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Games and Exercises

These are some of the Games and Exercises we do at the handbell club.

Gap Clapping

What it does:  helps to reinforce the odd beat required by the handstroke gap, helps to learn an overall steady rhythm, reinforces handstroke-backstroke pattern.
How many pupils at a time:
  any number.
How it works: 
Stand everyone in a circle, and count to steadily to 4, 6, or 8 (it is easiest to start with 4 and work up to higher numbers), clapping hands on each count.  Clap on set of 4 with hands up high (as if doing a handstroke), then the second set of 4 with hands held low (as if doing a backstroke).  Then open the hands out for one beat (this is the handstroke gap) before repeating. 
Aim for:  a very steady rhythm, trying not to speed up with each repeat. 

Follow the leader

What it does: practices changing the order of the bells, helps to work together as a team, reinforces handstroke-backstroke pattern, helps with left-right distinction.
How many pupils at a time:  a good number is 3, but will work with 4, 5 or 6.
How it works:
Arrange chairs into a ringing circle and seat each pupil with a pair of handbells.  The pupil with the bells 1 and 2 (the trebles) is the leader, and the others must copy what he or she rings.  Try this game with faster and slower ringing, or with randomly swapping the order in which the bells ring (i.e. bell number 2 first).  A good warm up before learning plain hunting. 
Aim for: correct copying within a steady rhythm.  Try to encourage leaving a handstroke gap.  Pupils may find it easier to see the changing order if they are wearing coloured wristbands (red for right, black for left).

Calling changes

What it does: practices changing the order of the bells, helps with teamwork, helps with left-right distinction, ringing vocabulary, practice first steps in Plain Hunting.
How many pupils at a time:  a good number is 3, but with practice can be done with 4, 5, or 6.
How it works:
Explain to or review with the pupils some named changes (see Ringing Beyond Rounds for examples), such as Swapsies, Queens or Back Rounds.  Then arrange chairs into a ringing circle and seat each pupil with a pair of handbells.  Start in rounds.  Call out the name of a change, and the pupils try to get into that change at the next handstroke.  Repeat that change until you call 'Rounds' again. 
This can be used to practice a specific change over and over again, or as a game to randomly call out different changes.  A harder version is to go up in a named change at handstroke and return immediately to Rounds next backstroke, over and over again.
When you do this game with just two pupils, it is possible to practice all the permutations of a simple Plain Hunt.
Aim for: consistently getting the correct change at the first handstroke.  Try to encourage putting small mistakes behind, and just concentrating on getting the next change correct instead of stopping and starting.

Plain Hunting on Bodies

What it does: Helps the pupils to discover the structure of Plain Hunt by themselves, helps with teamwork, helps with the distinction between the bell number and the place number.  Also helps practice making the bell ring.  This is a good game to do in one of the first sessions, because it doesn't require too much knowledge, but lets them participate in complicated ringing very early on.
How many pupils at a time:  It is easiest with 4 pupils (1 bell per pupil) but can be done with any even number.
How it works:
Give each pupil a handbell, and stand them in a line, in rounds order. Have them ring rounds once.  Physically swap the pupils in pairs.  Then have them ring again.  Next, swap the middle pupils, leaving the first and last standing in the same place, have them ring again.  Repeat this pattern until you get back to rounds (see Plain Hunting for details of how to change the order).  It is good, but not necessary, to ring each change as alternately handstrokes and backstrokes.
Do it more than once, with different groups of pupils, stopping in between to ask if anyone recognises any pattern at all and discuss.  After a few repeats, most pupils will start to see the pattern and will be able to anticipate the swapping instructions.
The next stage to this game is to put numbers to the pattern.  A good way to do this is to put a numbered headband on each ringer, and repeat the game.  Give the pupils sitting out some squared off paper and have them write down each row of numbers as they ring, and then draw a line through each number to reveal the Plain Hunting pattern.  Alternately, you can have the pupils call out the numbers as you write them down on a large page, chalkboard, etc. 
Aim for:  getting each pupil to consistently ring their bell, and letting the pupils determine the pattern themselves.