Playing games is one of the best ways for children (and grown-up children) to learn, but not all games lend themselves well to playing with more than 2 people. If you’ve been stumped coming up with group piano lesson games, I’m here to help!
This article was originally written in April 2016 and was updated in April 2019. It was edited and expanded in July 2022.
One of the biggest mistakes I see new group teachers make is not taking full advantage of the group format. Groups have so many benefits, but only if you really embrace all the things you can do once you have several students together in a lesson.
If you know me at all, you’ll know I place fun and games at the very top of the list…and some of my favourite group piano lesson games are played on my floor grand staff.
How to Make a Floor Staff
Before you can have fun with these games, you’ll need your own floor staff. And with a little time and energy, there are many ways you can make your own.
The five ideas below range from super easy to a little more complicated. So if one seems beyond your own DIY skills, just keep reading – you’re bound to find one more to your liking!
DIY Floor Staff No. 1: Nicola
My own version of the floor grand staff is a pretty simple project if you’re a reasonably confident sewer.
I made the base from cotton calico with black ribbon applique lines and clefs. Then I padded it with some quilting. The padding is not strictly necessary, but it does make it more comfy when we’re climbing around on top of it.
The space between the lines is 11 cm (or 4.3 in, which just happens to be a perfect fit for these foam circles which I get from a discount store called Mr Price).
There’s a small ledger line to represent middle C. I didn’t put extra space between the two clefs, so it’s similar to the version of the grand staff used in many younger beginner books (where middle C is equidistant from the treble clef and bass clef.)
DIY Floor Staff No. 2: Brenda
Brenda is a sewer like me, so she created this beautiful floor staff out of an old tablecloth and black ribbons.
Romeo the cat definitely gives it the seal of approval!
DIY Floor Staff No. 3: Austin
Here’s another example from a Vibrant Music Teaching member, Austin.
Austin asked a friend to crochet a smaller floor staff to suit his space.
DIY Floor Staff No. 4: Laura
If you’re not a sewer and you don’t have any friends who are handy with a crochet hook, don’t let that hold you back! You can even create a DIY floor staff using tape or permanent marker on plain sheets or table cloths. It doesn’t need to be fancy. 😉
This example is from another member of Vibrant Music Teaching. Laura used a rug about 1.5 x 2 metres (5 x 7 feet) and 1.15 cm (1/2 inch) electrical tape for her grand staff.
DIY Floor Staff No. 5: Sarah
Vibrant Music Teaching member (and VMT’s very own Content Manager) Sarah started her floor grand staff with a rug like Laura did above, but she painted the lines and clefs instead of using tape.
First she marked off the lines using painter’s tape.
Then she used a paintbrush to apply black paint from the hardware store, really pushing the paint deep into the rug so it didn’t just sit on top.
After tossing in a few bean bags, Sarah’s floor grand staff was ready to go.
Purchase a Grand Staff Blanket
If you’re not comfortable crafting, you can also now buy this grand staff blanket from the Colourful Keys store. This soft and cosy blanket can be spread on the floor for playing lots of fun games like twister and staff races.
If you’re on a hard floor, I recommend a rubber mat underneath (like you’d use for a rug) to stop it from slipping.
Group Piano Lesson Games with your Floor Staff
I use the floor staff for lots and lots of games in both individual and group piano lessons. Here are just a few of my favourites.
Group Piano Lesson Game 1: Grand Staff Interval Races
The floor grand staff is fantastic for working with intervals. It helps students experience the interval shapes in a whole new way. And it’s even better when turned into a group music lesson game!
- Place a small toy for each player at the bottom of the staff.
- Players roll the die and move up that interval (e.g. if they roll a 5, they move up a 5th.)
- The winner is the first to reach the top line F.
For this game, I like to use large foam dice like these. They’re less likely to roll under the furniture when the game gets especially playful. 😉
Group Piano Lesson Game 2: Grand Staff Twister
Remember getting all tangled up with the game Twister when you were a kid? (Or maybe last week…? 😆) With a floor grand staff and this (FREE!) spinner printable, you can bring that tangled-up fun to your group music lessons.
I like to play Grand Staff Twister with four players: two in the treble clef and two in the bass. I think four is a nice number, but you could probably squeeze in six depending on the size of your staff.
I was surprised by how easily even my weak note readers were able to find the right note in Grand Staff Twister! I really think this is a fantastic tool to help struggling students view the staff in a new way.
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Group Piano Lesson Game 3: Grand Staff Beanbag Toss
For this game, players need to be in two teams. The teams can be as big or small as you like.
- Players take turns to throw a beanbag, trying to get it inside the grand staff.
- The thrower attempts to name the note it landed on. If they’re right, their team gets 2 points.
- If the thrower can’t name the note but their team can, the team gets 1 point.
- The winner is the team with the most points when the time is up.
This game is great for reinforcing the steps, skips and backwards musical alphabet with your group piano students. And, like the Grand Staff Twister and Interval Race games, struggling readers can often see patterns differently when they can interact physically with giant staff on the floor.
You can get more advice and resources for teaching group lessons on our hub page entirely devoted to Planning Lessons.
Do you have a floor grand staff?
If so, do you use it more in one-on-one lessons, or in group settings?