Video: Playing the Ice Cream Interval Game

During a recent lesson, I used my Ice Cream Interval Game — one of my favorite games for piano teaching — to reinforce and improve my student’s visual recognition of the intervals unison, second, third, fourth, and fifth in staff notation. Today, I thought I’d share a three-minute video clip of the activity.


Here is what you’ll see in the video:

  • 0:00 When playing this game with my students, sometimes I like to hand-pick certain cards from the pile for the student to sort next, in order to build success. First, I made sure Emma could easily distinguish 2nds versus 3rds.
  • 0:10 Then, I gave Emma a card showing a 4th on the keyboard, and then a 5th on the keyboard. After that, I start giving her 4ths and 5ths notated on the staff.
  • 0:12 I like to ask the question: “How many notes are being skipped over?” I have found that this is a more effective strategy leading to being able to quickly recognize intervals on the staff upon sight, as opposed to allowing students to count all of the steps within an interval (for example, counting “1-2-3-4-5” for a 5th).
  • 1:00 I point out to Emma that 5ths look like triads except that the middle note has been removed.
  • 1:18 I encourage Emma to try to recognize the intervals on sight, instead of immediately resorting to counting the steps within the interval.
  • 1:44 Emma enjoys taking note of which cone has the most ice cream scoops so far. Students often comment on this during the game, because it’s fun! Emma does it again at the end of the video.
  • 2:08 Emma is beginning to recognize the various intervals upon sight, as evidenced by the increased amount of ease and decreased amount of time she uses while sorting the cards.

The Ice Cream Interval Game is available in my shop as a digital PDF download here. To read more of my thoughts regarding the important role of interval recognition during sight-reading, check out this post. Thanks for watching!

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

Joy has blogged 1131 posts here.

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  1. Posted 18 April 2016 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Can’t wait to watch the video! I love getting a sneak peek of other teachers in action!
    I’m not sure if something is wrong on my end but when I click the video it says, “This video is private”. Should I do something different?

    • Posted 18 April 2016 at 9:52 am | Permalink

      Sorry about that — please try it again now, Kirstie!

      • Posted 22 April 2016 at 3:28 am | Permalink

        Yep, it worked perfectly now! Thank you!!! Your student was so focused and made a vast improvement in such a short time! That’s encouraging! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Cheryl
    Posted 18 April 2016 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    I just finished cutting out all of the laminated cones and ice cream scoops right before the MTNA Conference. We are set to go! Excited to use them. Thanks for the video!

  3. Posted 23 April 2016 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Wow! Awesome! It’s absolutely wonderful to watch Emma get better with the intervals. Thanks for sharing, Joy. You’re truly an inspiration, and have made me a better piano teacher. Keep up the good work!

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