A Listening Skills Game to Start the Year

“And your name is . . . ?”

A Listening Skills Game to Start the Year

 By Joann Benson


Sure it’s fun to learn 478 new names the first day of school! If you’re a vocal music teacher, that’s what you’re facing if you’re working in a new school. Since we’re apparently super heroes, no big deal, right?

It’s always great to have a fun activity to help learn new names the first week of school, both for you and for your other students. Even if you and the children have been in the same school for years there are always new kids who need to become part of the music gang.


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The “Popcorn Name Game”

A few years ago my friend Elizabeth Rupert introduced me to a singing and movement game that I use every year. It’s called the “Popcorn Name Game,” and it’s very easy to learn and use, and easy to customize as well.

You begin with a steady pattern on the piano that’s based on the I- IV-V chords (easy enough for anybody to play).


sheet music


Have the students stand and step in place on the low notes, and then snap over their heads on the higher notes. It’s easy to see who’s got it and who doesn’t—if their feet are moving at the same time as their hands, they “don’t got it!”

Continue by adding locomotor movement, having the children step in any direction on the low notes, but continue to freeze and snap the high notes. Vary the pattern as you like to mess with them a little bit—tuning up those hearing skills . . .



sheet music


Once the kids show some proficiency with hearing the variation in ranges and responding with appropriate movement, add in the name game. Here, the students step as before on the low notes, and freeze and say a classmate’s name (any classmate) on the higher notes. (Everybody is saying names all at once.) Again, if the notes stay low, they must keep walking, and if the notes are high, they must say a classmate’s name until the range changes.

The final variation on this has the teacher choose one child whose name they will say on the high notes, and that child then steps and says another child’s name on the next high notes. (You might want to choose a new student, as they likely only know one or two friends to call on.) After they do, they sit.

It would look like this:


sheet music


It’s always a fun activity—and I’ve used it with ages 7 through high school! Enjoy—and good luck learning ALL THOSE NAMES!!!!

About the Author:
Joann Benson

Joann Long Benson has taught vocal music K-5 for more than 20 years in the Carroll County (MD) public school system. In addition to performing for the 476 students in her school, she accompanies the Children’s Chorus of Carroll County, and has in the past enjoyed climbing into the pit to be rehearsal pianist and music director for several local college shows. The past two summers Mrs. Benson has worked for her beloved Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, writing curriculum and teacher study packets to accompany the Youth Concert series. See Joann’s Classroom website.

All images of “Popcorn Name Game” sheet music provided by Joann Benson.

See Joann’s past article, “How to Use Appalachian Dulcimers to Teach Music Literacy in Your Classroom.”

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Catherina Hurlburt, Communications Manager, July 31, 2015. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)