups be responsible for one note. They have to listen carefully and be ready at all times. With the groups, again they have to work as a team.

Extended techniques are always fun for the kids. You can have them play their review pieces ponticello, sul tasto, col legno, etc.

Rounds are also fun! There are books out there of easy, short rounds. That’s something they could work toward over many days.

Jenifer said: Dec 2, 2012
Jenifer NoffkeViolin, Voice, Piano, Viola
Melbourne, FL
7 posts

Thanks for this information! I especially loved the One Note Twinkle Game and the Technique Detective Game. I used them in a group lesson/seminar and the kids loved it!!!!

Kathryn said: Dec 2, 2012
Kathryn TomlinViolin, Viola
New York, NY
2 posts

There’s always hide the rosin : send a “seeker” out of the room and have one person in the room hide the rosin. Bring the seeker back in and have the students play (could just be a bowing variation on an open string) while the seeker searches. Players coach the seeker in finding the rosin by playing louder as the seeker gets closer and quieter if the seeker is off course. I’ve seen this done with 30 kids before and they always love it.

Magic Bow : I’ve mostly seen this done with students more advanced than twinkle stage, but you could adapt it. Basically, the students play along with the teacher (could be an open string while you play twinkle variations with fingers) and have to remove the bow from the string the instant the teacher does. If a student doesn’t lift/stop the bow at the right moment, s/he is “out”. Winner is the last person standing. In this game it’s really important for students to have their scrolls and eyes pointed at the teacher so that they can see easily.

Follow the tempo : selected students can be chosen to lead the class in a piece/bowing variation and they are allowed to change the tempo as much as possible (the point is to try to trick everyone). The rest of the class tries as much as possible to follow the leader’s bow.

Scroll Aiming : depending on your room setup this game is one which helps students find the benefit of pointing their scroll and eyes at the teacher (without twisting the torso). Have students get into playing position and find you with their scrolls, eyes, and nose (in a right angle with the bellybutton); have them close their eyes. Turn on the Suzuki CD : as you move around the room and clap to have them open their eyes, students must adjust their bodies so that their nose, eyes, and scroll point at the teacher.

Balancing Act : place a small animal/figurine on the pegbox and students try to play through twinkle or a bowing variation without dropping their animal (helps keep violin on shoulder and emphasizes supporting violin with the weight of the head)

For later, when they’re able to play review pieces :

Line kids up in 2 lines, students compete in pairs, 2 kids in front try to answer faster than their partner, move to the back of line once your turn is over.

Name that composer (play a tune and students name the composer)
Tune that name (give a piece title and they have to play the first few notes)
Name that tune (self explanatory)
Answer that Phrase (play the beginning of a piece and they have to complete the phrase

I hope these ideas help!

Many Thanks,
Kathryn Tomlin

Connie said: Dec 2, 2012
Connie McCullough
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
2 posts

I use to teach beginning orchestra with about 30 kids per class. I taught 4th-6th grade. I am sure some of these games will work just fine for 2nd and 3rd graders.

To promote better bow posture you could play “Ring of Fire” game. Using a pipe cleaner wire (a wire with fuzz) bend it into a circle. Start with a fairly large circle. The kids must lift the bow vertically into the circle without touching the side. They can play this in groups or with partners. The person holding the circle is required to make a sizzling noise if the student bowing touches the side. Remind them to keep their best bow posture.

Pass the ring” Have each student take turns playing a third finger or any ringing tone note. Have them keep the beat as they pass the ringing note. You would be able hear each child in a very short amount of time on how their tone is developing. It could also be played by everyone playing at once and then they would raise their bow as soon as the note stopped ringing from their instrument. “Pass the ring” game could be used for teaching any technique such as with retakes “circle set,” staccato, legato, or new finger pattern. This would have to be done with only a very few notes since it would take too long to do it with so many students.

Pass the melody” for your students playing Lightly Row this would be a great twinkle review song. Have half the room starts to play the song. As soon as the teacher points at the other side they must begin to play the next part without a stop in the rhythm. I usually encourage my students to finger along so they are not caught off guard.

Old Mac Donald” I would give my kids homework the lesson before to discover what sounds the instrument could make. I would try to encourage animal sounds but sometimes it was fun to have a squeaky door. I would then play Old MacDonald while the kids would sing. The kids would take turns playing the sound they discovered during their practice. When we would get to “And on his farm he had a …” the student whose turn it was would shout the name of the sound. We would get kids saying cow and they would run their first finger up the G string to make a moo sound. Others would trill like a bird. Some would make a squeak of a mouse. This was fun for the kids because it allowed them time to discover the possibilities. It also helped with pitch training because they would discover that as they drew their finger up the string the pitch would go up.

Follow the Leader” As you play a review song or even just a simple rhythm see if the kids could keep playing as they follow you in different actions such as turn, sway, hop, kneeling, or marching in place.

To help keep the kids attention sometimes I would bring in a puppet “Maestro.” He would fall asleep if the kids were not using deep tone. I would give them one technique to focus on and Maestro would tell them how they did. If I needed to encourage great posture I would use a puppet that could be on the end of the bow. As the kids would play, those who were great examples were able to play the next song or exercise with the puppet on their bow. I would try to use this for the especially shy kids to draw them out. I would tell them one thing that they did great and then place the puppet on their bow. I would also keep track in my roll of who had it each time so over the time of a month I would know if all the kids had had a turn.

This is just a few of the many games I used. I am sure you will be inspired to come up with new games as a need arises. It is important to also know that you are not there to entertain the kids. As you have fun with the kids in helping them discover all the possibilities with their instrument the kids will follow suit.


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