Snowmen and Reindeer Note Game Snowmen and Reindeer Note Game

I’ve had a lot of fun playing my new games with my students. But more importantly, it has been such a good way to evaluate what my younger students remember, and how quickly they know the answer.

Reading music is more than just knowing note names. However, students have to learn notes or how can they do theory or move their hands around the keyboard?

As I evaluated my younger students, I noticed some  were  counting up the staff or saying sentences (All Cows Eat Grass and so on.) All my careful teaching of guide notes seemed to be a flop. I want students to know notes instantly. But it takes  time, maybe more than 4 years (gasp!) for many students to be able to remember from week to week the  notes on the staff. So new teachers, if you are frustrated that your students cannot identify notes quickly, or know them at one lesson and forget the next, don’t give up on them. Keep at it, don’t push too hard, and eventually it will happen.

As a matter of fact, I have decided that I need to work more on guide notes, so after Christmas I’m going to get out my 3 C’s activity, (a free download that you tape together) plus make a game just for guide notes. Does anyone think that guide notes are not as great for learning notes as maybe they first thought? I’m starting to wonder.

Snowmen and Reindeer Games

Well, that was a long introduction to get us to this last game in my series of Snowmen and Reindeer Games. I like this game because I am able to choose just the 7 cards I want to work on. You can throw in ledger lines if your student is far enough along. I even have a beginner who used keyboard flashcards since he hasn’t learned notes yet.

I don’t have flash cards made to go with this game because I have posted so many flash cards already, and besides, what teacher doesn’t have flash cards. If you have commercial flash cards, use them face up, since the answers are on the back of the cards!


  • learn to identify notes on a grand staff quickly by sight
  • practice fine motor speed and coordination
  • develop confidence by knowing note names
  • quickly identify notes under pressure
  • play a fun seasonal game in less than 3 minutes at an individual music lesson


  • Children, ages 6-10  who like cartoon graphics

Materials Needed

  • Printed game board
  • 7 flash note cards,  A, B, C, D, E, F, and G, in any clef
  • Sand timer or stop watch
  • Bingo chips


Give the student a set of  flash cards, placed face up if the answer is on the back. Let the student turn over the sand timer, as they think it’s fun.  The student quickly draws a flash card and places a bingo chip on the corresponding note name.   The object is to cover all the note names on the  game board in the fastest time possible. Repeat if you have time.

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19 thoughts to “Snowmen and Reindeer Game-Notes

  • Jamie

    I’ve been using a nine week program called 67 Fun Songs by Jon Schmidt. It teaches only note recognition, not technique or fingering or anything else. Its been the best thing I’ve found for quickly teaching students where to find notes on the piano. I’ve had beginners and intermediate students go through the program and am amazed at how confident they become at finding notes. No more looking at me asking, “is that the right note.” Within a few months students are able to find notes on at least 5 octaves of the piano and can read up to 3 flats and 3 sharps. Its been amazing to watch. I think the key is that they are learning just note recognition and nothing else. Once they finish the program it doesn’t seem to take too long to teach them how to count, how to properly lift their wrists, etc. Reading was the hardest thing for me to learn when I was taking lessons and I find it amazing that my students know more in a few months than I did in a few years. Jon Schmidt also has a 67 Fun Songs primer for younger students. If you’re interested both books can be downloaded. If you end up trying out these programs and get stuck I’ve put 20 students through the programs and have found a few things that help.

  • Joanne

    Your Reindeer Games have been a hit. Thanks for adding so much fun to our lessons.
    I love your new Home page !!!

    • susanparadis


      Thanks for letting me know about the game.

      And also thanks for the comment about the new home page. I have it green and red for Christmas. I will probably change that to something more neutral!

  • Debbie Wiser

    Metronome App sounded great! But alas – it must have been a free app through last weekend. Too bad.

