Age level: Early Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School, High School
Description: Compose Yourself is a fun, easy-to-learn game that allows kids (and adults) to compose their own music. It’s a unique card game that is definitely one of my favorite releases of 2015. Many of my students with autism are highly motivated by music, and I love how this game provides access to composing and exploring music.
The game was invented by composer Philip Sheppard and allows kids to become mini maestros. Players can flip, rotate, and re-order transparent music cards to create any pattern they want, then enter the card codes into a special website to instantly hear an orchestra play it! And, their compositions can easily be shared via social media and e-mail!
Skills & Modifications: The simplest way to modify the game is to reduce the number of cards for the player to select from. It’s also important to note that you must select cards in groups of four, otherwise the website will not play the composition. Also, the website is set so that no more than 16 music cards can be used for a single composition. It may be helpful to create a poster with 16 spaces for the cards to ensure that your learner does not select too many cards for the composition.
An important modification may be to select the format for playing the composition. The website allows the player to choose to hear it played by a marimba, an orchestra, or both. It is much easier to hear the individual notes when played by a marimba than by an orchestra, because the orchestra includes multiple instruments in the composition.
Music – Compose Yourself provides exposure to different types of notes, examples of measures, and other musical concepts. For kids who already have a natural interest in music, this can be an excellent way to transition that interest into more functional musical skills. For kids who have experience, with music lessons, this may be a fun way to explore music.
Patterns – The combination of the visual cards and the audio provided on the website allows children to recognize patterns in notes and measures. Sometimes I will set up four cards, then have a learner look and listen, then describe the pattern. For a few of my learners, it has been an exceptionally motivating activity.
Independent Play – It can often be a struggle to find appropriate independent play activities for learners with autism. If you teach your learner how to follow the steps for interacting with the cards, this may be an excellent choice for independent play or for an activity schedule if you use one to teach leisure skills.
Managing Information – The game requires learners to manage multiple pieces of information: the orientation of the cards, the card codes, the visual information on each card, and the website content for playing the music. You may need to modify the amount of information your learner has to manage. For example, when I introduce the game, I frequently just let students arrange cards, then I enter the information on the website for them. I slowly introduce the skills related to entering the card codes and changing the orientation or order of cards.
Pros: I can’t get over how fun this game is for adults and children alike. My students with autism who are interested in music have easily picked it up, and several of them play with complete independence. As a teacher, I most enjoy seeing my students exploring and learning through play. With over 60 transparent music cards that can be flipped, rotated, and combined in millions of different ways, Compose Yourself allows endless opportunities for creation.
Cons: The only con for this game is that to hear the music, you must have access to the internet. As a teacher traveling to multiple locations, I don’t always have a wifi connection. I wish there were an app so I had reliable access to the wonderful online component.
Cost: $14.99 (exclusively sold at Amazon) You should invest in this game if: your learner loves music, you are seeking highly motivating activities to share with your learner(s), or you looking for unique activities for both solo and group play.
ABLLS: A10, K15
Compose Yourself was provided to me for free by the company Thinkfun to write about here. This did not influence my opinions on the game. The thoughts and ideas above are all my own.