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Music & Rhythm Games to Keep Your Students Focused

Need to rein in a chatty class? Or incorporate some movement in your lesson? Try these music teacher-tested techniques.
Elementary students sitting on the classroom rug COPYRIGHT NORMAN Y. LONO
Students at Larchmont Elementary School in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey.
Published: October 23, 2017

As an elementary music teacher, I’m constantly using games to teach my students music principles in an engaging way. These games, however, don’t need to be limited to just the music room.

As you enter your new year, try these games to keep your class engaged in a fun and different way! These games are all performance-based, meaning none of them require sitting with a pencil. They are active, engaging and fun!

1.  Poison Rhythm

In this game, you clap a rhythm, which becomes the ‘poison rhythm.’ Students have to remember it. Then you clap a variety of rhythms, and they can copy you. At any point, you can clap the poison rhythm—and anyone who repeats you has to sit down.This is a great game to rein in a chatty class. If students are being too noisy, do a poison rhythm three times. Those who catch on will stop talking in order to hear the rhythm and play the game. This works much better than having your class simply repeat a clapping rhythm. Since it calls for pattern recognition, this game will require their full attention.

2.  Keep the Rhythm

Sit everyone in a circle with their hands out to either side of their bodies. Everyone’s right hand should be stacked on top of the person’s left hand next to them. One person starts the sequence by using their right hand to tap the person’s hand to their left. Once your hand is tapped, you repeat this action to your neighbor. This goes around the circle, and everyone must try to keep the rhythm. You can sing a song while this is happening to match the rhythm!If someone misses, then they step out and help sing. The circle gets smaller and you sing it faster each time, so the tempo speeds up until there is one winner.

3.  Statues

If you’re looking for a game that allows students to move around, try “statues.” As you play music, the children can dance around the room or in place. Whenever you pause the music, your students have to immediately freeze and stay still in their pose. If they move, they have to sit down for the next turn.These games all work because they use recollection, motion, and action to keep students attentive and engaged. Whether you need to get students’ attention or provide a learning break, try some of these games that your students will love!

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