Music class has always been a favorite for a lot of kids, because that means it’s time to shake, wiggle, and make noise! With the shift to online learning for many young learners and music teachers, planning fun, interactive Zoom lessons is so important, so that the elements of fun and movement stay part of music.
With an online format, it can be challenging to plan for Zoom activities that stay true to the spirit of engagement, action, and learning.
But fortunately, as teachers and students build new digital learning skills, traditional music lessons can translate fantastically into online learning.
As a music instructor and teacher myself, I found that many familiar music activities can actually be adapted and enriched by using technology, and as a plus, they’re great ways to help young learners use different Zoom functions and tricks.
Not only is this great for their music education, it helps learners use Zoom with increased independence and confidence, which translates to their overall digital citizenship (Source)!
Teachers have also found Zoom to be a new environment to learn about, and for me, I’ve really enjoyed making Zoom fun for everyone to help get the most out of online learning.
In this article, I’ll be sharing 10 Zoom Music games that help blend traditional favorites with online learning with tips and tricks for making the most out of the online platforms. Some of these Zoom functions might be new to you, or might spark your creativity on how you can use digital tools to the fullest!
These games cover a wide range of pitch, rhythm, movement, and listening skills, and are easy and accessible for any level of comfort with digital platforms.
They can be adapted based on what instruments you can play as the instructor.
And best of all, they’re low/no prep!
1. Tommy Tiddlemouse
Little Tommy Tiddlemouse (soh-soh mi-mi soh-soh mi)
Lived in a little house (soh mi-mi soh-soh mi)
Someone’s knocking, me oh my, (soh-soh mi-mi soh-soh mi)
Someone’s calling (soh-soh mi-mi)
Who am I? (soh-soh mi)
This simple five-line song follows a basic soh/mi solfege pattern perfect for pre-k to grade 2 singers to follow.
First, teach it line-by-line, having the children echo you. The great thing about Zoom is that you can even have it typed out on Slides with notation or words if you are working with readers.
Next, add in actions to keep them moving and engaged.
For the first line, they can imagine a little field mouse in their hands and hold him up.
For lived in a little house, make a rooftop with your hands.
For someone’s knocking, knock four times on each beat. Put your hands on your cheeks and make a surprised face for me oh my and turn side to side with the three beats.
Hold up a finger telephone for someone’s calling.
The last line is the fun bit – once the students have learned the song well enough to sing it through, they’ll play this game with cameras off.
You will send a secret chat to one student who will sing the “who am I” line solo. Then you’ll signal “cameras on, hands up!” and they will get to take turns guessing who the singer was.
If you’ve been online, you know that cameras on and cameras off can be a bit of a challenge, but when it’s game time, students are more tuned in to following Zoom etiquette.
The rule for this game is that only one person gets to sing “who am I?”, and that person has to have their camera off during the song, and then only people who raise their hands and wait their turn get to guess who the mystery singer is.
You can use the “mute all” function to help with making sure guesses aren’t blurted out the first few rounds, but it’s amazing the self-control students will have after just a few rounds!
This is great for targeting who is able to match pitch.
2. Mystery Rhythm
This game uses Zoom’s Whiteboard function. Just share your screen, choose “Whiteboard” and then under the “More” dropdown, make sure “Enable annotations for others” is selected. Pro tip: you can also quickly disable this if needed!
The students will be able to see the green bar at the top of their screen that says “you are viewing Teacher’s screen” with a dropdown for “View Options” next to it. They need to click that menu and select “Annotate”. Then they can draw on your screen! (Tutorial)
They pick the “Draw” squiggle dropdown, and choose the first squiggle.
Note: in the past, I find that some students like to see a visual of this, so I’ve quickly pre-prepped screengrabs of this using window+shift+s to create a snip before a lesson and pasted them into Slides. Most students pick this up very quickly.
All you need to do is divide the whiteboard into halves and draw a different rhythm pattern on either side. It could be as simple as ta titi ta ta on one and just two tas on the other. Then you clap it out, and they get to vote on which rhythm they heard by making a mark on the correct side of the whiteboard!
Then clear your whiteboard for the next round.
There are tons of easy variations on this, and this can be great for assessment because you can choose “Show names of annotators” to see who is voting for which rhythm.
3. Timbre Test
Did you know you can share your sound without sharing your screen? When you share the screen, go to the “Advanced” tab at the top and pick “Music or Computer Sound Only”.
Preload sound clips or YouTube videos of different instruments with varying timbres, and have the students act out which instrument they think they’re hearing. For example, play a video of a trumpet and see if they can guess it, or watch them rock out with air guitars to an electric guitar!
You can mute all so their responses have to be movements first, then unmute so they can call out.
It’s fun if you switch to sharing your video after they’ve had a chance to guess or if it’s a tricky instrument! My favorite is to do this with cello and see the wacky responses.
You can cycle through the same instruments a few times so they get lots of repetition with new and old timbres. I like to start with easier instruments to identify then throw in a challenge!
4. High-Rise Freeze
This is a great warmup or movement break game that helps with pitch for younger kids and gets them to stand up.
