Issue 88: Switch – Taking it to another level

To my amazement, I met a music teacher who didn’t know how to play “Switch”. It’s a great game for pulse and rhythm, focus, and independence.

So here’s how you play it. before you play it with the children, you have to explain it first. And probably a couple more times until they ALL get the hang of paying attention to what you are saying and following instructions.

The leader starts by doing a repeated action – e.g. patting the pulse on their knees. The children DO NOT COPY THIS – yet!

When the leader says “Switch”, two things happen. The children copy the original action AND the Leader starts doing something else, e.g. clapping a rhythm.

Once this is established (the Leader doing action 2, the children doing action 1) the Leader says “Switch” again, and starts action 3, while the children do action 2. To stop the game, the leader says “Switch” and just folds their arms, standing still. The children should still be doing the previous action, until the Leader says “Switch”, whereupon everyone should stop.

I alternate quiet and sounding actions, simple and complex actions, choosing things that are suitable for the age and experience of the class.

When you are all good at the game, you could let one of the children be the leader.

So now, taking it to another level… Divide the children into two groups. Group 1 follows the leader, and so is always one action behind. Group 2 follows Group 1, and so is always two actions behind the leader. If this isn’t sufficiently challenging, just add more and more groups!

At the start, I mentioned pulse, rhythm, focus, and independence. The independence part is when you stress that everyone must be responsible for getting it right – at the beginning, everyone must keep their eyes on the leader and think about what they are doing. Once you have more than one group on the go, each child must be responsible for themselves, picking the best person to watch and staying focused.

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