Author Archives: Denise Gagne

St. Patrick’s Day Unit – Lesson Ideas for St. Patrick’s Day!

2018-03-09 St Patrick’s Day Lesson Ideas

The St. Patrick’s Day Composition, Improvisation Flashcards & Theory Unit is available to download from Teachers Pay Teachers OR use the interactive composition, improvisation, Rhythm Chain and Rhythm erase at Musicplayonline has 10+ Irish folk songs and instrumental selections for movement/listening that aren’t included in the TPT version.  The TPT version has additional flashcards, themed recorder mad minutes and a themed staff lesson that aren’t at musicplayonline. 

1.  Two Fun Fact movies are included in this unit. The K-5 movie is shorter with less detail.   Show the students the movie to begin your St. Patrick’s Day unit. There is also a colour by .  note value activity included.

  • 2. Leprechaun Improvisation includes:  song, mp3, worksheet
  • To the Teacher: this is a melodic improvisation activity for PreK – Gr. 5.
  • Discuss the legend that says if you catch a leprechaun he can grant you three wishes. Ask the students for suggestions of what they might wish for.
  • Teach the song by rote to younger students.Older students may be able to read the rhythm and the melody. (drm s)
  •  Demonstrate how to improvise some of the students ideas for wishes. Use a variety of pitches: s ml, drm, drm s.
  • Ask for student volunteers to improvise vocally their wishes.
  • If you’d like to perform this, a performance/accompaniment track is included in the unit OR accompany with a C-G bordun on Orff instruments

3, Compose a Melody 1 AND 2 .  Compose with solfa: drm, drm sl Or with the notes CDE or CDE GA

  • To the Teacher: Choose from Melody 1 and Melody 2 poems for the composition activity. Both have the rhythm notated, so students only have to write the melody.  Choose whether to have your students compose with solfa: drm, drm sl Or with the notes CDE or CDE GA
  • Teach the poem.
  • invite students to improvise melodies for phrases of the poem using either do, re, mi or do, re, mi, so, la.
  • Use the projectable PowerPoint to create a melody as a class. (copy and paste the solfa or the notes to compose in PowerPoint.)
  • Accompany the composition with a bordun on the Orff instruments. You can accompany  drm, drm sl in the key of C with C-G.

Rhythmic Phrases PPT and Worksheet

  • Teach or demonstrate how to complete the worksheet using the PowerPoint. Say the phrase and invite the students to tell you which rhythm matches the phrase.
  • In the PowerPoint, copy and paste the rhythm into the box.

Have the students complete the worksheet as a center activity or an assessment activity.

5. Shamrock Rhythm Erase

  • This has 8 levels for Gr. 1-6  – interactive PDF, PPT, Worksheet are included online and in the TPT version.   To the Teacher:
  • Say each of the rhythm patterns.
  • When students know them all, click on one to take it away.
  • Say all four patterns again.
  • Click on another one to take it away.
  • Continue making patterns disappear until you are left with only the shamrocks.
  • Have the students tell what the patterns are. Click to check if they’re correct. (In the interactive PDF, click the “reset” button.
  • Try playing the patterns using body percussion or unpitched percussion instruments.
  • Try having the students use the worksheet provided to write the patterns down, check
  • their answers with the activity.
  • Try a new level!

Leprechaun Hunt Rhythm Chain

  • This has 8 levels – interactive PDF, PPT, Flashcards .   To the Teacher:
  • • Help us find the leprechaun! To start, click on the start button to make the first rhythm appear.
  • When the students have memorized the rhythm click on the rhythm to make it disappear.
  • Clap the rhythm again and find the leprechaun’s yellow footprints.
  • Click on the footprints to reveal the next rhythm. When the students have memorized the second pattern clap the first pattern followed by the second. As you collect more patterns the rhythm chain will become longer.
  • Continue collecting rhythm patterns by clicking on the rhythms and the footprints.
  • Have the students tell what the patterns are. Click to check if they’re correct. (In the
  • interactive PDF, click the “reset” button.
  • Try playing the patterns using body percussion or unpitched percussion instruments.
  • Try a new level!

Rhythm Flashcards – in TPT version only
80 Rhythm Flashcards are included, themed for St. Patrick’s Day.

Staff Lesson Workshops –     in TPT version only .
These correlate with the staff lesson at – the staff lesson is found in the interactive activities for the first 6 songs in K-6.   (We will be moving the staff lesson to the Units section when we start building our theory section)

Recorder Mad Minutes – themed for St. Patricks Day . – in TPT version only

  • Songs / musical selections for St. Patrick’s Day found in the St. Patrick’s Day Unit at  (These are not in the TPT version)

  • 1. Paddy From Home
  • 2. St. Patrick’s Day Jig
  • 3. Fillimiooriay
  • 4. I Like Leprechauns
  • 5. Leprechaun March
  • 6. Lucky Leprechaun
  • 7. Connaughtman’s Rambles
  • 8. Irish Washerwoman
  • 9. Irish Jig
  • 10. Irish Reel
  • 11. Wild Mountain Thyme
  • 12. Mary Mac
  • 13. Hi Ho the Rattlin Bog
  • 14. Cockles and Mussels
  • 15.  Mr. Potato Head
  • – and of course there is a menu of suggested activities for each of the songs!

At The UNITS button is on the left menu


Select Festivals and Holidays – St. Patrick’s Day



Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone!  

Chinese New Year Musical Activities Unit

Wow!  In one week, we’ve celebrated Valentine’s Day, seen the start of the Winter Olympics, and started Lunar New Year celebrations – including Chinese New Year on Feb. 15th!

We’ve created an entire Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year celebration at  If you don’t subscribe to the online site, You can download the unit from TPT.  TPT Download

The Unit starts with Fun Facts about Chinese New Years or Lunar New Year as it should properly be called.  Beautiful projectable images illustrate many traditions and customs.