  • Anonymous

    I always love your ideas! I like guide notes for reading, but for learning the names of the lines and spaces, I find it just takes drill- just like math facts! Here’s an idea for you: I keep a jar of scrabble letters on my piano. They fit just perfectly on the keys. At each lesson I have students “throw down” the names of the lines or spaces by placing the scrabble letters on the corresponding keys. Sometimes we place the scrabble letters on my big grand staff afterward. It’s a great way to start the lesson and to correlate the names of the notes on the staff with their place on the keyboard!

  • Lee

    Thanks for this Game Susan. I was wondering: what music game would you recommend for a child who is incredibly hyper. I have a few hyper students, but I can mostly manage to keep their attention if I keep switching things up every 5 minutes and get them moving, but I do have one child that I haven’t seem to be able to figure out yet. Would love your input.

    • susanparadis

      Lee, you have a nice, interesting blog on WordPress!
      There are a couple of things to clear up about your student. How old is he/she? Is he diagnosed ADHD or are his parents aware there is a problem? Some severe ADHD children are too much to handle at a private lesson unless the teacher has the time and energy to develop a special education curriculum. You will have to do some subtle investigative work.
      As far as what games to use, first you need to define for yourself the objective of the activity. Is it to teach a skill or just have fun so the child will enjoy coming to lessons. Either is valid.
      Whatever the objective, how can the game be adapted? Often active children do not want to sit and think of answers, so they need short, easy activities that do not require much thought. 5 minutes of flash cards can seem like a lifetime to them. This is not laziness on the child’s part, but the way their brain is made. But you can see why they often do not do well in school!
      Games that use large muscles such as running or walking around the room are good, if they do not excite the child so much that the rest of the lesson time is wasted. Often these children cannot settle back down. If you find that happening, you can only play an active game at the end of the lesson.
      Moving games (rather than sitting games such as Bingo type games) include the note hunt games on my website. Also, check out Cecilly’s games, because many of them have more movement than Bingo games.
      It might seem like I only use games that I make graphics and cards for. But actually, I often play games that are not on my website such as 4 Corners and other games I used when I taught school. I also use a lot of hands on manipulatives. Other games that use large muscles are bean bag toss games, large floor keyboard games, taking a card and moving it to a different place in the room, that kind of thing. It all depends on the age of the child and the severity of the hyperactivity. The other day I was sitting on the floor with a young student putting cards in order for the music alphabet. I could tell he needed some movement so every time he came to a C he ran up to the piano and played it. This made the game a lot more fun for him. Maybe you can come up with some ideas like this. Please let me know how it works out with your student!

  • Natalie B

    I do find it very helpful when you post the objectives of the material. I love the ideas and material you share so openly to help me become a better teacher. Sometimes I am just unsure exactly how to make a certian item the most useful and successful to the students. So having that laid out is very helpful when my creativity is not there. Thankyou for all your hard work and sharing it!

    • susanparadis

      Thank you, Natalie. When I *retired* from classroom teaching, I thought I would never have to write objectives again. I used to have to write them up and submit them to my principal every Friday. It seemed so pointless, because I knew what my objectives were. But although it takes me a little more time, I find that seeing them written really helps me when I am working with a student. I should go back and put objectives on all my games, but that will probably never happen!

