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Play Name Games for Music Class Back to School Fun



Whether you teach 200 or 1,200 students, it’s a challenge to learn all of those kiddos’ names. And it depends on what kind of learner you are too! For me, I have to see the faces and say or sing the names. That’s how I remember all of my students’ names. That’s also why I’ve made up so many name games for music class. And it’s a fun way to get to know your students. So let’s play name games for music class back to school fun!

Are you ready to learn all of your students’ names?


This adaptable name game is perfect for all of your music classes. I’ve used it with preschoolers and with 6th graders. Of course, I have to make some changes in the way I teach the game depending on the students’ ages, but it’s a great one to have in your teacher toolkit.


Especially helpful for teachers on a cart or traveling!

(Note: Information on where to find “Johnny Plays the Drum Beat” and links to a YouTube video can be found the end of this article.)

Name Games Are A Great Way to Build Trust

If you know your students’ names, they are going to give you a much higher level of respect. If you know your students’ names, when you meet with the principal or see the parents you have a way to show your interest in the student. You know their name!

How to Implement Name Games into Your Lessons

Welcome Activity and Transition

I feel it is more important to learn my students’ names instead of teaching concepts for the first two classes. That’s why I’ll have them come in and make a big circle. I’ve shared before how I use “Sit-Spots” to make a large colorful circle in my classroom.

I use the official “Sit-Spots” and have had them in my classroom for over five years now.
Play Name Games for Music Class Back to School Fun by Sing Play Create

Brain Break

After teaching all of the procedures and rules, I find it helpful to play a game. I play name games for about 4 weeks. I don’t necessarily play the same ones, but the students like the repetition.

End of Class

Finished with your lesson a little early?


If you have a hand drum handy (lol), then you can have your students line up and play this game as a chant. Just pass the drum down the line or hand it to students who have done a great job that day in music class. No need to print out a reward ticket; students will want to play the drum at the end of class as a reward.


My number one goal for these games is to build classroom community.

I use these drums and place one of them in the center of the circle. Or, I may use a hand drum with my older students which we’ll pass around the circle.

Remo Drums are perfect for the music classroom!

Play Name Games for Music Class Back to School Fun by Sing Play Create

Before We Play the Name Game

I have the picture with the lyrics or the video up on the screen.

I talk to the students about taking turns.

I share with them that we may not have time for everyone to have a turn, but that they will get their turn during the next music class.

I emphasize that when it is someone’s turn, we all need to be super respectful and let them “shine.”

Note: Kindergarteners are usually a bit shy on the first day so I usually wait until the second class to play this game with them. I also give them opportunities to explore playing the drum before we play the game.


I demonstrate how the students are supposed to get up from their seat in the circle, go to the drum, and play it as the rest of the class sings their name. I ask them to stop playing on the word, “long.” Then I ask them to return to their seat and pat their knees on the beat to keep the game going.

Here’s how to play:

  • Sit in a circle.
  • Pat knees on the beat.
  • Everyone sings the song.
  • Play the drum carefully.
  • Listen when others play the drum.
  • Change names.
  • Keep the game going.


During the first couple of times we play the game, I keep my class list close to me and I call out the name of the next student. I tell my students that I’m going to go alphabetically down the list and that everyone will get a turn “today” or “during the next music class.”

I have had some students who do not want to go into the middle of the circle and play the drum. Either they are shy or haven’t played an instrument before. That’s okay! I have the hand drum “handy” and take it to their seat. Or I will go to the big drum and play and sing their name. I smile at them and let them know that it’s no problem, and they don’t need to feel bad.

Remember, my number one goal is building classroom community–not assessing drumming patterns.

One reason I really like this game is because students get a chance to get up and go to the middle of the circle and play the drum. It gives me an opportunity to look at them and, in my head, I repeat their name silently, which helps me remember their name.

Oops! The mumbling music teacher is talking to herself again!

Adapting This Name Game for Upper Elementary Students

The accompaniment music is NOT suited for upper elementary students. Also, I don’t have my students sing along with the music.

I do:

  • Explain how important it is that we all know each other’s names. That we are here to learn together.
  • Give them permission to use body percussion and or improvisation when it is their turn.
  • Use a hand drum and let them pass it to the next student.
  • Ask them to listen to how the song sounds.
  • Ask them to pat the beat as they listen.
  • Chant the lyrics instead of singing.
  • Have fun as we play the game.


“Johnny Plays the Drum Beat” is so easy to play and is perfect for your back to school music classes. This song is part of these packages: MUSIC CLASS ESSENTIALSMUSIC CLASS ESSENTIALS BUNDLEWORLD MUSIC CLASS ESSENTIALS, and WORLD MUSIC CLASS ESSENTIALS BUNDLE.

The “Johnny Plays the Drum Beat” video is playing on the Sing Play Create YouTube Channel in the GAME SONGS Playlist. CLICK HERE to go the playlist link.

FREE RESOURCE IN THE RESOURCE LIBRARY! To get FREE resources, all you need to do is subscribe to the Free Resource Library. SUBSCRIBE HERE.

This game song is part of the Music Class Essentials Resource.

Play Name Games for Music Class Back to School Fun by Sing Play Create






Right now, the MUSIC CLASS ESSENTIALS BTS BUNDLE is on sale. Click on the graphic below to purchase this bundle (which includes “Johnny Plays the Drum Beat” and much much more!)

Play Name Games for Music Class Back to School Fun by Sing Play Create

Here are some more articles on Back to School Success that you might want to check out:

Play Name Games for Music Class Back to School Fun by Sing Play Create



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Play Name Games for Music Class Back to School Fun Sing Play CreatePlay Name Games for Music Class Back to School Fun by Sing Play Create

Play Name Games for Back to School Music Fun



Meet Sandra

Hi there!  I’m Sandra, one of the authors behind Sing Play Create.  My goal is to provide teachers with interactive resources and activities to improve the effectiveness of their teaching and enhance student learning.

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