Play is an inherent human trait. People of all ages love to play games for the simple reason that they are fun!  Consider such diverse examples as: battle simulations, hangman, crossword puzzles, role-play, computer drills, and flight simulators and you will see that games have been an integral part of education for centuries.  Why use games in the music classroom?  

Teachers often use classroom games for one of two reasons:

  1. A desire to harness the motivational power of games in order to ‘make learning fun’.
  2. A belief that ‘learning through doing’ in games is a powerful way to learn.

Play can be either structured or unstructured. Many of the games we play in the classroom are an example of structured play. The common features of classroom games is that they they permit children to experience, practice, learn and make errors without serious consequences. Games provide a forum in which learning arises informally as a result of tasks stimulated by the content of the games and skills are developed as a result of playing the game.

These ideas apply to the music classroom as much as other areas of the curriculum. However, music games often fit into two broad categories

  1. Games that are about music or with music as a theme, such as: guessing song titles, music trivia questions, or revising historical or theoretical facts about music.
  2. Games that involve making music where players learn musical concepts through active involvement and direct experience

If you were to give a student a 16-beat rhythm pattern to memorise, he might struggle with it for some time. However, put this student into a team, provide a time limit, the possibility of scoring points and what seemed like a difficult task is now easy, perhaps even fun! This analogy illustrates the power of play and its unique ability to make children more receptive to learning. When children approach learning tasks with a playful attitude, their mindset changes and they suddenly seems capable of more than they and you thought possible. Moreover, when children are fully immersed in play they achieve a level of engagement described as ‘flow’ where they become oblivious to distractions and where they acquire new skills and knowledge almost effortlessly.

Games are not an approach to music education, but they are an essential feature of an approach that focuses on developing the whole musicians. When used appropriately within the scope of a broader music education, games provide a stimulating and engaging learning environment.

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