3 Rhythm Games that are COVID Safe

Keep the fun and learning in your music class whilst remaining COVID-19 safe.

The COVID-19 pandemic completely changed how teachers interact with their students. In particular, music teachers have been struggling with creating activities for their students when playing instruments and singing are no longer allowed.

Social distancing rules have also altered the way we play rhythm games. The number one topic of conversation among music educators at this time is, “how can I make learning fun without jeopardizing the safety of my students?”

Read on to discover three COVID-safe rhythm games you can use with your music classes. These games follow the COVID social distancing protocols while still allowing rhythm practice.

GAME 1: Make ‘Poison’ Sweet

‘Poison’ is a rhythm game well known to many music teachers. The game requires students to focus, listen carefully and repeat rhythms clapped by the teacher.

How to Play ‘Poison’

1.    The teacher decides on a 4-beat rhythm that will be the ‘poison rhythm’ and notates it on the board for the students to see.

2.    The teacher may or may not clap through the ‘poison rhythm’ with the students. This will depend on your students’ rhythmic ability.

3.    Once the game begins, the teacher can clap the ‘poison rhythm’ at any time - without warning.

4.    When students hear the ‘poison rhythm’, they must remain silent and not clap it back.

5.    Any students who respond by clapping the ‘poison rhythm’ has to sit down. 

6.    The game continues with the remaining students, alternating between rhythms and the ‘poison rhythm’ until only one student remains standing.

Watch this video to watch how ‘poison rhythm’ is played. 

GAME 2: ‘Sevens’ to Make Fun Happen

‘Sevens' is another COVID-safe hand clap sequence game. As the name suggests, students clap patterns consisting of seven beats.

The game typically consists of four-five different patterns, with the first pattern as the easiest and the final pattern as the most difficult.

It may appear complicated at first. Yet, many students and teachers have said they really enjoy playing this game.

How to Play 'SEVENS'

This version contains five sevens patterns. Each pattern is repeated before moving to the next. 

1.    Pat (legs or a table/desk)

2.    Pat, clap 

3.    Pat, clap, snap 

4.    Pat, clap, snap, clap, snap, clap, pat 

5.    Pat, clap, elbow, elbow, clap, snap, pat 

I've seen quite a few variations to these five patterns. You can find them on YouTube. Make patterns up yourself to suit your class.

Watch this ‘Sevens' tutorial video form the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

GAME 3: 'Pass the Beat' 

Music educators worldwide shared that their students love the game known as ‘Pass the Beat’.

How to Play ‘Pass the Beat’ 

Students take turns saying the syllables of the sentence “pass the beat around the room”. The student who messes up sits down.

At any time, you can replace a syllable in the sentence with a clap or snap. It's good to use this strategy when everyone is comfortable with the game and it’s getting difficult to eliminate students.

The game is usually played with students in a circle. However, they could also play the game standing/sitting in rows. Just ensure that they know who’s starting each time and the direction it should go. 

Watch this tutorial and actual game: Pass the Beat. It will give you an insight into the basic principles of how it's played. 

COVID and the Music Classroom

COVID-19 won’t stop us. We've all witnessed the enthusiasm, total involvement and enjoyment that using games bring in the classroom. 

Sadly, the pandemic has completely changed or halted many of the activities and strategies we once used in the music classroom.

However, with creative thinking, music educators have redesigned many of our favorite activities and games.

These three rhythm games will help you continue to educate students in fun, engaging, COVID-safe ways. 


If you are looking for more ways to review rhythms with your young students, check out this bundle


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