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Musical Desks

Gist: Students move around the room similar to the classic party game to complete the problems on a worksheet.


Why Do It? Students rarely care much about the work they do on a worksheet.  Playing Musical Desks gets them up and moving, narrows down how many problems they have to do, increases engagement and motivation, and generally breaks the doldrum of a regular school day.  Musical Desks requires no special materials or preparation.





Directions to make:



Set Up:

1.  Slice apart a worksheet with numbered items, one item per slice.

2.  Place one problem on each desk.  If there are more items than desks, leave some out.  If there are more desks than items, make some desks bonus desks.

3.  The game may be played with virtually any desk arrangement, or desks may be moved into a large circle.


To Play:

1.  Have students put their name on a piece of paper (or may use an appropriate digital version) and number it 1-however many items you have.

2.  Describe the correct flow of traffic through your desk arrangement if desks are not in a circle.  Practice.

3.  Play music and have the students walk (or dance) around your desks.  When the music stops, they sit at the nearest desk and do the problem on their paper.

4. When they're ready, restart the music and repeat.  Students should not repeat desks, so they need to go to another vacant desk.

5.  Continue your desired time or until you feel enough worksheet items were covered.




Caution and Tips:

-Be very clear as to how students may move through your room.

-Be prepared with a couple printed copies of the worksheet in case any students choose not to comply with your expectations.

-Preview your music selection.



-Desks may be numbered (using post-its, number cards, dry erase or overhead markers, etc) and students carry around individual copies of the worksheet, doing the number they sit at instead of the method described above.

-You can put a different problem or worksheet on each desk and have students work directly on that page so students are doing different work each time they sit (or cycling back to a problem they started earlier) and evaluating the work of others. 

-Have each student pick a erasable colored pencil and everyone sign their name on one piece of paper.  That way you can track who contributes what while still protecting students' academic privacy as their classmates see their work.

-Put individual questions on the desks and have students answer on that paper, then contributing to their classmate's answers as they rotate through.  See metacognitive question prompts here.

-This is also a great way to do trade-to-grade!  Leave their assignment on their desk, walk until the music stops, and grade the paper at that desk. See Homework Busters for more ideas.

-You can do writing prompts or essay questions this way too.  Start a prompt at one desk and leave it, continue the one at the desk you stop at, and repeat.

See this blog post about Musical Desks here.











And the engagement isn't just the movement.  The movement and fun set the stage for quality engagement for the seat work too.

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