#1: Fun and engagingDo the students ask for the game or activity over and over again? Do they get visibly excited when you say the name of the game? Then by all means, play it! The students will learn without realizing they are learning because they are having SO. MUCH. FUN. One of my favorite games and activities that the students repeatedly ask for is "Poison." To play, you simply write a rhythmic or melodic pattern on the board--which is the poison pattern--and students have to echo you...unless you sing or play the poison pattern! You can keep adding to the patterns, and students get SO excited about the challenge! You can simply do this with dry erase marker; you can see my ta and ti-ti poison set here.
Another favorite of my students is "Write the room," by my friend Karla from C Major Learning. You could hear a pin drop when my students did this game...and they are SO excited to find all of the patterns around the room! Here is a picture of some of my students writing their patterns:
#2: Age-appropriateSometimes a game that we think will work just doesn't, because it is too hard or too easy. Sometimes you can tell by looking at the game, and sometimes it just comes from experience. (All teachers have had the experience of something falling flat on its face...and that's okay, because you learn!) Think through the game and make sure it is sequenced out well enough that your students will be able to play successfully.
I love playing "I have, who has," but the youngest I typically do the game with is second grade, because it is a somewhat complicated game, and kids might get a bit overwhelmed. You know your students well and what they can accomplish, so by thinking through the steps and the developmental appropriateness, we can save ourselves and the students some stress!
#3: ChallengingIt's good to think about age-appropriateness...but it's also great to throw in some challenge! The poison game I wrote about above can provide a nice challenge to students. Another challenging activity I love is Amy Abbott's "Every Birdie" series, because they challenge the students not only to read rhythms, but to do so in parts, which is awesome for their partwork skills AND a nice challenge!
The eraser game is another example of a challenging game. Write the rhythm to a known song on the board (or stick notation with solfa) and have students memorize each line. Just keep erasing until they can do everything from memory. They LOVE the challenge and it's great for their memory skills!
#4: Seasonally appropriateOf course, I don't mind using a game with flowers if it's October...but I usually put away anything with shamrocks after St. Patrick's Day. I try to plan the games so they can happen before or during that holiday, as the kids are SO excited about the holidays and it helps keep them focused on learning! I'll write more in my next blog post about how to plan games and activities to happen at the right time of the year/ during the right season or holiday.
#5: Can be used to assessI love using games and activities to assess, because students don't realize they are being assessed...they just think they are having FUN! Although assessments could be pencil and paper, they often don't have to be. You could use a game like "Unlock the door" to have students identify rhythm patterns, and "Clip it" by Tweet Resources to identify melodic patterns.
I hope this has been helpful! What are some reasons you choose games and activities? Feel free to comment below, and stay tuned for my next blog post, about how to implement those games and activities!