A traditional song is included in the unit.   Ruth Fung was a parent when I taught at GW Smith Elementary.  She taught us the song, and provided the translation and the phonetic pronunciation.  Her daughter and a daughter’s friend recorded the vocals for the song, and this recording is included in the unit to help learn the pronunciation.

Two composition activities are included.  A Chinese New Year Rondo introduces a simple song to use as the theme, then the students can create word rhythm compositions as B, C, D sections.  Two levels are included:  one/two sounds per beat for your young students, and more words for your older students.  Online the pdfs of the word cards are available to download – these are designed to be very easy to print out and make sets!  These pdfs are included in the TPT download of the unit as well.

A second composition activity that you can choose is the Animals of the Zodiac activity.  This activity uses animal word rhythms and sounds that the animals might make.  To model interactively for students if using the TPT version, use the PowerPoints and cut/paste the words to create a class composition.  at, you can use the interactive version.  Worksheets to practice name notes and solfa are included!

Dragon Dance

When I was the music teacher at Grandview Elementary, Dr. Kenneth Wu, a martial arts teacher and dragon dancer (and acupuncturist) came into our school and taught our students how to do the dragon dance.  His instructions are included in the Dragon Dance lesson plan, and a video of our students performance is also included online and in the TPT download.  Building the dragon for this performance was a ton of fun for me and for the students.  We used a tablecloth runner long enough for 20-25 students, and decorated it with lots of glitter and artwork.  I remember glitter from one end of the school to the other!

Rhythm Chain

A rhythm chain is the opposite of a Rhythm Erase – you try to memorize patterns starting with one, then adding to it.  Use a variety of body percussion to make your performance interesting.

The first rhythm will be revealed to you. When you’ve memorized the first rhythm, click on the rhythm to hide it and click on the next scroll to reveal the second rhythm. Clap the first rhythm (hidden) and the second rhythm (revealed) until you memorize the second rhythm. Hide the second rhythm and reveal the third rhythm. Contine down the chain.

Four rhythm chains are included in an interactive PDF – each one at a different level.

Rhythm Lanterns – Rhythm Erase

Lanterns with riddles on them are hung up around the cities, and children go from lantern to lantern solving riddles.

In the Rhythm Laterns, students complete a rhythm erase.  They memorize the rhythm patterns, one pattern will disappear at a time, until you are left with only the lanterns.   When they complete the rhythm erase, they are rewarded with a riddle.

A 24 page teacher’s guide is included with the unit.

Where can you get these Chinese New Year lessons and activities?

We’ve created an entire Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year celebration at  If you don’t subscribe to the online site, You can download the unit from TPT.  TPT Download

Are you still celebrating the Winter Olympics?  We’ve posted the unit on TPT, so if you want to download all the materials, you can.  LINK to TPT Winter Olympics Musical Activities

Or visit – see our new UNITS section on the left menu to use interactive versions of the activities.  More units are coming soon!


Obwisana Lesson Ideas to Teach Ties

In this newsletter I’m going to share the process I use to teach ties, using the song Obwisana.  When first writing and recording songs for Musicplay in 1999, the internet wasn’t the wealth of information it is today.  I asked everyone I knew in Red Deer, Alberta (not a very multicultural city in 1999) if they know someone from Africa who would teach me some African children’s songs.  I finally was able to connect with “Nana” who was a health inspector in Olds.  I had some songs in secondary sources, but wanted some that came right from the source.  Nana had been born in Ghana, lived in Botswana, then emigrated with her family to Canada.  She remembered singing Obwisana as a child.  She didn’t have a literal translation for the song, but remembered that it meant, “Grandma, the rock hit my finger.  It hurt.”

1.  Teach the song, and tell the students what the words mean These projectables are from the Concept Slides in the Musicplay Digital Resource PowerPoints.  They are also in the Concept Slides section at .

Play the Game!!!  The traditional game is a stone passing game.  I’ve done it that way with students, but when I turned the game into a stick passing elimination game, it because a requested activity!  When doing passing games with grade 2, I start with the pile of sticks in front of me, and pass them out one at a time to my right.  I say, “Pick up, set down” and the child on my right does that.  Then there are 2 children who pick up, set down, then 3, then 4 until the whole class has a stick.  This is the way to get kids to all go in the correct direction when passing!  I mark one stick with tape.  The pattern we used was:  tap, tap, set down (in front of the person on their right), pick up. (pick up the new stick) . We sing the song and at the end of the song, the child with the marked stick is “out” and starts a new circle in the center.  I go into the circle with the first out.  They change sticks so the marked stick stays in the outer circle.  Once you’re in the middle, you’re just playing for fun.  There’s a kids demo video of this in the Musicplay Digital Resource, and at .

2.  Show where Ghana is on a world map, and show the students what life is like in rural northern Ghana.  My friend, Marilyn Pottage, took these photos on one of her many trips to Ghana.  She runs a foundation that helps provide secondary and university education for girls.  These photos are in the Concept Slides of the Musicplay 2 Digital resources and are in the Concept Slides of

3.  Have the students pat the beats in the song.  I like to have them count the beats, then check if they have them right, on a beat chart.

4. Then I have the students clap the rhythm – the way the words go.  Then we figure out how many sounds are on each beat.

There are a series of beat/rhythm interactive activites at .  The interactive activities follow the same process.

The interactive activities at  are awesome BECAUSE they are interactive.  When you press PLAY on “Point to the Beat” – the beats pulse as the song is sung.

