Let’s face it: sometimes your students just need to do the thing over and over and over again…
And doing it the same way every time has some issues:
- It gets boring really quickly
- It may not be the way some students learn
- It makes your students not believe you when you say, “Last Time!”
- And #3 opens you up for sarcasm and hilarious music teacher jokes
Which is exactly why I want to share with you today some of the ways you can easily make repeating the same melodic line or phrase over and over again fun and engaging for every student.
Watch the Beat
This one is so simple and gives you a lot of control and forces your students to focus. Simply tell them to watch your hand and stay with your beat. Your job is to slow it down and speed it up, and they follow.
This one is also great if they’re struggling with a particular interval or section since you can conduct them quickly over the parts they know and then slow it down for the parts they are struggling with. You can also make all kinds of funny faces as they are successful…or not!
For example, think of the song, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. The first part of the melody is fairly simple, just an arpeggio. But the descending line on ‘troubles will be out of sight’ is particularly chromatic and challenging for all but the strongest singers. The easy stuff can be conducted quickly, with the slower beats reserved for the more difficult descending line.
This one is great for all ages and can also turn pretty funny. Your line is:
“Just those who ________________”
Fill in the blank with things like:
• have blue eyes • have red socks on • have an older brother or sister • walk to school • hate broccoli • have seen the new Star Wars movie • like ice cream • have a birthday in June • showered this morning • have pierced ears • are ___ years old • had eggs for breakfast….
The list can go on and on! The thing I really love about this is that not only do the students LOVE being the center of attention, but you can also pinpoint the sections or individuals that might be struggling and give them an extra round or two…without anyone knowing that’s what you’re doing.
For example, if you have a handful of boys that aren’t engaged and need to be re-focused, you can tap into your knowledge of what they’re into to select them over and over again: ‘Just those who play football at recess….just those who play video games at home…just those who got Lego’s for Christmas…’
Movement to the Beat
The idea behind this one is that you’re switching motions quickly and your students are having to think of the melody while doing the movement.
I use craft sticks from the dollar store. Each movement is written on a stick and placed in a plastic tumbler. I simply have a student select a craft stick then we sing the melody while doing that motion to the beat.
I have intentionally only selected small moves- those that can be done while standing in place- and without large motions that will cause them to touch the other students.
Wondering how you can come up with these types of moves? No worries! I got you covered. You can download my list of ’55 Small Moves for Fun Repetition’ by entering your name and email here:
This one is always fun, and easy to hand-off to a student as well. Just cut out an octagon and turn it into a STOP sign on one side and GO on the other. Instruct your students that when the sign says ‘Stop’ they hum the melody. When it says ‘Go’ they sing the words.
You can also try replacing ‘Stop/Go’ with ‘Hum/Sing’.
Musical Variation Dice
My students LOVE this one, too! Simply grab a square tissue box, cover it with white paper, and make each side a different way to sing/play. I use graphics as well but you don’t have to.
Here’s what I have on mine:
• Loud as a Lion • Soft as a Lamb • High as a Bird • Low as a Lizard • Slow as a Turtle • Fast as a Cheetah
I get to roll the dice first but then will pass it off to students as well. They love the thrill of not knowing how they’re going to sing it next!
You can also create a spinner instead of a dice if you like. Anyway you prefer is the right way to go!
This one is fun but can also create conflicts if students aren’t honest- so give it a try and if your class struggles with ‘But Mrs. Janson…Bobby messed up and didn’t sit down!’ then maybe save it for another opportunity.
The concept is easy= everyone starts standing. If you make a mistake in the words or the notes then you sit down.
Each round you take it faster and faster until you have just a couple of students standing. Instruct students that when they sit down they still need to be learning by doing tongue/air/fingers or humming, or lip-syncing along.
Salt and Pepper
This one can be challenging for instrumental teachers if the students don’t have the section memorized that you’re working on, but for scales, drills, and any vocal situation this one is really fun and gets the students out of their own head-space, which is great for learning!
The rule is with each repetition they have to move so that they are by someone new. Just like you’re mixing up salt and pepper over and over again!
For example, have them sing the melody, then say “Salt and Pepper…Go!” To keep things moving I like to tell them they have a count-down from 3 to find a new spot. Then it’s 3-2-1, sing it again next to someone else. Rotate until their behavior starts to degrade or they’ve stood/sat by everyone else in the room one time.