A Merry Christmas Sight-Reading Game for Piano Lessons

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Merry Christmas Sight-Reading Game for Piano Lessons

November and December are great months to incorporate a Christmas sight-reading game for piano lessons!

Feed the nutcracker games and all the other “Feed the ________” games from Melody Payne’s collection are an absolute hit in my studio, and I’m sure they will be in yours too!

In this blog post, I’ll briefly describe the first two of these absolutely adorable new games, how to assemble them, and some ideas for private and group lessons, including multilevel groups.

Your students will be begging to do Christmas sight-reading and ear training once they lay their eyes on these fabulous games!

The big holiday season will be here before you know it!

Treat your students to some fun new musical Christmas games that everyone can play, regardless of their level or even whether they celebrate Christmas or not.

Feed the Nutcracker Game #1: Pre-Staff Christmas Sight-Reading Game

This first Christmas sight-reading game of the two in this post, Feed the Nutcracker Beginning Piano Christmas Sight-Reading Game, includes 30 short melodies from the Nutcracker Ballet by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Your students may not be familiar with this very famous Russian composer or his equally famous ballet, often performed at Christmas time.

But here’s a chance to introduce even your littlest music students to this beautiful music.

It’s easy to assemble the game.  Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Print out the cute nutcracker image, sight reading cards, and almond cards on card stock.
  2. Laminate if desired.
  3. Cut everything out carefully.
  4. Cut a hole to make an opening for the nutcracker’s mouth.
  5. Get a bag or cereal box, and cut a hole in the front where the nutcracker’s mouth will be.
  6. Glue the nutcracker onto the box or bag, lining up the holes.

That’s about it! The whole process really doesn’t take long at all.

Who Is This Feed the Nutcracker Christmas Sight-Reading Game For?

This first Feed the Nutcracker game is meant for young piano students who haven’t yet learned how to read notes on a staff.

Nevertheless, the melodies are easy to follow, making it the perfect Christmas sight-reading game.

Each note is labelled with letter names; there are quarter, half, dotted half, and whole notes, as well as some quarter rests.

There are no more than four measures in each musical excerpt.

Initial finger numbers are included so that students can start in the correct hand position.

How to Play

There are two ways to play this Christmas sight-reading game, one focusing on ear training and the other on sight reading.

  1.  Ear Training Option:
  • The student selects two melody cards.
  • The teacher plays one of the two melodies.
  • If the student correctly guesses which melody the teacher played, he/she gets to “feed” the card to the nutcracker and collect an almond card.
  • If the student chooses incorrectly, he/she doesn’t get to feed the nutcracker and doesn’t collect an almond card.
  • Play until you run out of time, have fed all the melody cards to the nutcracker, or until the student has collected a predetermined number of almond cards.

2. Sight-Reading Option:

  • The student selects a melody card and sight-reads it.
  • If played correctly, the student feeds the melody card to the nutcracker and collects an almond card.
  • Continue the same steps as for the ear training option.

Feed the Nutcracker Game #2: Middle C Position Christmas Sight-Reading Game

This second Christmas sight-reading game is meant for piano students who have learned their notes in Middle C hand position.

The melodies are the same as the ones in the first game, but this time, the notes are written on the grand staff, and students collect chestnut cards instead of almond cards.

I love how the nutcracker images in each Christmas sight-reading game have been drawn.

Both of them have musical symbols hidden in them, including a piano keyboard image in the second game.

This is a wonderful musical touch!  I also appreciate the different skin tones between the two nutcrackers.

Additionally, it occurred to me that children today may not even have seen a simple nutcracker, let alone an elaborate one like the ones depicted in these Feed the Nutcracker games.

Also, many children these days may have only seen/eaten almonds or chestnuts that have already been shelled.

When I was a child, in December only, we used to put nuts in a special wooden bowl meant for that purpose, and we’d sit in front of the T.V., happily cracking and eating walnuts and chestnuts, shells flying everywhere… it was a true sign that Christmas was near!