3.  Pat the Beats as you sing the song        4.  Clap the words as you sing the song

5.  Be sure your students understand the difference between beat and rhythm.

You can use “Is the drum playing beat or rhythm” to assess formally if students can tell if it’s beat or rhythm.  If you have student iPads or chromebooks, students can use the student login for . and they can complete the One sound, two sounds or more than one beat activity on their device.

6.  Clap a phrase of the song, and have students figure out how many sounds are on each beat.  In this song, they’ll be figuring out if there are some sounds that last more than one beat.

If you prefer to have hands-on manipulatives for your students, printable manipulatives of the same activities are given in the printables section of .

The Beat Pointing Page could be used in place of the interactive “Point to the Beat.”

The Rhythm Pointing Page would be in place of “Clap the Rhythm.”

For some songs, I like to give the students a set of the rhythm cards (#3-4) and ask them to re-create the rhythm of the song.  Easy sets include the words of the song, but if I want to challenge the students, I’ll take out the words!    We’ve made the rhythm cards so it’s very quick to copy onto cardstock, then cut out.  I store them in CD envelopes so I can see through the envelope window and know what song the set is for.  The Rhythm Sort worksheet is a written version of an online rhythm sort activity.  Write the Rhythm would be a great assessment.

Should you do every activity for this song?  Of course not.  I’ve given the wealth of activities at musicplayonline so you can choose the activity that meets the needs of your students.  If your 2nd grade are amazing readers, challenge them with a rhythm sort.  If you have a challenging class, or this is the first year you’ve taught these children, they may still need a beat pointing page.

How many lessons will this take?  That also depends on whether your students are struggling or strong readers.  But, I would allow more than one lesson, especially when you want to get kids creating their own music!

Create and Perform:  Whether your students are amazing readers or still struggling, all students should be encouraged to create their own music.  One of the ways that works well, is to have them create with word rhythms.  Two ways to create are given at .  The first is creating with words or just use the notes.  When class time is really limited, do this as a teacher led activity.

If you have more time, students could do either of these activities on devices, or you could print out rhythm cards or word cards for them to use to create an 8 beat rhythm.

Teacher can model with the interactive projectable above – then it’s easy for students in pairs or small groups to create their own word rhythm, or note rhythm using the cards pictured below.

Assessment:  As with all new concepts, you may want to assess if students understand.  The Rhythm Sort and Rhythm Erase activity at . are both great.  I might do the rhythm erase first.  Note that we haven’t included the song title.  We did that so you could use it as a mystery song.  The Rhythm Sort is a great activity to do as your assessment of the “Obwisana Unit.”  There is a printable version of the rhythm sort in printables online.

Rhythm Sort worksheet     Create a word rhythm:      Accented Beats

Obwisana Lesson Ideas Screen Cast:  I created a screen cast to show teachers in a video the materials in this newsletter.  I made a mistake though – and didn’t include in the video the Concept slides about Ghana.  So be sure if you teach this lesson, you include the cultural context.   You can watch the video at: .  The video includes the kids demo of the game.

Hope you enjoy the screencast and newsletter with lesson ideas on Obwisana!


Denise Gagne
Musicplay Teachers Group on Facebook!

Next Blog PostChinese New Years lesson and ideas!
If you want a sneak preview, visit and go the first 4 songs of Musicplay 3.  We’ve removed those songs and replaced them with songs and lessons on Chinese New Years!  (Our programmers are working on a “New” Songs section)

Recorder Mad Minutes

MAD MINUTES – A Great Way to Help Students Develop Note Reading Abilities!

Mad Minutes help students develop their note reading ability. Mad minutes were invented by math teachers to help children develop instant recall of math facts.  In music, Mad Minutes are timed drills to practice letter names. As the students enter the classroom give a mad minute and a pencil to each student.  Usually I hand out the papers, and the first student in line gives out the pencils.

If students are learning BAG songs on the recorder, they should be completing a BAG Mad Minute.  As they learn to play more notes, add the notes to the Mad Minute.

Start the timer, and tell the students to “GO!”   Tell the students to call out “Done!” and raise their hands when they are finished. Then, you tell them how many seconds or minutes and seconds it took them to complete. I like to do a mad minute at the start of every recorder class. In the Recorder Resource Kit there are two BAG mad minutes, then the mad minutes add a note. When you are working on BAG songs, use the BAG mad minute. When you start on the low E, use the BAG E mad minute. Use each mad minute more than once – lots of repetition is needed for students to develop instant recall of note names.

Students try to improve their best time. It’s not competing against others in the class – they are competing against themselves. This has been really engaging for my students – a great way to start off the class.

Watch the video to see the level of engagement!

If you have students taking private lessons, make them harder mad minutes. If they take piano, I give them a mad minute with treble and bass clef – and the piano teachers love me for it.

Where can you get Mad Minutes?  Mad Minutes are included in the Recorder Resource Kit. We’ve just lowered the price of the Recorder Resource Kit with Projectables (PDF and videos!) to $40!   The Recorder Resource Kit include 38 songs in regular AND Kids Notes notation. The songs are sequenced as follows: BAG E D C’ D’ F C. The kit includes many extras: practice bugs, composition template, quiz, rubrics, theory worksheets, and note name flash cards. It’s available as print and/or download.  The Kit includes instruction on how to do a Recorder Karate program with selected songs from the kit.  But there are far more than test pieces in the kit – this is a carefully sequenced collection, so your students will learn to read music – they won’t just learn to play a test piece by rote.  

Order the Recorder Resource Kit from your favorite music store or from Themes & Variations:



All the songs that are in the Recorder Resource Kit are given twice – regular notation and kids notes. With Kids Notes, the letter name is imprinted right on the note.  You can make kids notes booklets for your students who struggle – helping them to keep up with the class.  Kids notes are a huge help to students who still struggle – even after completing many mad minutes.  The projectable PowerPoints, PDFs and movies in the Kit project both regular notation AND kids notes.  Kids notes are much better for the kids than writing letters under the song.  When kids pencil in notes, all they look at is the pencil.  With Kids Notes, they see the placement on the staff and they read the rhythms – and easily transition to note reading when they are developmentally ready.

