10 Fun Music Games For The Classroom

The beginning of a school year is always super busy, with classrooms to set up, equipment to organise, class lists to print and analyse and possibly new staff to settle in.  

Planning the first lesson, especially if you have new students, can be tricky.  

Firstly, the students will have been out of a learning environment for around 6 weeks.  Whilst some may have been active, getting out and about and still learning in different ways, it is a sad truth that many will have played non-stop X-box or watched TV and barely seen the light of day for 6 weeks.  So waking up your students' brains is a good way to start.    

Secondly, you may have new students.  Your entire intake year will of course not only be new to you but to the entire school and its routines, and students here will be struggling to make friends, find their way around and cope with a number of new routines and teachers.  You may also have new classes across the school with students you have never taught before.  

So I think it's always a good idea to get to know them in your first lesson with some music games.  You will soon find out the musical ability of your range of students, their ability to socialise and work together and you will be able to pick out any possible behavioural issues.  

Unless you are very lucky, you probably won't see your students for a huge amount of curriculum time, maybe even only once a fortnight, so it would be good if these were educational games too.  So I have put together a list of my top 10 favourite educational music games for kids.

1. Pass The Beat

1. Students stand in a circle

2. Chant 'Pass the beat a-round the room' with one syllable clearly per beat. On the 8th beat, touch both shoulders.  Practise doing this a few times as a class.

3. Pass the chant around the circle, with each student taking one syllable.

 eg Bob: Pass

      Charlie: the

      Fred: beat

      Amy: a

      Mary: round

etc, not forgetting that the 8th person is the shoulder touch.

4. Practise this at different speeds, with the aim of keeping the pulse completely steady

5. Students can be 'out' if they say the wrong word, forget the shoulder touch or go out of time.

6. To make it even harder, replace some syllables with other actions.  For instance 'Beat' becomes a clap, 'round' becomes a stamp and 'room' becomes a click. 

You can watch an example of it here

2. Action Beats

1. Students find a space

2. Practise chanting 1-8 as a class, ensuring the pulse is regular and not too fast.

3. Gradually replace one number at a time with a physical action.

So round 1 = 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8

Round 2 could be = Clap -2-3-4-5-6-7-8

Round 3 could be = Clap - stamp - 3-4-5-6-7-8

You will quickly discover who has focus, concentration and coordination.  You will also find out who gives up quickly and who perseveres!


3. Call and Response Drum Games

This is exactly what it says on the tin.  If you have a class set of drums, buckets, chairs or even a floor, you could kick off the year with some drumming games.  

1. Ensure you have made expectations clear about looking after instruments.

2. Explain clear verbal or physical prompts for starting, stopping, changing dynamics and so on.

3. You can set this up in various ways....

  • teacher = call, chosen student = response
  • student = caller, chosen student = response
  • relay so that student 1= caller, student 2 = response but then becomes the      caller and so on.
  • 'Set' calls and responses (like Samba) where the whole class responds together to a pre-determined call. 
  • Whole class together or split into smaller teams if you have the space


4. Rap Battle

This is a great composition starter and students can work alone or in teams.  It will also get your students back into the swing of performing to each other. 

Give your students a topic (the more ridiculous the better in my opinion!) and a set time to create a rap about it. 

You could use preset beats such as this one or this one or ask students to find an appropriate beat on a keyboard. 

They then write and perform their rap.  You could turn it into a competition with marks for originality, rhymes, rhythm, performance style. 



5. Poison Rhythm

This game is basically Simon Says for rhythms and is really good for focus and concentration, as well as rhythm recognition.  This is best played with body or instrumental percussion.

1. Set up a 'poison rhythm'.  This is a rhythm that students must never copy.

2. Clap various rhythms to the class which they repeat back.  If you clap the 'poison rhythm' they must stay silent.  If anyone claps it they could be 'out', if you want to play competitively.


6. Note Finder Twister


This game requires a little preparation but can be very funny!  It is best played with students who have studied notation.  If you are playing straight after a holiday it might be best to have a quick notation recap first, maybe with the awesome Notation Song.

Using a plain shower curtain and black tape, create a stave.  I wouldn't advise using paper as this will easily rip once the game gets going.  The longer the stave, the more students will be able to join in!

Create a spinner with 2 feet and 2 hands, but instead of colours, put pitches in each quarter.  You can download one here.  Just click File - Make A Copy to save it to your drive. 

Play Twister as normal but with 'left hand B' and so on.


7. Be The Conductor

1. Teach students a rhythm or verse in a certain time signature of your choosing.  This could be body percussion, vocalising or percussion instruments.  Make it simple so students can focus on the conductor rather than memorising what they are doing. 

2. Teach students the conducting shapes for your chosen time signature.

3. Students conduct their band of students.  

Encourage students to change tempo, stop and start.  They could even demonstrate dynamics if they are able to use 2 hands.


8. Singing and Rounds


Let's not forget good old singing!  This is essential in developing a great musical ear and should happen most if not all music lessons.  If you introduce this very early on you are less likely to find resistance from teenagers.

Choose your material carefully, ensuring it is age and ability appropriate.  I remember when I was training being told that 'We Go Together' from Grease was not a great choice for my low ability class with their very low literacy levels!! I haven't made that mistake again!

I have found that nonsense songs go down well, as do the most modern hits.  There are some great examples that you may not have considered on this WatchMojo List

For round songs there are some great traditional tracks such as 'I Love The Mountains' and 'Siyahamba'.  Kye Kye Kule is a great call and response song with actions too.  You can find some varied examples Here.


9. Throw The Beat


For this game you will need a soft ball or bean bag.  Play a beat (live or recorded) and ask the students to throw the ball to each other in time.  You can ask them to throw after a certain number of beats to get them focussed on counting.  For instance, throw the ball every 3 beats.  

Choose a piece of music that changes tempo for extra challenge.  Zorba the Greek or Hall of the Mountain King are good examples for this. 


10. Who Am I?

Image result for who am i games

This is a classic party game that can be fitted to any topic that your students have learnt about or you think they will know about, if they are new to you.  You could theme it for composers, periods of music, pitches, rhythms, singers, bands, musicals or hit songs.  

You will need to do a little preparation for this by supplying strips of light card that students can make headbands out of by stapling/clipping them to size.  If you want them to be re-usable put a velcro dot in the middle.

When the bands are on, stick a card onto each student's band.  By asking yes or no questions of other students they must discover who or what they are.  If you use the velcro technqiue you will be able to reuse the cards.


Try these out and see how they go!  Let me know what happened in the comments.  What favourite games do you play with your students?  Please do share your ideas.

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