Online Teaching Activities To Get Students Smiling (Part II)

As a continuation from my previous blog, here are some more teaching activities I use in my online lessons that are great at getting students smiling (which is a great thing to do, especially during these weird times!)


This is similar to the Ice Cream Scale, but it challenges them in a different way, and always gets them giggling!

I have my students play a C major scale, one octave, with their right hand. Again, if they're more advanced I'll get them to play a different scale (and even better if they're learning scales for their grade exams because it's a way to get them to practice them!) I then get them to play it again, but this time they'll say these words: "I can do the can-can, can you? Can you do the can-can too?" One syllable per note. Already this gets my students giggling as they try and say it correctly.

This time I challenge their coordination. I do this by adding choreography to the scale (which immediately amuses them - "You're adding dance moves to the scale?!") For example, every time they say the word "can" they have to pat their head. Then on the word "I" they have to point at themselves. Then (I know! Two actions just isn't enough!) on the word "you" they point at me. So that's I (point at themselves) can (pat head) do the can (pat head) can (pat head) can (pat head) you (point at me) Can (pat head) you (point at me) do the can (pat head) can (pat head) too? Depending on how well they do with that, I then step it up. Maybe the rules change so they can't say the word "can" but they still play the note and pat their head. This activity makes students laugh as they try and remember all the rules and it also brings out the determination in certain students as they don't want to be beaten!

This activity works as a a great warm up, as it really wakes up the students' brains!


This is a versatile activity that will suit different types of student. I use it with: - New students who I'm getting to know - Students who need certain areas of their musical knowledge checking - Students who like to tell me everything and anything about themselves Here's what I do: Get the student to create 2 short phrases, making sure they're memorable and distinctive. For example for a younger student it might be something like C D E E E and G F E D C Label the phrases yes and no.

Then I ask them a question. This can range from anything like "Do you like chocolate cake?" to "Does forte tell you to play loudly?" or even something silly like "Do you think penguins get itchy knees?" As long as you ask them a yes/no question and they can remember which phrases is which, you can ask anything! I like to mix things up and start with a musical question and then swap to a random question and then back to a musical question. It keeps them on their toes and gets them smiling! There are also a few alternatives on this:

  • Instead of yes/no ask this/that questions and have the phrases represent answer one and answer two. For example C D E E E = answer one G F E D C = answer two "Do you prefer cats or dogs?" I would play C D E E E because I'm a cat person.

You can then swap round and have your students ask you questions and listen out for your answers.

  • If your student is a young beginner, you can simplify it to things like "If you like cats, play C. If you like dogs, play D." "Play an E if you have any pets."

This is a useful game to play at the start of lessons when a student might be a bit tired or not quite in the right mood. I have one student in particular who's always a bit reserved at the start of the lesson, but after we've played a little game like Yes/No he opens up and is ready and raring to learn!


I've seen a few other teachers mention an activity like this, but this is how I play it: - Choose a note in the students' current piece. Get the student to put up 10 fingers. They put a finger down every time you ask them a yes/no question about their note. (These can be questions like "is it in treble clef?" "Is it worth two beats?") if you can work out their note in 10 yes/no questions or less, you win the treasure. If you can't, the student wins. Swap round so they ask you yes/no questions to work out your note. (I always go first so they can hear the sort of questions they can ask)

I've played this game a lot with students of all ages - it's always useful at the end of lessons when there isn't quite enough time to start something new or to play through the piece again, but there's just enough time for a quick round of Treasure Hunt!

Hopefully these ideas have inspired and encouraged you; there'll be more next time!