  • The Recorder Resource Kit includes 38 songs in regular AND Kids notes notation.  It also includes:
  • mad minutes
  • theory worksheets
  • assessment tools:  theory quiz and playing rubrics
  • Recorder Karate test pieces, and helpful hints (in the Teacher’s guide)
  • Projectables in 3 formats:  PDF, PowerPoints, Movies



Student Book Recorder / Book / CD Packages
Students practice more and practice better when they have the accompaniment CD. We make these affordable packages available to Canadian schools. For $10 you get either a quality Handel recorder or a Yamaha recorder, the Recorder Resource Student Book and a CD. (If students don’t have a disk drive on their computer, they can email for a download version) . Order Packages for Canadian Schools

PreK – Gr. 3 Holiday Concert Songs

A recent Facebook asked for help finding a cute song for K-3 students. In this article, I’m giving suggestions for easy and cute holiday concert ideas for your primary (PreK-Grade 3) students. If you choose a song that is already familiar to the students it will be quicker and easier to learn.  Some of the ones that most will have heard before include those in the K-3 Christmas Concert Idea Book.

K-3 Christmas Concert Idea Book

* The Bells on the Sleigh (new words to Wheels on the Bus)  Watch a performance on YouTube – this is fun and easy for kids to learn!

* He’ll be Comin’ down the Chimney – fun and easy!  See a performance:

* And Santa is his name (BINGO with Santa words)
* Jingle Bells (song and dance)
* Up on a Housetop
AND 20+ more songs, poems, fingerplays – see complete contents at the link
We have nice recordings of ALL of these in K-3 Christmas Concert Ideas.

Don’t have time to wait for a book/CD to come by mail? No problem – all of our Christmas collections are available as downloads. In the download you get the pdf file of the book and a folder with all of the MP3s of performance and accompaniment. There are also poems for choral reading, a reader’s theatre of “The Elves and the Shoemaker”, a mini-play, “No Cookies for Santa” a Nativity scene, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, Ribbon dance, finger plays, and more!      This is a great deal – $18 download for the whole collection — many single song kits are $15 for one song.

CANADA Teachers:

USA Teachers:


Kinder Christmas Collection

Another favourite familiar song for your primary students is Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. We recorded a performance and accompaniment track for Rudolph in Kinder Christmas collection. Another familiar song in this collection is “There was a Little Baby” – the song that was recorded on the Raffi Christmas album. We’ve included an accompaniment track so your kids voices will be heard without Raffi in the background. $20 Book/CD
The collection includes these songs:

* Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noel
* Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer
* Reindeer Love to Boogie
* There Was a Little Baby  (with acc. track)
* Tap, Tap, Tap
* Let’s Be Jolly
* Chris tmas ABC (American)
* Christmas ABC (Canadian)
* Gingerbread
* Teddy Bear Twist
* I Hear the Bells
* Ten Little Angels
* Christmas Dance
* Rock Around the Christmas Tree
* Play the Bells to Celebrate

CANADA Teachers:

USA Teachers:

Christmas Favorites Collection

Santa Claus is Cominʼ to Town

Jolly Jolly Santa

Snowflakes (partner with Jingle Bells)

Christmas at the Hop

Other Songs in the Collection are:
* I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
* Do You Hear What I Hear?
*Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
*  Christmas Candles
* Follow the Star
* What Child is This?
Optional Biblical Readings
* Starry Night

CANADA Teachers:

USA Teachers:

Christmas Concert Idea Book

Makin’ Christmas Cookies

* Shine a Light for Peace

* AND 10 More songs!  Includes a Nativity for Catholic or Christian schools:
*Christmas is my Favorite Time of Year
* Time to Pack the Sleigh
* Santa’s Computer
* Christmas Spirit
* Presents
* The Road to Bethlehem
* Little Star
* Glory to God in the Highest
* The Colors of Christmas
* Christmas Time is Here

CANADA Teachers:

USA Teachers:

Christmas Music Lessons

This is a collection of lessons and activities based on nine familiar Christmas carols. Each song is notated for vocals, soprano recorder in two parts, Boomwhackers in two parts, a variety of percussion instruments, and with chords provided for ukulele (or guitar). All parts can be used together and also work in any combination. Each song comes with a vocal track and an orchestrated accompaniment track. A slower accompaniment track is given for Boomwhacker play alongs. Reproducible and Projectable lyrics are included so the songs could be used in a performance or a school holiday sing along. The activities include naming notes, writing notes, recognizing rhythms, creating new melodies, as well as fun games and word puzzles based on the lyrics of the carols and the song information.

* African Noel
* Jolly Old St. Nicholas
* Up on the Housetop
* Joy to the World
* Jingle Bells
* Christmas Chopsticks
* D’où viens-tu bergère?
* Over the River and Through the Wood
* O Come Little Children

CANADA Teachers:

USA teachers:

Themes & Variations publishes many more Holiday and Christmas collections and there are many holiday songs in the Musicplay PreK – Grade 6 curriculum.  Visit to see our complete Christmas section.

10 Easy Assessments for K-5 Music Classes

If you only see your K-6 music students for 30-60 minutes/week, you have very limited time to assess student progress. In this article, I want to give suggestions that will help you make the most of the limited time that you have.

You should plan your assessments when you create your year plan. If in the first term of your year plan, you decided to focus on steady beat, then your assessments for term one should focus on steady beat. You can’t assess every musical skill and concept each term.

When planning assessments, find out what your school or districts allows or requires on the report card. If you can only report on 3 outcomes, don’t assess 20 outcomes.

