Spell-A-Keyboard Game

This morning with my homeschool music class, I played this game with my students:

As I was lesson planning last night, I was trying to think of a new way to practice the names of the piano keys.  My homeschool music class is mostly a music history class, but we’ve been learning basic music/piano concepts too.  My students already know how to figure them the piano key names by counting from Middle C, but they need more practice to get them memorized.  So I came up with this game, which I called the “Spell-A-Keyboard Game.”

My students loved this game!  I gave them each a set of cards with words containing only A-G (I gave them only the three-letter words for today) and a silent keyboard or paper keyboard, and three glass gems (pennies or buttons work too).  Then I instructed them to “spell” the words from each flashcard by covering the right keys with glass gems.  If you are playing this game with students at the piano, you can require that students spell the letters in order from left to right, but on a silent keyboard there might not be room to do so (as in the example shown in the photo).

This game is a great way to practice the piano key names without it actually feeling like a drill!  My students really enjoyed seeing how quickly they could spell the words and were pretty proud of their work each time.

You can download the “Musical Alphabet Word Flashcards” on the Printables > Games page.  When I created the cards, I tried to pick mostly words that kids would know.  Enjoy!

Update: I just realized that Susan Paradis plays a game very similar to this, except the words are spelled on the staff!  Read more here.

Update: Read about the outdoor version of this game here, where I describe my Musical Olympics Camp.

Update: I also found a way to adapt this game to be used with two floor keyboards indoors, with two teams.  Click here for more info.

Joy Morin is a piano teacher in northwest Ohio (United States) who enjoys keeping her teaching fresh with new ideas and resources. ColorInMyPiano.com serves as a journal of her adventures in piano teaching as well as a place to exchange ideas and resources.

Joy has blogged 1142 posts here.

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  1. Mary Farrell
    Posted 24 May 2012 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    What a great idea! Did you make the keyboard?

  2. Kylie Grayston
    Posted 25 May 2012 at 3:31 am | Permalink

    why didn’t i think of this before! perfect for my student right now :D thanks!

  3. Posted 25 May 2012 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    I love this! Great idea! Can’t wait to use it with my little ones this summer. Thanks for sharing!!

  4. Posted 2 June 2012 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant! I will definitely be using this for my students. Thanks!

  5. Posted 17 June 2012 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    I love these pianos…I better get building. Thank you for sharing. By the way, I think your website is fantastic!!!

    • Posted 18 June 2012 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      Thank you, Patty! I’ve surprised myself with how often these little pianos have been useful. They are great for anytime you are working with groups. :)

  6. Kenneth Perkins
    Posted 26 July 2012 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    Love this!! I too am a piano teacher (roughly 11 years) and pianist. This is amazing! I am also a first year music teacher and will def. be using this in my music class!! Thanks!

  7. Amanda
    Posted 5 December 2012 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    Used this tonight with my young beginner. It’s a private lesson so used the actual piano. He seemed to enjoy it.

    I’ve just discovered your website and am finding it really helpful. I am fairly new to teaching so I can use all the help I can get. Thanks for the great ideas.

  8. Posted 19 February 2014 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Hi Joy! I love your blog and am looking forward to making the large floor version of this game for my monthly group classes :)

    You mentioned you do a music history class for homeschool students… do you have any other posts or information about that? How do you craft a syllabus for your different age groups, and how do you get these classes started? As an aspiring musicologist I’d love to get something like that going during the day before my afternoon lessons.

  9. Posted 8 May 2014 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    I did this the other day with a boy who had forgotten his books. I had a little white board, and just made up this silly story on the spot, writing down words he could spell. It started off about me having BEEF, an EGG, and some honey from a BEE for breakfast. At one point in the story DAD came in the room and started to GAB. (annoying because all i wanted was a nap). He laughed especially hard when I wrote that I made a GAG FACE.
    Thanks for the link to the DIY keyboard (was wondering where a fellow teacher had acquired that) and Susan’s game. Excited to play this game more often.

    • Posted 8 May 2014 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

      I’m glad to hear it went so well with your student! What fun!! :)

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