Games 1

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950)

Since beginning in the primary sector eight years ago, I’ve become a great believer in the power of musical games to animate young minds. How far into education should this go? Well, if you hope for the majority of a PhD viva to consist of games, you could be in for a lean afternoon. Apart from that, no age is too old – as long as there is a purpose behind the game. Over the course of this week, I’d like to describe some of the favourites, their purpose and any points of interest. The games fall into four basic categories:

  • location (and relocation) of notes
  • visual
  • aural
  • spelling (no, really!)

Here are a few general points which have struck me as important over the years – I’d be delighted to hear ideas from others in the field:

  • I usually keep each round short e.g. first to three is the winner – many short rounds produce more winners in less time
  • a point is only awarded for a clear win – this saves arguments and time
  • anyone repeatedly winning can be given another role e.g. referee’s assistant, score-keeper or even quizmaster
  • if I suspect that any one pupil in the group is unlikely to win a particular game that day, I move on to another topic before anyone can notice this
  • as note finding in a game is a replica of note finding in a piece, I like to issue regular reminders to keep the fingers near the strings, keep the shoulders, arms and hands relaxed for speedy movement, and to prevent the guitar from moving around

Exactly when in the lesson is the best point to have a game depends on circumstances:

  • time of day – it can bring to life an early group who seem not yet fully fired up
  • some groups find it difficult to settle down to less frantic work if the lesson has begun with a game
  • leaving it to the end introduces the danger that we may be pushed for time depending on interruptions etc.
  • for a very biddable group, a game serves as good punctuation between topics

These games also provide a workout for my memory. Nothing is written down. There are often five in a primary group and I have to:

  • keep score
  • remember who has not yet won a round
  • remember what I have already asked

I’ll give examples of the various types of games as the week goes on.