In planning assessments, you will want to assess both skills and mastery of concepts. Skills include singing, playing, moving, listening, reading/writing and creating. Concepts include beat/rhythm, pitch, expression (dynamics, tempo, articulation), tone color (timbre), form.

Not all skills and/or concepts have equal importance. The skills that I feel are the most important in K-6 music are singing in tune, and keeping a steady beat. I might assess thost skills every term, and assess the other skills/concepts during the times that I’ve focussed on them.

Ten Easy Assessments:

 1. Outcome: Students sing independently, on pitch.

To Assess: Sing “hello student” on so-mi, so-mi.

Student responds by singing “Hello Mrs. Gagne” back to you.

  • 1.  Developing does not always use singing voice, rarely matches pitch
  • 2.  Beginning occasionally sings in-tune
  • 3.  Proficient Sings in tune most of the time.
  • 4.  Excellent Consistently sings in tune independently.

2.  Outcome: Students sing in the group, on pitch.

To Assess: Play a recording of a song that you’ve worked on that the students should know. For example: The National Anthem or in Musicplay 2, Ridin’ That New River Train. Have the students stand in class list order. Walk down the rows listening to each child sing for 2-3 seconds. Record your assessment in your grading program or on your class list.

  • 1.  Developing:   Beginning to use singing voice
  • 2.  Beginning     occasionally matches pitches.
  • 3.  Proficient      Sings in tune almost all of the time.
  • 4.  Excellent      Consistently sings in tune.

3.  Outcome: Students keep a steady beat when moving to music.

To Assess: Play the song, “Time for Music.” It’s song #1 in Musicplay PreK part 1 and in Singing Games children Love Vol. 3. (also available on iTunes and/or at In this song children keep a beat, clapping, patting, tapping, flapping, and drumming on their knees. Have the students sit in class list order, observe and assess as they sing and move to the song. Another way to assess steady beat when moving to music is to play a listening example and have the children find their own way to keep a beat.

  • 1.  Developing:   rarely keeps a steady beat
  • 2.  Beginning     occasionally keeps a steady beat
  • 3.  Proficient keeps a steady beat almost all of the time.
  • 4.  Excellent Consistently keeps a steady beat

4.  Outcome: Students keep a steady beat when playing instruments

To Assess: Sing and play an instrument song such as, Play, Play, Play Along in Rhythm Instrument Fun.  (This is also in Musicplay PreK, and is found online at  Have the students sit in class list order and give each child a pair of sticks. Observe and assess as they sing and play to the song. Alternately, play along with a piece of classical music or a folk tune. Find a piece of music that has a tempo approx.. 120 beats per minute.

  • 1. Developing:   rarely keeps a steady beat
  • 2. Beginning     occasionally keeps a steady beat
  • 3. Proficient keeps a steady beat almost all of the time.
  • 4. Excellent Consistently keeps a steady beat

5.  Outcome: Students tap a steady beat on a beat chart

To Assess: Sing a short, familiar simple 16 beat reading song or chant such as Engine #9, Lucy Locket. While they sing, have the children tap the beat on a beat chart. (Download a beat chart for the songs listed above from – printables) Have the students sit in class list order, observe and assess as they sing and tap the beat.

  • 1. Developing:   rarely keeps a steady beat
  • 2. Beginning     occasionally keeps a steady beat
  • 3. Proficient keeps a steady beat almost all of the time.
  • 4. Excellent Consistently keeps a steady beat

6. Outcome: Students can read a 4 (or 8) beat rhythm pattern using ta, ti-ti, rest

To Assess: Create a set of 10 or more rhythm flashcards. Go down your class list, having each child read one or two flashcards. Gr. 1-2 – use 4 beat rhythm cards   Gr. 3-5 first report card, have students read 8 beats.

Have the students sit in class list order, observe and assess as they sing and tap the beat.

  • 1. Developing:   rarely keeps a steady beat
  • 2. Beginning     occasionally keeps a steady beat
  • 3. Proficient keeps a steady beat almost all of the time.
  • 4. Excellent Consistently keeps a steady beat

Themes & Variations publishes a set of 100 rhythm flashcards that are printed on colored cardstock.  The color coding indicates the patterns included in the set and helps you to quickly find the set that each class is working on.

Link to Flashcards – Canada

Link to Flashcards – USA

In, we’ve taken the flashcards and made this into a very quick and easy to use movie – just press play.  There are 25-35 patterns in each set.   There are fewer patterns for very easy sets as younger classes are usually smaller (we hope!) and more patterns in the harder or longer sets for your older students.  In the easier sets, we’ve given you both 4 beat assessments and 8 beat assessments. You can choose the set that you want to assess.

7. Outcome: Students can notate a rhythm pattern that they hear (ta, ti-ti, rest)

To Assess:   To do music Dictation using cardstock flashcards, I choose five cards at the level I want to assess.  I give the students a piece of paper (I use paper from the recyling in the school) and a pencil (I keep a class set in a container by the door)  and an old hard cover text to write on.  They write their name at the top and number 1-5.  I clap a pattern – they clap it back, then write it down.  I’ll give it a second time if they need it.   I write down my patterns as I go or keep my flashcards in order. Students exchange papers and correct them in class, so I don’t have to take home bags full of marking.  Yay!

Music Dictation at is done the same way.

Five questions are given.  Pause the movie between questions.  Immediately following the five questions are the answers.  Exchange papers and mark.


