Updated: Jul 30
Coming up with engaging games for a middle school classroom can be daunting. They are at an age where they want to be independent, yet need some hand holding. They start the “I’m too cool for school” attitude and it can be intimidating at times when you introduce a new game or project - immediately the eye rolling takes over and you are stuck with questioning yourself. I’m here to tell you, I’VE BEEN THERE!
It is incredibly frustrating when you are put in a situation like that, but I’m here to share some games I’ve done with my kiddos and it’s actually turned out better than just “fine”, but I actually have the kids begging to play the games in class. So, check it out below to see what keeps my kids engaged.
Fun Music Classroom Games
Some of the most fun music classroom games are music theory related, It’s a great way to keep students reviewing music theory throughout the school year. Here are two of my FAVORITE music activities in the classroom that help engage students in reviewing by making it a music game in the classroom.
Twister is a great game that engages a lot of age groups. This game is no exception. Easy instructions and directions!
Take duct tape, electrical tape or any other tape material to place on the floor. Make it a HUGE music staff with 5 lines across. I like to put measures in the staff so that when students play, they know where their space is during the music twister game.
TIP: When putting the lines down, please keep in mind your students body size. You don’t want to make it too big or too small. I usually make mine about 4 feet tall between the bottom line and top line. Then I put the tape down for the middle line and then put the 2nd and 4th line down last. This seems to work best for me.
The rules are the same as a normal twister game. You can use a right or left, hand or foot and it is to be placed on a random (in this case) letter name on the music staff.
TIP: If one of the letter names are doubled (like there are two F’s and two E’s on the music staff), make sure to label the top one “High E” and the line E “Low E”. This will help with confusion.
You can make cards for you to pull from OR you can have go to a spinner and have it be random that way. I go to wheeldecide.com to do this. OR you can just say which limb and note name on your own - sometimes the kids beg for a challenge, so I play the challenging angles.
I like to tell kids, no other body parts can touch the floor UNLESS I call for it. They also tell them they can lift off a foot or hand unless it is called - this can make it WAY more challenging!
If you want your entire class to be bought it. Have them be in groups and compete against each other. Ex. 1st person from group #1 and #2 compete for a point.
Ultimately, this is a great game for reviewing note names on either the Bass or Treble Clef!
Music Land Giant Board Game
This game MIGHT take up some time on the front end to get prepped, but it is a BLAST to play!
What You Need:
Get a giant tarp and a lot of different colored duct tape (and don’t buy the cheap stuff, get good quality tape so it sticks good to the tarp).
Make a board game trail of spaces weaving around the top of the tarp.
Different colors can mean different things, so plan ahead accordingly when you lay out your colors. Gold squares can mean “Extra turn” or a square not filled in might be “miss a turn”. It adds some fun elements to the game - and what’s even better is you can determine what you want it to be!
Rules for Music Land
Move all Chairs/Desks out-of-the-way and lay down tarp (or go outside if its nice!)
Break up the class into 4 different groups.The groups will sit together around the tarp (I have them sit on the floor).
The groups will create a “group order” (who’s going first, second, third, etc.).
Once done, the first person from each group will come up to the start line.
One at a time, each group representative (#1) will roll the die and choose a card. They will attempt to answer, with the help of their group members.If they get it right, they move how many spots they rolled. If it is wrong, they stay on the Tarp until they get a question correct (which could go a couple rounds) and the same question is given to the next Team.
Once all representatives have gone (I call these “rounds”), they switch spots on the tarp so the next Representative (#2) can answer a question.
The winner can ONLY win if they roll the exact number of spaces in front of them. Ex. If they roll 2 spaces away from the finish…they have to roll a 2 in order to win (and get the question correct). This can prolong the game if need be.
This game always gets my classes excited and they beg to play this constantly! If you want the cards I use for when I play, you can find the link below. You can just print them off on normal printer paper.
