An inspirational colleague  of mine told me about her staff rug, so I decided to make one myself. I bought a remnant of  plastic material on sale at Hancocks and added a single staff and a ledger line for middle C. I used black tape for the lines and the whole thing only took a few minutes. Notice it is puckered because my remnant was thin. I hope to re-make it with a heavier vinyl that will not pucker.  

We used my new staff to play bean bag games. I thought I would share my latest bean bag game, which I made up to reinforce the notes around middle C. After some discussion with  students, we decided to call this game Which Way Is Up?

The objective of this game is to reinforce the 2 notes above and below middle C, which are D and E in the treble clef and B and A in the bass clef.  Even though they learn these notes early in piano lesson, students get them mixed up. 

I put the large staff on the floor with enough space to walk around to either side.  

First we stand on one side of the staff so that middle C is in the treble and we try to throw the bean bag to middle C.  Then we walk around to the other side and *presto, chango*,  middle C is now on the bass staff, way up on the top. No, I haven’t used clef signs so far, but I am seriously thinking of making them.  They will have to be very large and my idea is to cut them out of a dark vinyl.  

Then we walk back to the treble side and try for middle D. Next we walk back around so it’s the bass clef again and I ask the student to tell me what note will be in the space below middle C.  If they say B, this lets me know they understand the concept. 

 Finally, we go back and try for middle E on the treble and then back to the bass side for the A below middle C.

At this point we stop because I want our activities at individual lessons to be fast and to the point. After all, we’re learning a recital piece and a sonatina for our Sonatina Festival that is coming up. But they seem to enjoy this activity because their aim is usually better than mine and they get a kick out of beating me!

If you don’t have any bean bags and you’re not the sewing type, ask your parents for help. You may be surprised that one of your parents or even a student can stitch up a few bean bags in less than 30 minutes. One of my students in 3rd grade made the ones in the picture above.  I mentioned to her that I used to love to sew, but now my eyesight is  poor and I can’t see the thread anymore.  She made some and gave them to me the next week. 

So far I have not tried this with my youngest students. My thoughts are they need something with more structure. Children need to be about 7 before they can visualize the changing staff in their heads. Of course, as piano teachers we often have students who are intellectually gifted and these children will have no trouble. But play it safe and if your student gets confused, stay on one side of the staff. 

One more thing, make your bean bags first and then make your staff to fit the bean bags.

The picture above was taken at a group lesson. The older students were throwing the bean bags to make triads. We have played a lot of different games on this staff, and I usually change them around to fit the student or the age group.

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5 thoughts to “Which Way Is Up? Bean Bag Game

  • Rachel

    To help them learn treble and bass clef use a piece of rope. Pupils can have a go at creating the clef signs using the rope.

    • susanparadis

      That’s a great idea! And if they have to put the dots for the bass clef they will quickly learn where F is.

  • A Cassil

    I love this idea! I just had a student tonight that was having a hard time keeping AB & DE straight. I was trying to think of a way to help her figure them out. This just might be the answer. I’ll let you know how it goes after I play it with her.

    Thanks for the idea!

    • susanparadis

      Thanks! Let us know how it goes and any suggestions you might have.

  • Dianna Denley

    What a great idea! Thanks for sharing. I guess you could get students to try and get a ‘skip’ or ‘step’ from a bean bag pre-placed, then name the notes, or have them throw two bean bags and get them to name the interval. It looks like so much fun 😀


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