Issue 122: Improvisation and Listen-and-copy Game

Here’s a variation on the “pass the shaker” improvisation game, which helps keep a whole class engaged.

The basic game is just passing a shaker round the circle while counting, or maybe all saying a chant. Whoever is holding the shaker at the end of the chant then improvises a rhythm, trying to keep within an agreed number of beats.

I choose a shaker for the instrument, as it is easier to pass an instrument with only one component. Woodblocks give a clearer rhythm, but then you have to pass the block and the stick, and the children are bound to drop or fumble it. I might experiment with one of those elasticated castanets, once I have unearthed it from one of my many music bags which are littering up my car and house!


The chant: yesterday I just counted four slow beats, and that defined the amount of time the improvisation lasted. Nice and easy. Sometimes I use “Ip Dip Doe, It’s your go” which is slightly trickier, as there is a “silent” beat after “doe”, and the children are often uncertain whether to pass on the beat or not, leading to debate and argument! That’s a good opportunity to discuss rests.

Anyway, once someone has been “chosen”, they improvise their rhythmic pattern, and then, (here’s the extra bit) I get the whole class to clap back their pattern. This keeps everyone listening and involved in the game.

I have found that if it is a large class – I haveĀ 43 children in one of my classes – the children who have had their go will start chatting after a while. But by getting them to copy-clap back the improvisation they tend to stay engaged.

Once or twice around the circle is plenty. There will be cries of “Aw, I didn’t get a go”, but we can always play the game another day. And using a chant avoids the complaints of “I never get chosen”.

birds on a branch divider

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