Spoons Music Game
I have memories of playing Spoons in the college cafeteria with 20 other college kids. It was a blast then and it’s still a blast now. And what’s great about this is that you can tailor it to WHATEVER you want. Dynamics? Time Signatures? Note Names? You name it, you can make it! If you don’t know how to play Spoons, check out this video for a quick explanation.
How to Make the Cards
You can just cut up cardboard paper and hand write
Print off card and laminate them to actual playing cards.
Print them on index cards and laminate them (remember, we are going for “make it once and it’s last a long time).
Ideas for Your Spoons Music Game
Dynamics - they have to match the definition, abbreviation, term, and the use of it in a measure.
Note names - have them match up the letter name, location of the note (ex. 2nd line), a visual picture of the note on the measure, and a fingering chart of the note.
Note Values - Have them match up the note value (quarter note), beats (1 beat), actual name of the note (quarter note), and it being used in a measure and highlighted.
Keep it Simple - Or you can just create 4 duplicates of each symbol or term and they have to match them up in their hands of cards.
I personally like doing four different ways of matching the cards, because they have to actually think about the terminology and how it’s applied in music. But, you do whatever you feel like your class needs the most!
Music Activities Online
One of my favorite activities for the music classroom is to have them remix a song on Chrome Music Lab.
How to Implement Chrome Music Lab Remixes
There are a TON of tutorial videos on Youtube on how to make songs on Music Lab. But, I like to make it “extra” ::insert hair flip::. I tell them they have to remix it.
We talk about ways to alter a theme (which makes it a variation). Typically tempo, timbre, rhythm and pitches are discussed when creating remixes in the classroom. WHICH IS PERFECT!
So, the students HAVE to write the song out first, and then they have to do 2 alterations (ex. Change some of the pitches and the tempo) to create their remix.
Once they are done, they can share their remix with the class.
This can also double as a great sub day lesson plan if your kids can have access to devices while you are gone. It’s easy to implement and the kids LOVE this activity. I’ve done this with 5th, 6th and 7th graders and each time, they love it.
Classroom Management Game
This one isn’t exactly a music game…but it is a great way to keep kids engaged and focused. Especially if you are needing a day to get through a lot of content. This works with classes that are super chatty. It does involve consequences at the end of the game.
The IT Game
The It Game is a simple game that is implemented by the teacher. It is pretty much like Tag, but instead of tagging a player, the player becomes “it” by their own actions.
Introduce the rules of the game (I’m giving this to you below)
Always count down when you start. I normally say “It Game. 3-2-1”
If a student plays or talks out of turn, they become “it”. You will simply say “ You’re it” and continue teaching. You don’t have to redirect or correct behavior. They know what this means because you have told the class the rules.
Here is the kicker - If someone else talks or plays out of turn, the previous students is free and this student is now “it”. (just like the game Tag).
The last person who is “it” has a consequence. I don’t make the consequence severe or even “that bad”. It might be they come in for 3 minutes at lunch or they have to straighten up the chairs before the bell rings, etc. It’s not anything that is a serious consequence.
This game is really about concentration and being hyper aware. You would think the kids would be super aware of other kids throughout the whole class period, just waiting for someone to talk. But really, they keep focused on the lesson at hand and I normally have some of the best teaching by playing this game.
I don’t do it often, because I don’t need to most of the time…but there is always that weird day when it takes 20 minutes to start class because the kids are crazy or it’s a full moon on halloween. This is when you would implement this.
The kids that want to learn LOVE this game. The kids that receive more consequences than normal throughout the school day LOVE this game because they love the challenge. And the kids keep each other accountable without being annoying about it. It’s a nice change of pace if you need a quick classroom management game. Don’t believe me, just try it. 😁
I hope these games and activities help your students keep engaged during some boring topics! It's all about making music games in the classroom engaging and keeping them on their toes! If you are needing more inspiration for the music classroom, check out the rest of the blogs on Teaching Music Outside the Box. Make sure to let me know what your absolute favorite activity is and how it helped!
If you are looking for more resources for your music classroom or band classroom, please feel free to visit my other blog posts below!