Can You Escape?

If you've been following Greenside Music for a while, you'll be aware that I (Georgina) like creating musical projects for my students. They usually last for half a term (around 5 or 6 weeks) and are themed by the season (a musical summer holiday), an event (Christmas songs from around the world), or something completely random that I like and want to have the excuse to talk about even more because it's part of the lessons (Lego stop motion videos. Any excuse to use Lego in lessons, I'll take.) My current project is a Music Escape Room. During my summer break, I went to an escape room with my mum, a fellow mystery lover, and we successfully escaped with 11 minutes to spare (it's definitely one of my proudest moments!) I enjoyed the experience so much, I decided I want to try and give my students a similar experience of having to work out puzzles to open padlocks and 'escape rooms'. Sadly, I don't have a massive space and hours to spare setting up an actual escape room, so I thought worksheets and quick hands on activities in their lessons would suffice. We're three weeks into the project, and I am definitely being proved correct!

Before I get into how I use them, I thought I'd just say that the Music Escape Room Activity Pack is available to buy in the Greenside Music Online Shop, so you can turn your students into detectives too!

I'm known to go a bit OTT with my projects, but you can use the resources just as they come, as worksheets and games, and it'll be really fun for your students (and hopefully you too!) But for inspiration, and to see how nutty English piano teachers can be (I think we're sometimes misconceived as always being formal and serious!) I'll quickly outline how I've been using them.

The First Lesson

Me: So, we're doing something a bit different this half term. Maurice: You always say that.

Me: And is it always true? Maurice: Well yeah, I guess. We've done the Christmas songs with that weird Dominic the Donkey song, and then we did the circus thing with the different musical types ... So yeah, I guess we do always do different things. What is it this time? Me: You're going to be a detective. Maurice: Oh, cool!

I then gestured to the door that has six room sheets on it. In Room One there are small detective characters with the names of all the students.

Maurice: Oh, I see me!

Me: Sadly, you're locked in that room.

Maurice: What?! Me: But luckily, I know how you can get out.

Maurice: How?! Me: By completing this worksheet and getting the numbers to go in the padlock.

Maurice: Makes sense.

I give him the Room One worksheet and run him through how to complete it. My students tend to put their worksheets in their folder, take it away and do it home, and then bring it back to be marked the next lesson. (Side note: I prefer doing this than helping them with it in the lessons for a couple of reasons. One, a lot of the parents will sit down and help them with it, and I love that it gives them a chance to bond over music. The parents will often comment to me how they enjoyed the worksheet, and that it's part of their weekly routine to sit down and do the worksheets together. Two, they can't rely on me to tell them if it's right or not. They have to do all the working out themselves.) Maurice: So what will happen next week if I have the right numbers?

Me: You'll have to see ...

The Worksheet

I don't want to run you through every worksheet, 'cause we'd be here for ages, but I'll talk you through the first one so you get a feel for what they're like.

I wanted to start with a very wordy worksheet, so the students have to read and work out what they're being asked. There's also a bit of maths involved, but not too much (nothing goes above 9!) This worksheet here is the easiest level in the Room One worksheets, and asks students to work out things like how many different letters there are in the music alphabet, and how many letters are in the clef that represents lower notes. All things students will probably know, but possibly asked in a slightly different way to how they'd normally think about them. All of the worksheets are very different, but they are all challenging and really make the students think!

The topics covered are: general music theory (like the one above), note reading (in treble clef and bass clef), note values, and note names. There is a variety of difficulties - for example with the note reading worksheets, the harder level has a couple of ledger lines for students to work out (okay, there may also be a couple of easier ledger lines to work on on the easier sheet as well. As I said, they're challenging. You don't want them thinking it's easy to escape the rooms!)

The Second Lesson

Maurice: 9852!

I move out of the way so he can walk into the studio, shutting the front door behind him.

Me: Are you sure?

Maurice: I hope so!

I present him with my tablet, with a padlock style password screen.

Me: Put in the number and see if you're right.

He carefully moves the numbers round, muttering the code under his breath.

Maurice: Oh!

The code was correct and it's revealed a picture of a Lego farmer holding a key.

Maurice: That's cool.

Me: Well go and find him then. He's got a key for you.

He walks over to the musical Lego town of Melodia, and scans for the farmer. It only takes him a few seconds, until I hear a, "There you are!"

He picks him up and brings him over to the table. In that time, I've moved his detective character into Room Two.

Maurice: Do I open this?

He points to a locked box on the table. I nod. He opens it up carefully, and retrieves the worksheet marked Room Two.

Maurice: What's this for?

He holds up a small blue Lego brick.

Me: Somewhere in this room there is a big blue Lego brick that has a treat in for you. If the small blue brick is in the box, it means I think the worksheet has been very tricky and I think you deserve a treat.

Maurice: It was hard!

He searches for the brick, then sees it's on the piano, waiting for him. He opens it up and takes out a small lolly and thanks me.

Before he leaves his lesson, I ask him to quickly hide the famer for the next student, which he takes great delight in doing, making sure he doesn't make it too hard, but hard enough.

The following lessons have all followed a very similar process, and I can confidently say that all the students are thoroughly enjoying themselves. The Escape Room project takes a couple of minutes out of their lesson, and then I find the students are very receptive and engaged for the rest of the lesson. Even students who sometimes dip midway and get easily distracted are performing better. Because they started the lesson off differently, their mood was lifted and they're motivated to do well.

The Games

If a student has finished all I had planned for them to do, with not enough time to start something new, I'll then reward them (and myself!) with a detective music game. The 'Music WhoDunit?' is going down a treat, with some students choosing to create their own words to pass on to another student to work out (look out for photos of the finished cases on Greenside Music Facebook and Instagram!)

One of the games included in the pack is Music WhoDunit? This features a grid full of musical symbols and magnifying glasses, and three cases the student must 'solve'. This entails following the instructions to create a path on the grid (for example, start on magnifying glass 2, stave, treble clef, bass clef, Double bar line, letter) to reach the letters on the side to spell out words. (This may sound complicated here, but with the game there's an easier to follow set of instructions!) I've trialed this type of game with students before, and it always goes down well!

The other game included is On The Beat. I'd been wanting to make another rhythm game for a while, and I thought of a technique that some of my students like to use when they get stuck on the rhythm in one of their pieces - add some lyrics! (A favourite among some of them is "I like Har-ry Pot-ter" to get those quavers (eighth notes) nice and balanced. I came up with some detective themed phrases and the rhythms that matched them and On The Beat was born! My students really enjoy any game that follows the same path as bingo (cover up spaces on a card), so this game is a winner! They're also enjoying using my array of percussion instruments to demonstrate the rhythms! (Having fun without realizing they're practicing. Sneaky!)

As I mentioned, if you like the sound of the Music Escape Room, you can find it in the Greenside Music Online Shop. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me on :D

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