Online Teaching Activities To Get Students Smiling (Part I)

At the moment, one of my main aims in my online piano lessons is to make sure my students are happy. For many of them, this is one moment in the week where they're seeing someone outside their family and it's something they look forward to. Of course it still feels a bit different and strange, but we're getting used to it.

We always play a lot of games in our piano lessons, so I wanted to continue that into online lessons to make them feel more comfortable. Out of all the ones I've tried, these are the ones that work the best!


Sadly nothing to do with eating ice cream (boo) but it still gets my students laughing as they get determined not to be beaten!

This is how you do it...

- Have you student play a C major scale, one octave, with their right hand. Depending on the level of your student, you can get them to play another scale, but make sure it's just one octave.

- Get them to play it again, but this time they're going to say these words as they play: "I think ice cream is the best food, I could eat it ev-'ry day" One syllable per note. - Now you're going to step it up and challenge them. Get them to say and play it again, but this time they're not allowed to play any 'D's. They must still say the words and mime playing the 'D's but they can't press them down. Continue this with different notes being omitted. Depending on how well they do, you can challenge them further.

- These are some of my challenges: Play and say, but you're not allowed to play C, E, or G Now play and say, but you're only allowed to play C, E, or G Play all the notes but you're not allowed to say the word 'I' Play all the notes but you're not allowed to say any words with an 'I' in them This activity really gets the students' brains working, and very importantly it gets them smiling and laughing!


This is one of my youngest students' favourite games, and the best way to explain it is to tell you how I came up with it. My student, we'll call him Josh, was learning Hot Cross Buns. He played it through once, but there was room for improvement. I asked him to play it again but he didn't want to. I could tell this wasn't an argument I was going to win, so I said, "Did you know there's a game of Eleven Dancing Cats going on, but neither of us have any points yet?" His eyes lit up. We're playing a game?! I explained, "Every time you play the notes E, D, C, in that order, we have to shout ELEVEN DANCING CATS! First person to shout it gets 10 points" I held up a whiteboard with our two names on, ready to start counting the points. He started playing the piece. First bar in he played E D C and shouted, "Eleven dancing cats! 10 points for me! You'll never be as fast as me!"

He played the next bar, E D C, and I shouted, "Eleven Dancing Dogs!" Josh laughed.

"It's Eleven Dancing Cats! I said it before you, so I get the points!" This continued and we got to the end of the piece. "Can we play again? I want to get to 100 points."

The next lesson he asked if we could play Eleven Dancing Cats again. I said, "Not today. Today we're going to be playing Green Giraffes Eat Eggs." He started to play the next piece in the book and spotted G G E and shouted, "Green Giraffes Eat Eggs! 10 points for me!"

I don't play this sort of game with him every week, because it would get old quickly, but I spring it on him every so often, when I feel he'll respond to it well, and he thoroughly enjoys it!


I like to utilize games students will have played before, and who doesn't love a good game of I Spy?

For this game we're using our musical eyes and our musical ears, and it goes something like this:

I say, "I spy with my musical eye a bar (or phrase) that sounds like this."

I then play the bar (or phrase) and watch as the student searches their music.

They then say, "I hear with my musical ear, and I have found it."

I then give then instructions. For example, "Now you've found it, play the bar/phrase before it." Or "Tell me how many 'C's are in the bar/phrase"

The instructions differ for the different levels of student and also on the mood they're in. If they're happy to do things seriously, we'll just play it normally. If I think they need jazzing up, I'll throw instructions like this their way: "Now you've found the bar, play it back to me but with a really stupid grin on your face"

This gets them giggling as they play around with grins until they decide which one they'll play with. Then I'll say something like, "Oh, very good! I bet you can't play it while wiggling your eyebrows though!"

I'll then spy another bar with my musical eye, and we'll have fun playing that bar in silly ways. It gets them practicing certain parts of the music, but it also gets them giggling!

They're just three little activities I include in some of my online piano lessons. I'll be back soon with some more!