Composition WheelWith the limited time in lessons, activities that combine several subjects in a fun way are my favorite. Today I’m sharing a new wheel activity that combines a theory review of diatonic chords with a composition activity and provides some sight reading practice. My students have loved using these wheels in various compositions over the years so I hope you enjoy this activity!

First, I cut out the pieces from the second page of this file. There are seven fragments to get students started. (Personally, I also run mine through the laminator so they will last longer than one day in my studio!)

When students arrive, I have these all set out on the table for them. We first identify the key (C Major) and then use a washable marker (another reason to laminate, so this washes off) to mark the chord/triad(s) in Roman numerals. Set A has the main motive introduced in I (tonic), then fragments in ii, IV, V, iii, and vi.

Next we return to the wheel. (Some of my wheels have velcro so we can pick everything up but it’s not a necessity to use this game either.) Students can put the pieces in any order now. The only rule is they start at the top and play clockwise at the piano. They may choose to start with the tonic piece or anything else. Then just listen to how the chords work together as they play through the piece.

After that, mix it up again and listen. Then have students add their own transitions, elaborate on certain chords, repeat an octave higher or lower, add arpeggios, change the time signature (also changing the motive to match), or even flip the motive over to recycle the material again. It’s such a powerful teaching tool to show students how much can be done with a single motive — plus it makes learning those Beethoven Sonatas easier when students know how to find patterns and see how much he recycled material throughout his works!

Download here: Wheel

Author: Whitney

Whitney Hawker, NCTM, teaches group and private piano at Weber State University, Utah. She loves surprising students with the perfect piece or a new exciting game! After graduate school, she missed sharing ideas and resources daily with colleagues so she and her friend, Spring, began blogging together at