8. Outcome: Students can sing at sight a melodic pattern

To Assess:   If you use solfege in your music classes, assessing the students ability to read and sing melodic patterns may be an outcome that you choose to assess. In my classes, in first term I might assess the following patterns in term 1: Gr. 1 – so-mi,   Gr. 2 – la-so-mi   Gr. 3 – so-mi-re-do Gr. 4-5 – low la, do-re-me-so-la   Every teaching situation is different, so this may not be an assessment that is relevant to your teaching.  Create or purchase melody flashcards to assess the tonal patterns that you have taught. Melody flashcards are available to purchase from OR you can use the Solfa Reading videos at

9. Outcome: Students can identify singing, speaking, whisper, shouting voices

To Assess:   The Types of Voices lesson in Musicplay for Kindergarten, song #7, This is My Speaking Voice, includes a printable assessment. In this assessment, the teacher uses one kind of voice, and the students circle the type of voice that they heard.

  • 1. Developing:   few answers are correct
  • 2. Beginning     some answers are correct
  • 3. Proficient most answers are correct
  • 4. Excellent all answers are correct

10. Outcome: Students can identify when music is fast or slow

To Assess:   #29 in Musicplay PreK is called Fast or Slow. Eight musical examples are played for the students and the students tell if they are fast or slow. You could use 4-6 of these examples in an assessment.

  1. Mary Had a Little Lamb     slow
  2. Mary Had a Little Lamb fast
  3. Twinkle Twinkle   fast
  4. Twinkle Twinkle   slow
  5. Ring Around the Rosie   fast
  6. Ring Around the Rosie   slow
  7. Eensy Weensy Spider   slow
  8. Eensy Weensy Spider   fast

Give each student a piece of paper (I use paper from the recyling in the school) and a pencil (I keep a class set in a container by the door)  and an old hard cover text to write on.  They write their name at the top and number 1-4 or 1-6. Play the movie to use the musical example but don’t project it.  Pause to allow children to write slow or fast. (or make up a worksheet so they just have to circle slow or fast.) If you prefer, you could play your own examples on a keyboard. Mark the students work for your assessment.

  • 1. Developing:   few answers are correct
  • 2. Beginning     some answers are correct
  • 3. Proficient most answers are correct
  • 4. Excellent all answers are correct

These are just a few possible assessments, but I hope this gives you some ideas for easy assessments that you can do in your music classes, without taking up all of your limited teaching time!

Halloween Music Lesson – Old Mother Witch

Toronto Musicplay Workshop – Nov. 5-6, 2017
Would you like additional lessons like this one?  If you’re in the Toronto area, Denise is doing 2 workshop days:  Sunday, Nov. 5th and Monday, Nov. 6th where she’ll share lessons like this where the students sing, play, read/write, create, listen and move.
REGISTER for Toronto Workshops – Nov. 5 and/or 6th.   Participants will get 2 free months subscription to the online site AND will get great lessons to use in your classrooms.

Halloween Lesson – Old Mother Witch

by Denise Gagne

This is a great lesson for the weeks leading up to Halloween, for Grades PreK – Gr. 4.  It’s found in Musicplay 2, but because the game is fun, and there are many extensions, you can use it with younger and with older students!  When the game is fun, your 4th grade students will still enjoy playing it, especially if you take them outside where they can run.  In the kids demo of this game, there were students in Grades 1-5 playing the game.  If you are in a school that doesn’t talk about witches, change the word “witch” in the song to “Fitch.” Old Mother Fitch fell in a ditch. Picked up a penny and thought she was rich.
There are many extensions given at!  If you have 4 lessons until Halloween, choose 4 of the extensions.  Use some of the extensions with K-1, and some are better suited to Gr. 2-3 or Gr. 2-3-4.  There is nothing wrong with playing the same game with multiple grades – saves you planning time!
The interactive activities are found at  If you don’t subscribe to the online site, you can do the same activities without the interaction.  Many of us have taught before technology and with technology – you can teach all these suggested activities very successfully without technology.  It’s just easier for you and may be more engaging for your students with the technology.
If you haven’t used the online site ., you’ll get a free month when you subscribe.  If you tried it before these activities were created, and would like to try it again now, email to get a free month to try again.  The beat and rhythm activities illustrated below, have been created for over 150 reading songs in Gr. K-6.  New activities are created each week!