Since I’d be willing to bet that most children today haven’t had this special Christmastime experience, playing these Feed the Nutcracker games would be a fun opportunity for teachers of a certain age to connect with their students, telling a story about “when I was young…” to a hopefully spellbound audience!  🙂

And now, as promised, here are some ideas for using this Christmas sight-reading game in both private and group classes:

1. Christmas Sight-Reading Game Ideas for Group Classes

  • If you regularly teach group piano classes in your own studio or at school, have a Christmas party, and include a fun Feed the Nutcracker Christmas sight-reading game as part of your planned activities.
  • If your class is small enough, you may opt to play the game altogether as a class.
    • Students can play as individuals or in partners.
    • The individual or pair who collects the most almonds/chestnuts wins the game and gets a small prize!
  • Is your class multilevel?  No problem!
    • Give the new students the pre-staff game (Feed the Nutcracker game #1), and have your more experienced students play the second game (with notes on the staff).
  • However, if you are a classroom music teacher and you have 25 or more students, you may need to set up these Feed the Nutcracker games as one station among many stations that students will visit that day.
    • For this idea to work, the teacher must thoroughly explain and demonstrate the game first.
    • Then, I recommend sending at least two pairs of students to the station.
    • When a student takes his/her turn sight reading an excerpt, the other three decide whether the music was played correctly or incorrectly, thus determining whether the student gets to collect a nut card or nut.
    • Obviously, the teacher of a large music class cannot be at that station at all times, as he/she would have to be circulating among all the different stations that had been set up that day.
    • But I do think this idea would work.  Try it, and in the comments below, let us know how you fared!

2. Christmas Sight-Reading Game Ideas for Private Piano Lessons

  • Use these Feed the Nutcracker games as an opportunity to slip in a little music history.
    • Find and play some good recordings of musical excerpts from the Nutcracker ballet, and then play the game with the student.
    • That way, your students will make the connection between the actual music and the sight reading excerpts.
    • You may also wish to briefly discuss the composer, Tchaikovsky, with your student before playing the game.
  • You can play the games with your students during a private lesson.
    • In other words, you take your turn playing too!
    • Let your student decide whether you played the excerpt correctly or  not.
    • Just for fun, make obvious mistakes so that your student can “catch” you and call you out on your error.
    • Let your student win the game, of course!

3. Bonus Ideas for All Music Teachers

  • Remember that Feed the Nutcracker game #1 does not have notes written on the staff.  But the rhythms on the musical excerpts cards are very clear.
    • Therefore, music teachers of any instrument can make use of this highly educational game.
    • Simply turn it into a rhythm game!
    • All music students can benefit from clapping these rhythms, and all young students are sure to enjoy feeding the nutcracker.
  • This would take some preparation, but if you have time, you could make a recording with just the 30 musical excerpts.
    • After your student correctly claps the rhythm on the card and feeds the nutcracker, take the time to listen to the recording of the short excerpt.
    • So much learning can take place here!

Each Christmas sight-reading game can certainly be played during all of November and December and perhaps beyond!

Now is the time to purchase and prepare your Feed the Nutcracker games, and be amazed as your students ask to do sight reading and ear training.

What other ideas can you think of for each Nutcracker Christmas sight-reading game?  Tell us in the comments!

More “Feed the…” Sight-Reading Games & Teaching Ideas

Other creative activities you and your students will love…

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Celeste-tina Hernandez

Celeste-tina is a Royal Conservatory of Music trained pianist and music teacher. She holds a B.A. in Music and Drama from Trinity Western University and an M.A. in Arts Education from Simon Fraser University as well as numerous teaching certificates. She is a long-time member of the British Columbia Registered Music Teacher’s Association and regularly contributes to Progressions, the provincial magazine for registered music teachers. Celeste-tina currently teaches 65 piano, voice, and guitar students from her home studio in Chilliwack, B.C. She enjoys teaching students from ages four to adult and people of all abilities, both individually and in groups. She counts it a blessing to be able to share her love of music with so many and can’t wait to get back into the studio every Monday morning to begin another fun-filled week of music making.

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Hi! I’m Melody Payne, a pianist and piano teacher, educational resource author, a fun-loving wife to the most wonderful and talented hubby I could ask for, and a lifelong learner who loves to share. I want to make your life as a music teacher easier by writing and sharing helpful and relevant music teaching articles, and by creating educational resources with your very own students in mind. If you are a parent who wants to enroll your child in piano lessons, I’d love for us to get started building those skills that can give your child a lifetime of musical enjoyment!

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