  • meganhughesmusic

    I’ve never used guide notes much. I’ve also never used All Cows much or any other acronyms. Some people remember the acronyms, some people don’t. Some can’t spell anyway, so something like FACE is useless. Some can’t remember the guide notes, whatever they are, because G and F and C or whatever just aren’t the way they think about things.
    I really don’t think teaching letter names is worth much when it comes to finding your way around the keyboard. I think it actually interferes with learning where the notes are on the keyboard for many people. When you know the notes, you know them as keys on the piano, and sounds, not as letter names. The letter names reside in some other part of the brain.
    I teach the pattern of the lines and spaces as a pattern on the keyboard, with or without letter names. Sometimes I use a color system. Sometimes I use FACE. Sometimes I use G and F clefs. Whatever system I use for a particular student I try to teach the heck out of it (usually through games) until it works. At the same time I teach stepping and skipping through your wonderful games and many of my own. I use magnets and paper and pencil. I try to help students find ONE note in each clef they can consistently identify and it is rarely the same note for each person. Then we build from there.
    I teach a lot by rote in the beginning so maybe there is a lot of association with sound and people find their way around using sound as well as sight. Many beginners are very accurate finding notes by sound.
    Late in the day, we play games about letter names and notes. But only after the relationships are well-ingrained. I really think they interfere with note-reading.
    This is an eccentric system, I know, but I can teach anyone how to read music at a useful level in about a year. And I don’t really stress reading much while I do it and I accept ALL students, no screening process. But I also don’t participate in the state exams and stuff. We just play music.

    • susanparadis

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I agree with you about the guide notes and acronyms. I like starting students young, and I don’t think guide notes or acronyms work well with young children. I have found that even older children get sentences mixed up. Guide notes are a big flop in my studio, but I like the idea, so I am going to spend some time thinking up ways to make them work better. I might get the NoteBoys involved.

      • LaDona's Music Studio

        You have no idea what a relief it is to read that guide notes have been a big flop in your studio! I’m an experienced teacher – I’ve probably tried everything out there – and, like Megan, my approach ends up being eclectic, depending on the student. But in the end, students still need to actually know those darn letter-names. I enter students in exams, and this includes theory. I also teach advanced theory to other teachers’ students. Not knowing the letter-names cold will not get them far in the long term.

        I also like the concept of guide notes – can’t wait to see what the NoteBoys will say about these!

        BTW, your NoteBoys and their circle of 5ths occupy a permanent spot on my wall – it is the most looked-at piece of paper in my studio!

        • susanparadis

          I know exactly what you mean. Those of us who participate in exams have to get the job done quickly. We don’t have time to leisurely wait around a few years to get to all the notes on the staff. I have come to the conclusion the the benefit of participating in the exams outweighs the difficult struggle to teach beginning students all the notes on the grand staff right away. Then comes the long struggle to learn to identify them quickly, and that’s where I’m at now.

      • April

        I am a new piano teacher, this is my third month. My first student just started learning note names correlated with what that note looks like on the music, and already I see this will take constant refreshing and such. What are guide notes? That doesn’t sound familiar to me. ANd what is the purpose of doing exams? I never did those when I took lessons. Thanks!

  • Carol Dawn

    Many thanks!!

  • Carol Dawn

    Have used the rhythm and intervals. Might you have an H up your sleeve?

    I use your 3 Cs all the time when the students are ready to move away from the Middle C position. They count up 8 from middle C and are surprised that the next C up and down are not “on the line”. The big staff seems to help them internalize the difference.

    Think the basic concept of line and space is the mystery. The guide lines are quite helpful after that concept is grasped. I ask them why E is written with 3 lines and F with only 2. Just the way it is – Note system also written down hundreds of years ago and we just learn it so we know how to play Beethoven and Bach and Handel etc.

    • susanparadis

      There is probably an H up my sleeve!

  • Joanne

    Hi Susan,

    I have used all three of your games this week. As always, the graphics are adorable. For the notes I used ledger line notes with my older students. They did very well, and liked the games, too.

    We have had the most enjoyable games at our lessons, thanks to you!

  • Tianna

    Thanks for the great game idea– I can’t wait to try it! As for the discussion about guide notes/acronyms, I definitely have some opinions. I have sincerely regretted teaching several of my students acronyms such as All Cows Eat Grass– I have found that they use this as a safeguard against TRULY memorizing where the notes are. I myself used this method when first learning piano and it took me years and years to get over using the acronyms. Guide notes are fairly OK to use, in my experience. Even though the students just count up/down to find the right note, at least they can connect this to the keys on the piano better than the users of All Cows Eat Grass. I believe repeated usage of flash cards/games like this are really the best solution.


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