How To Use Games And Activities In Online Lessons

Posted by Tara Wright on

This week's post is brought to you by Georgina Wilson of Georgina (Greenside Music).
Georgina creates wonderful resources to enhance your students' musical knowledge in fun and quirky ways.
TopMusic Marketplace Georgina's Games

It’s no secret that I absolutely love playing games in my lessons. It’s fun (for both the student and teacher) and it helps the students reinforce their musical knowledge.

I’ve recently seen a few posts online from teachers saying they’re missing playing games when they have to move lessons online, and I wanted to let everyone know there’s no reason why online lessons have to be game-free! 

When I made the move to online lessons, I was worried that games would become a thing of the past. But I was wrong! 

Now, I’m not like a lot of teachers who teach on Zoom and other platforms that allow you to screen share (I know, I know!) I teach through FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, Skype, and even Whatsapp.

There are various reasons behind this, but all I know is that it’s worked brilliantly and there have been no issues with lessons, and more importantly for this post, playing games. 


  • I email over a PDF of the game board to my student

  • The student prints it out

  • The student finds two playing pieces (I’ve had an array of things shown to me - small horses, Lego figures, chess pieces, pretty stones from the garden, an arrab beetle…)

  • I have a copy of the game board, two Lego figures, and the question cards needed


    How To Use Games In Online Lessons

    They have their game in front of them, and they’re in charge of moving the piece for them and for me (which is a role students love having).

    I just hold the question card up to the screen, the student tells me the answer, and then they move accordingly.

    I keep a watch of the action on my own board, so I can join in with the “Oh no! I have to miss a go if I get two! I hope I don’t get two then!” while making sure they’re moving correctly. 

    I’ve recently started using a magnetic board, securing whichever game we’re playing with clear magnets, and using colourful magnets as playing pieces. This adds another visual element for the student as they’re able to watch my game as well as theirs (some students actually prefer just watching me, but instructing me what to do)

    I’ve found that as long as the game is colourful, cute, and either has elements of potential risk (missing a turn, or being sent back to the start) or choices of directions, it keeps the student perfectly captivated! (You can find lots of games here!)

    Some students also love coming up with their own rules. I have a collection of games that have various different spaces which means the student can decide what the spaces mean, so the game play is different each time! 

    Magnetic Game Board


    I have a few students who don’t have easy access to a printer, which means that playing games with them is a bit trickier, but definitely not impossible! 

    These games are also perfect for:

    • Warm-ups
      (for those times a student answers the call half-asleep and you need to ease them in) 

    • Attention grabbers
      (for students whose focus drifts halfway through the lesson)

    • Warm-downs
      (for those times when there’s not enough time to start something new or to go over something again) 

    I wracked my brain for ideas of games you’d play with no board, no cards, no anything, and thought about all those car journeys I’ve been on with my family where we’d play silly little games to pass the time. Perfect

    I have a free download in my shop with six of these games, but here are two as a taster...


    An absolute classic game with a musical spin.

    • The aim of this game is to create a long shopping list and pattern of notes - really testing the student's and teacher's memory skills!
    • The teacher goes first. They say, "I went to the shops and I bought a..." and then they say a word that begins with a letter of the musical alphabet and they play that note on the piano.
    • The student then repeats what the teacher said, plays the note, and then adds another word that begins with a letter of the musical alphabet.

    For example:
    Teacher: I went to the shops and I bought a… computer (plays a C)
    Student: I went to the shops and I bought a computer (plays a C) and an apple (plays and A)

    • This goes on, with the teacher and student making a long list and pattern of notes.
    • When someone can't remember, or says something wrong, the game finishes and the winner is the person who last said it correctly.

    My students love finishing lessons with this game, seeing how long their list is before the end of the lesson.

    I’ve also been known to have an on-going game of I Went To The Shops.

    One lesson, this girl wasn’t feeling it. Girls had been mean to her at school, and she was grumpy. I started the lesson with a quick game of I Went To The Shops, and we got to 10 items. I then said to her, “Okay, we’ll work on your piece, but at any point I might shout I WENT TO THE SHOPS AND I BOUGHT… and you have to say and play the list, then add on one item. We’ll see how many items we get to by the end of the whole lesson.”

    Throughout the lesson I would randomly say, “I went to the shops and I bought…” and she’d jump to it, playing and saying the list. Sometimes I’d just say, “I…” and she’d look at me, ready for the lists, but I’d carry on with, “...think we should play those two bars again.” 

    By the end of the lesson she was giggling, and her mum texted me afterwards commending me on being a mood-lifter! 


    This is a game that tests the student's listening skills, and also allows the teacher to point out any mistakes the student makes in the piece, but without directly stating it.

    You'll see what I mean.

    • The teacher picks a short section of the music and tells the student where it is.

    For example, "I'll be playing bars 4 and 5."

    • The teacher then says, "This is the correct way of playing" (or something along those lines) and plays the short section as written.
    • The teacher then plays the short section again, but with something changed. It can be something big and easy to notice, for example play the whole thing on one note rather than the different notes that are on the music. Or, it can be something subtle - it's at the discretion of the teacher and what they think their student will pick up on. The teacher then says, "What happened there?" and the student states what had changed.

    You may be thinking this is just a listening activity, but, speaking from experience, if you tell the student it's a game they're more likely to be enthusiastic about taking part.

    • To turn it into a game, the student is told they have two chances at saying what had changed in the second play through. If they get it right, they win a point. If they get it wrong, the teacher wins a point. Play three or five rounds to see who the overall winner is.

    If there's something in the piece that the student keeps doing wrong, for example missing out the F sharps, the teacher could play a section correctly with the F sharps in and then play it again without the F sharps and see if they spot the change. If they do, the teacher can point out how much better it sounds with the F sharps and get the student to replay it. If they don't, help them hear the difference and get them to play the two versions themselves.

    Online Piano Games


    It is definitely possible to play games in online lessons even if you don’t have the ability to screen share! You just need a cute and colourful game (you can find lots of those here!) and make sure you and your student both have a copy!

    No printer? No problem! Use my list of games with little (or no) resources in order to add some fun and laughter into your online lessons!

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