If you have an instrument there you play, great, and if not, voice works for this too! Just have students start off sitting on the ground with fingers touching the floor, then slowly raise your pitch, and then FREEZE! And they have to freeze. You can keep going up or start back down, whatever you like.
- You can play this as an elimination game where anyone who doesn’t freeze has their camera turned off until only one is left standing.
- Vary the difficulty by going faster or slower and freezing more often!
5. How Many?
I’ve done this one online and offline, with pre-writers to older students, and it’s always a hit and translates so well to Zoom. Pick a song category – it could be anything from holiday songs to movies to popular hits – and tell the students they have 3 minutes to come up with as many as they possibly can.
Identifying songs students like and having Music teachers encourage that in class leads to positive outcomes (Source).
YouTube has a variety of different count-down timers that never fail to get kids energized, so if you want to do this as a whole-group activity, you can use a cool newer function with Zoom’s screen sharing options: hold down ctrl and choose both your browser with the countdown timer and the Whiteboard (Tutorial).
This way, you can scribe so the students can keep track of songs they’ve already gotten and the timer!
If you’re working with a group that’s able to take on roles and you have some strong writers, it’s also fun to assign a scribe and pop them into breakout rooms of 3-4 then share as a class after the 3 minutes. Remember – spelling doesn’t count for this game!
6. Runaway Train
Sometimes the wiggles are just too much and you need to get rid of some energy! All the while teaching your Zoom music class to recognize tempo changes as songs speed up and slow down, of course.
The premise is simple: they listen to a song being played and march to the beat of the tempo. As it speeds up, they need to keep up! As it slows down, so do they.
For this, if you have an instrument you can play well, go ahead and rock on with the song of your choice.
But if you don’t have an instrument handy, never fear! YouTube has a feature on the bottom right under “Settings” where you can change the playback speed of the song seamlessly as it plays. Try it out with any iteration of “The Ants Go Marching” and you’ll all have a blast!
Pro tip: The playback speed setting is best used from .5 up since at slower speeds, the audio distorts just enough to be distracting.
I love Sevens as a longer rhythm and pattern game that you can do over the course of several lessons. With online Music, it’s best to divide even a short half-hour into multiple smaller activities, and Sevens is a great starter that has you reviewing the previous lesson’s pattern then adding a new one so it gradually builds.
The trick is to go slow. This game really gets children focused and listening on-screen and is a great grounding task.
- First pattern: slap palms gently on knees or table seven times followed by a quick rest. Repeat.
- Second pattern: Slap then clap in an ABABABA pattern. Rest, then repeat.
- Third pattern: Slap, clap, snap, slap, slap, snap, slap. Rest, then repeat. Some children may have trouble snapping so I modify this with “fireworks” hands – just flicking open hands.
- Fourth pattern: This is the hardest pattern. Slap, cross hands and slap, slap, clap, snap, clap, slap. I usually teach this in two parts and practice for two days.
- Fifth pattern: same as third pattern.
- Sixth pattern: same as second pattern.
- Seventh pattern: same as first pattern.
The really great part about this game is it gives the students a chance to perform, an essential part of musicianship that can be lost online if not all students have access to instruments at home
8. Rhythm Master
This is a rhythmic take on the classic “detective” circle game that makes use of breakout rooms and encourages good digital citizenship by helping students listen and watch others carefully.
Put one student in a breakout room and choose a Rhythm Master – one student who can keep a steady beat by clapping, tapping, or snapping. I like to make the rule that they have to change every ten beats to keep it moving, but it’s up to you!
They can tap on their head, shoulders, anything that can be seen on screen. The rhythm master has to make sure they’re on Gallery View and will listen and watch for who the Rhythm Master is. They get three guesses to see who it is!
This is a great opportunity to sit back and observe who is able to keep a steady beat.
9. Name that Song
This is another great way to use the Advanced tab under screen sharing to share audio-only, or to use an instrument at home if you have one – or you can sing it!
Play a simple melody (ideally one you’ve already taught) one note at a time, either with your instrument or pausing a sound file or video, and see who can guess the melody first.
This is a great time to use “mute all”, and it’s fun to encourage students to signal with an emoji if they want to guess.
10. Animal Rhythm Patterns
This takes the most prep of all these games, and can still be done in under five minutes flat because all you need is a plain Google Slide and a few rhythm and cartoon PNGs.
Choose which rhythms you’re targeting, like tika-tikas or tas, and have a corresponding image that has the same syllables.
For example, if you’re learning sixteenth notes, have a tika-tika with an alligator, and a ta with a cat.
Then build your rhythms by copying/pasting the animals and have the students read and clap the animal rhythm when you share your screen!
It’s even more fun if you have a few different animals and let the students take turns making their own animal rhythms for the whole group.
This is easier to do in the moment if you lock the notation PNGs on the slide but leave the animals so you can move and copy or delete them as needed.
There you have it – some fun ideas to help build an engaging Music Zoom class that also help children learn how to be good digital citizens and confident online learners.
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