Guest Post: The Envelope Game for Beginning Band

Envelope game for beginning band: A fun game for teaching musical literacy!

I'm excited to have a guest blogger today! Tamarie Sayger will be writing about a game to help incorporate the Kodály philosophy into the band classroom. You can read more about her at the end of this post; thanks to Tamarie for sharing her expertise!

As someone who has been lucky enough to teach elementary music as well as secondary band, I love finding ways to incorporate Kodály philosophy into instrumental instruction.  Kodály training taught me how valuable different aspects of music education, other than just performance, are for children. 
This article explains how I would use The Envelope Game in a beginning band class, but can easily be adapted for any of the elementary situations below. The music – free to download here– is written for beginner clarinet, trumpet, French horn or keyboard. It can also be used for teaching do, re, mi, so, la in key of C with stick notation. The envelope game helps me teach objectives such as aural discrimination, melodic recognition, note naming and performance. It is also ideal for assessment since students must individually show their understanding to choose the correct answer.
Here are a few places you can use variations of The Envelope Game:
  1. Younger elementary students working on stick notation.
  2. Older elementary students working on reading music on Orff instruments.
  3. Older elementary students working on recorder. (Range would need adjustment)
  4. Younger secondary students learning to play instruments in band or orchestra.
Preparation Before Class
  1. Print the Great Big House in New Orleans Envelope Paper.  (Download Free Here)
  2. Copy enough for each child in your room to have a set (on cardstock if possible).
  3. Laminate.
  4. Cut into 4 motives. (2 measures each) 
  5. Put one set in each envelope – enough for a class set.
Before Beginning The Game
  1. Give each child an envelope with the melody cards inside. (If playing this game with young children you can appoint a ‘postman’ to ‘deliver the mail.’)
  2. Have them ‘open their mail’ and take out all 4 cards and put them in front of them on the stand (or floor for elementary students).
  3. Have students be sure the stars (asterisks) are in the top right corner.  (I purposely don’t use clefs and cut off the final bar because that would give away the first and last card which would make it too easy. You can be sure students don’t have it upside down by having them check that their ‘stars are in the sky.’)
First Round
1. You sing (on loo) or play on an instrument the first 2 measures of the song.
2. Students identify which card is correct.  (In this song example of Great Big House in New Orleans measures 1-2 and 5-6 are the same, so they can choose either.)
3. Demonstrate the first 2 measures again and have them check their card.  If it is not right they can switch it.  Have them hold up their card where you can see it and be sure everyone has the correct card. (If they are having trouble you can also sing on solfége or note names to help them identify the correct card.)
4. Students sing/handsign the card with solfége.  
5. Students sing the note names while fingering the notes.
6. Students play the 2 measures on the instrument.
Envelope Game for Beginning Band or General Music: Great idea to work on inner hearing and reading!
Second Round
Repeat the steps from round one for the next 2 measures, but after playing measures 3-4, play measures 1-4.
Envelope Game for Beginning Band or General Music: Great idea to work on inner hearing and reading!
Third Round
Repeat the steps from round one for the next 2 measures, but after playing measures 5-6, play measures 1-6.
Fourth Round
They will know the last card is the 4th one.  Repeat the steps 4-6 and then play the whole song.  
(Another option to challenge them is when they have picked the 3rd card, have them immediately put the 4th card back in their envelope.  Then see if after the third round is complete anyone can figure out the last 2 measures without looking at the card.)
Optional Final Round
1. Have students mix up the 4 cards again.  2. Have students sort them into the correct order by themselves.  
3. Sing on solfege and note names.  
4. Play the entire song again.  
I hope this game is a huge hit with your students!  For more ideas on teaching band, head over to www.BandDirectorsTalkShop.com and be sure to like us on Facebook.
For a similar version of this game – the Rhythm Envelope Game – along with a free printable, click here.
Tamarie Sayger is a music teacher in Texas with experience in elementary music, secondary band and private teaching. The website she contributes to regularly, BandDirectorsTalkShop.com, is a collaboration of band directors, former band directors, administrators and private lesson teachers who provide practical articles you can use in your band room today.  Learn. Share. Inspire.

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