Game Directions:
Formation: The children are lined up on one side of the gym. One child (or the teacher) is chosen to be the “witch” and is in the middle of the gym.
The children sing the song.
The witch asks “Are you my children?”
The children reply softly “No we’re not!” (piano)
The witch asks “Are you my children?”
The children reply in a louder voice “No we’re not!” (mezzo piano)
The witch asks “Are you my children?”
The children reply in a loud voice “Yes we are!” (forte)
The children try to run past the witch to the other side of the gym without being tagged. When they are tagged they become “witches” also, and try to tag the rest of the children as they cross the gym. This game works best
in the gym or outside between soccer goal posts. In a small room I restrict the witch to tagging only one child each time, and instruct the witch to tag a child who’s really trying to get away. If you are in a school that doesn’t talk about witches, change the word “witch” in the song to “Fitch.” Old Mother Fitch fell in a ditch. Picked up a penny and thought she was rich.
Interactive Beat and Rhythm Activities
We’ve created interactive beat and rhythm activities for more than 150 songs in Musicplay k-6.  Use these activities to teach, practice or assess your students understanding of beat and rhythm.
1.  Beat Pointing Activity:  Press Play – as the song is sung,
point to the Beat and the beats pulse.
2.  Clap the Rhythm Activity:
Press play – sing and clap the words.  This is the “rhythm.”
3.  Beat and Rhythm switch game.  Use this game to observe and assess if your students understand the difference between beat and rhythm.  Students pat or step the beat when you point to the heart.  When you point to the hands, they clap the rhythm.
4.  Beat or Rhythm Differentiation / Assessment Activity
In this activity press play, and you’ll hear a drum playing either the beat or the rhythm.  If you answer correctly, the box goes green.  You could do this as a written assessment of student understanding of the difference between beat and rhythm.
5.  Sounds on a beat:  Is it one sound or two?  (Icons).  Do as a class activity, or have students do it individually on iPads or Chromebooks.  (email if you’re a subscriber to the site and don’t know the student login)
6.  Sounds on a beat – notes:
Is it one sound or two?  (notes and rest) . You notate the rhythm of the song.
Rhythm Sort:  This is another way for students to figure out the rhythm of a song.  You can do this as a class activity OR individual activity on devices.
Rhythm Erase:  I like to do this a few weeks after I’ve taught the song.  No song title is shown, so after you’ve completed the Erase activity, ask the students to identify the song.  I call this “Mystery Song.
Halloween Word Rhythms:  This activity can be used with any Halloween song.  With student input, create a word rhythm with Halloween words.  Then, transfer the word rhythm to body percussion or unpitched instruments.  When you decide how to play it, you can use it as an introduction to the song. You could use the song as your A section, the word rhythm as a B section – then decide how to perform the song:  ABA or AB, or ABAB.  You could use the word rhythm as an ostinato.  These extensions turn a simple song into a springboard for many creative activities.
Tone Ladder:  The song Old Mother Witch uses only the notes so and mi. Select those notes on the tone ladder, and point to so and mi as the students sing the song.  (Click on a letter to make it disappear)
Note Name Challenge:  Drag the letter to the basket to name the note.  The “basketball” needs to touch the upper left edge of the basket to “stick” there.  If you teach letter names, do this activity.  If you teach solfa notes in K-3, do the Solfa Challenge instead.
Solfa Challenge:  Name the solfa notes in the song.  If you haven’t learned solfege, press Play Song, and the song will be sung in solfa notes
Orff Arrangement:  The Orff arrangement is found in the Printables Box online.  Teach the Orff arrangement, and create B sections using the Halloween word rhythms.  If you don’t subscribe to the online site, the Orff arrangement is available in the collection, “The Orff Source.”
This assessment is in printables of the online site.  It’s intended to use as a quick so-mi practice exercise.  The Checkup can be used to assess if your students can identify a rhythm pattern and/or a solfa pattern that you play for them.  Don’t use this assessment until you’ve taught your students la, so, mi – so grade 2-3-4, not gr. 1.

The piano arrangements for every song are given in the “Arrangements” section of the online site.

If you don’t subscribe, the arrangements for all of Musicplay are available in 7 volumes:

Canada –


The ukulele and guitar arrangements are online for every song in the program.  If you don’t subscribe, the arrangements for all of Musicplay are available in 7 volumes:Canada – –

The interactive activities illustrated in this post are found at  If you don’t subscribe to the online site, you can do the same activities without the interaction.  Many of us have taught before technology and with technology – you can teach all these suggested activities very successfully without technology.  It’s just easier for you and may be more engaging for your students with the technology.
If you haven’t used the online site ., you’ll get a free month when you subscribe.  If you tried it before these activities were created, and would like to try it again now, email to get a free month to try again.  The beat and rhythm activities illustrated below, have been created for over 150 reading songs in Gr. K-6.  New activities are created each week!

Easy Bucket Drumming

Bucket drumming is a really engaging activitiy for your music classes. It’s inexpensive to equip a classroom with buckets and sticks, and they are easy to stack and store, so bucket drumming is an activity that’s accessible to all.

Buckets: What kind of buckets should you get?   You can use all shapes and sizes of buckets. I’m fond of the sound that Costco laundry detergent buckets make. Ice cream stores sometimes give away large ice cream buckets. Home Depot and Lowes have 5 gallon buckets that they sell for $3.97 Canadian. If you take in a letter from your school requesting a donation, they may give them to you. (One teacher reported that the Lowes buckets don’t stick together) If you’d like to create a complete Bucket Drumming ensemble, you’ll want buckets of varying sizes.

Sticks: You can use rhythm sticks, dowels or drum sticks to drum on the buckets. If the noise gets to be too much for you (or neighboring teachers) cut pool noodles into 12-14” lengths and drum with noodles.

Resources: Easy Bucket Drumming is an excellent resource to start with. The resource includes a teacher’s guide, PDF projectables with embedded audio, MP4 videos of all 18 selections (no page turns!) and the audio recordings. It’s available as a Book/Disk resource and as a download. The projectables and embedded audio make this really easy to use in the classroom.

Canadian Teachers:

USA Teachers

Hand Position: The first thing you need to teach the students is how to hold drum sticks. We illustrate in the projectable PDF the  correct / not correct ways to hold the sticks. If you have Orff instruments, you’ll want the students to hold drum sticks the same way they hold their mallets.

Parts of the Bucket: We illustrate in the projectable PDF the parts of the bucket that we’ll be playing on: sides, top, rim, click sticks. We’ve done the music notation in that order – it’s big, clear and easy to read, and makes logical sense.

Our 18 exercises begin by teaching the students to read the notation playing on just one part of the bucket at a time. Even though the first exercises are simple, the accompaniment tracks make them fun to play! The first performance piece is Dance of the Reed Pipes from the Nutcracker. It’s simple, but a a very effective arrangement you could use in a holiday concert.  To play along, just click the play button twice.  OR – you can play the MP4 video so you don’t have to turn pages.

What Grades/Ages can Bucket Drum? We taught the lessons in Gr. 3-6 classrooms, so ages 8-12. Younger students can learn to play bucket drums, but you’ll need to spend more time on each section. I find it harder to engage older students, so like to “save” something fun and different for the kids that are harder to engage. For that reason, I’d suggest saving bucket drumming as something special for your older kids.

