Are you looking for ideas on fun “off bench” activities to use in this Christmas season? Look no further! Today I’m going to share some of my favorite games and resources that I return to year after year along with tips for each one.
First, let me briefly share how I store my holiday games. We have to stay organized, right?
Storing Games (Both Hard-Copy and Digital)
(P.S. The A4 size is nice because if you laminate a letter size-sheet, the lamination makes it larger.)
It’s not a cheap way to store games as they’re almost $1 a piece, so I’m currently only storing my holiday-themed games in these. The rest of my games are stored in hanging files in a file drawer. (I’ll write a post on that another day!)
The digital files are stored in my cloud file manager.
From there, I name files for what they are. This allows me to see how many games, for example, I have, how many worksheets, etc.
Favorite Christmas-Themed Activities
In no particular order…
Holiday Rhythm Cups from Wendy Stevens at Compose Create.
This is a great way to have fun with rhythm in a unique and collaborative way. The set includes three songs in three levels: Deck the Halls, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and Joy to the World.
Check out a clip of my students having fun with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
Christmas Carol Rhythm Match-ups (Jennifer Fink | Pianimation)
Here are the steps I take when doing this activity.
Working together as a group:
- Using the rhythm cards only, tap (and verbalize using a neutral syllable such as “bum”) the rhythms of all cards together. I find it is important that the students verbally say the rhythm without using counts or rhythm syllables for this activity. Lay each rhythm card out on the floor so by the end they are spread out all over the room.
- Using the lyric cards only, say the lyrics in a rhythmic manner, void of pitch.
- After the group verbalizes the rhythm of each lyric strip, ask them to find the matching rhythm.
Christmas Rhythm Dictation Sheets (Jennifer Fink| Pianimation)
- Sing the whole song (with lyrics) as a group. Then, going one line at a time…
- Sing the line of music (with lyrics).
- Sing the line using a neutral syllable (such as “bum”).
- Say the rhythm pattern only using a neutral syllable (such as “bah”). Do this without pitch in the voice.
It can also help if we are all looking at one sheet together and the teacher (while we are verbalizing all of these steps above), lightly taps the beat while pointing to the page so students can see how the beats we are verbalizing fit with the images on the page.
Jingle Bells with Rhythm Instruments (Susan Paradis)
The score includes triangle, claves, block, piano, and a bass line.
This is an easy and fun collaborative activity for your students to engage in together.
As a bonus, it’s great to use when you have mixed ages. Let the older students play the piano and bass part and the younger students play the instruments!
I like to have all students practice each part together while counting out loud (even if you think they’re capable of sight-reading the score).
The extra step before putting it together helps ensure success the first time through!
Trepak “Baseball” (Heidi Neil | Heidi’s Piano Notes)
My students love this movement activity! It’s short and fun and gets them up and moving.
I like to keep hard copies of all my games and I needed a print-out of the instructions, so I copied and pasted Heidi’s instructions into a simple PDF.
Be sure and practice all the moves yourself so you know what you’re doing! 🙂
Christmas Improv Cards | Teach Piano Today.
Teach Piano Today has all kinds of themed-improvisation cards. Basically, they give you a teacher accompaniment, and rhythm patterns with themed lyrics and students improvise using that pattern in whatever key is given.
In a group setting, I always find it’s good to have students say them all together then line up at the piano. They improvise that pattern for four repetitions then I prompt “next” and count of the next person while I continue to play.
Student Gifts that Keep on Giving (Music Teachers Helpers Blog)
One year, inspired by this post, I had my students made cards for their parents thanking them for giving them the gift of music and piano lessons.
A Few More…
Hallelujah Chorus Listening Map (MakingMusicFun.net)
This is a fun visual way for students to listen and follow along to the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah. To help them follow along, have them physically point to the sheet while listening.
Christmas Pieces Flashcards (Wendy Stevens | Compose Create)
This is an older resource on C.C. so I had to do some digging to find it, but it would be great for sight-singing.
Ice-Breaker Holiday Who-Am-I? (Wendy Stevens | Compose Create)
A fun way to shake it up when you have a larger group – maybe for your studio holiday party?!
Holiday-Themed Listening Thermometers (Wendy Stevens | Compose Create)
These are great for getting students to listen actively to performances.
Looking for more? Here are some more round-up posts from other teachers:
- Heidi Neal: Free Christmas Piano Teaching Resource Roundup
- Tracy Selle: My Favorite Christmas Resources for Piano Teachers (and most are free!)
Share some of your favorite holiday games and activities in the comments!