Issue 22: Don’t clap this one back

This is an incredibly simple little listening game, which quickly sorts out the classes that have learned focus and self discipline from those that have no idea!

Keeping an internal pulse going all the time, the leader claps a four-beat rhythm, which the children copy straight back, maintaining the pulse. This can be simple; clap on 1,2,3,4 – or tricky; clap on 1 and 2 with silent rests on 3 and 4 (the children will need to be taught to wait for the two silent counts before they clap their reply). Anything goes, so long as it fits into the 4-beat framework.

The “forbidden” pattern is clap, clap, clap-clap clap, the pattern which fits with the words “Don’t clap this-one back”.

The rules of the game equally simple; if the children remain totally silent when they hear that pattern, tbey get a point. However, if a single person even starts to clap, OR, a single person gives any kind of signal that this is The Forbidden Pattern, OR, if someone makes a mistake, anyone groans or calls out the name of the person who made a mistake, then the teacher gets a point for each and any of these infringements. So, if one person makes a mistake, and another gave a signal, and someone else called out, then the teacher gets 3 points all in one go.

You can play the same game on instruments. This adds to the level of difficulty if you are having difficulty winning. (Not that I am a competitive sort of person. Of course not.)

At one school I teach music to two year 4 classes on after another. When I play this game, one class always loses  in about 30 seconds. I have been unable to win a single point with the other class, whatever I do to try and catch them out. Needless to say, I get far more done with the second class than with the first!

At another school, one of the children delivered a footballer team-style pep talk to the class – “c’mon, we’re all in this together, let’s work together and try to win”‘. I think he has entirely missed the point; winning this game isn’t about a team effort; it is about each individual being totally focussed and responsible for playing their part, by themselves.

This highlights one of the issues I have encountered in class behaviour management, where some children have become self-appointed “behaviour policemen” continually interrupting lessons to comment on what other children are doing. I have yet to discover the final cure for this situation (which is rife in one or two classes I work with). A first step is to arrange the children in such a way that known protagonists can’t actually see each other. This will reduce their opportunity for interaction. If you can also position them close to an adult, there is more chance of quickly and unobtrusively silencing them before they can get into full stride and take over the whole lesson!


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