The second performance piece, Liberty Bell March, uses accents, and both hands playing together. This piece would be a great assembly performance. If you set up a projector at the far end of your gym (behind the audience) and project as large as you can, you could have the students follow the movie as they perform. It would look kind of like this:

Bucket Drummers                             Audience                            Projector – projecting onto back wall

Alternately, the arrangements are so intuitive that your students could memorize them, and you could lead them through.
Here’s a link to a performance of Liberty Bell on YouTube:

Sticking: The sticking in bucket drumming is similar to the sticking on a drum set. Bucket drumming is great preparation for playing a drum kit. In this resource, we wanted to develop some hand independence. Bat Rap sets this up.

Teaching the parts first with body percussion, then with sticks helped our students to be successful.

Click sticks = snap
Rim of the bucket = clap
Top of the bucket = patsch
Sides of the bucket = stomp

We used body percussion to teach the Music Rules, then had the students transfer the body percussion to buckets.

Improvising: Buckets are a great instrument to try improvising. In songs 11-14 opportunities to improvise are given. You could have the whole class improvise, but it tends to be very loud, so we suggest inviting smaller groups of students improvise and have them switch off with other groups.

Pop Songs: Playing with pop songs is fun for the kids. Songs 16-18 are arrangements of original songs by Craig Cassils. Teach these new arrangements using the Projectable PDF or the MP4 video. Then, go to the PDF one page form chart and you can play the same arrangement with a pop song. We can’t include the music for the pop song, but you can download on iTunes or play it on YouTube. The 3 pop song arrangements included in this resource are Freedom Flag – can be played with Wavin Flag, We Love Dancing – can be played with Better When I’m Dancing and Can’t Stop the Feeling.

If you’d like a workshop on Bucket Drumming, contact Denise Gagne –

Denise does workshops on many topics for elementary music teachers: PreK-6 curriculum, singing games, listening, recorder, creating/composing, ukulele and more!  Denise has given workshops in every Canadian province/territory, and all 50 states.

Musicplay – Should I Get the Digital Resource Package or Just the Website?

I received a question this week, and think this is a good forum to post my answer.

I am very interested in preK-2 curriculum.  I was originally interested in the K-2 School Complete Digital Resource Package, and just created a one month sample trial of your on line resources! .  As a new teacher, this is a gold mine!  What great resources!  Can you explain the difference between the K-2 coomplete digital resource package and the MusicPlay on-line subscription.  I want to best understand how they are different and what each resource entails.


The K-2 Digital Resource Package includes printed teacher’s guides, the Listening Resource Kit 1-2, the Digital Resource for Listening 1 and the Digital Resources for Musicplay.  This print and disk resource includes all the lesson plans, song suggestions, sequence and the projectable to teach the lessons for K-2.

This material is all included in some form on the online site –   The projectables from the Digital Resource Disk are found in the song movies and Concept slides.  The recordings that are on the CDs are embedded in the movies and concept slides, and the ACC tracks are just above the Concept Slides on the site.  

The print material that is in the teacher’s guide is found in various places.  The monthly lesson outlines are in the Lesson Plans section.  The song suggestions are found in teacher’s notes along with each song.

I like to have the printed guide to refer to, I like have the recordings available as stand alone.  (You can’t download them from the site).  I really like to have the Digital Resources – the song movies – available to me when I teach in rooms where wifi is intermittent or signal is poor.

With the package, you’d get a 1 or 2 year subscription to the site – I think a 2 year, so you’d have 2 year access. 

And if your teaching situation changes and the school won’t fund the site ($16 / month USD) you will still have the materials to use in your new teaching situation.

That said, the site – – has much more than what’s in the digital.  It has 1000+ interactive activities – many units and activities that have been created especially for the site.  It has note highlight videos for all reading songs and for beginning recorder.  It has many new units:  Star Spangled Banner, O Canada, Instruments of the Orchestra.  It has games to teach the comparables:  high/low, fast/slow, loud/quiet, smooth/separated.  Games are in development to help develop ear training:  Which Rhythm Did I Hear and Which Melody Did I Hear.  The students in your classes can play these games using the student login.  The Rhythm and Solfa practice sections are really amazing.  The site includes printable that aren’t in the package – many worksheets, piano, guitar, ukulele, Orff arrangements.  The online site –  – is incredible value for $16/month (USD)

Best case scenario for a teacher using Musicplay for the first time is to have both the Musicplay Digital Resource package and the website access and use them hand in hand.



Outdoor Music Classes

We’re down to the last 2 weeks of school for Canadian teachers, and this can be a tough 2 weeks to get through. Taking your classes outside can give you some welcome sunshine and fresh air, and give you an opportunity to do some activities that don’t work as well inside.
I’d suggest that outside to save your voice from vocal strain, you use a portable microphone. You can order a Chattervox online – (Themes doesn’t sell them any longer) .  If you don’t wear a microphone, consider taking a coach’s whistle with you and develop some hand signals with your class.

Singing Games, especially the chase games, are more fun outside than indoors. If you use you’ll notice that some of the kids demos were done outside.

These are some of the chase games I’ve played very successfully outside.
Lucy Locket – Musicplay1

Lucy Locket Chase Game

 Other favorite Chase Singing Games includes:
Cut the Cake – Musicplay 4
Ickle Ockle – Musicplay 5

Our Old Sow – Musicplay 5
Let Us Chase the Squirrel – Musicplay 2, 4
Hill Hill – Musicplay 2
Directions, music and kids demo movies for all the games is found at
OR – purchase the Singing Games Children Love collections:
Canada –

Recorder Composition .  30 recorder players composing at the same time could drive you crazy in the classroom. But outside, students can improvise and compose melodies in their own space and using the template in the Recorder Resource Kit, they will create compositions that are playable and musical.

Recorder Composition Template

Boomwhacker Composition    Divide your students into groups, give them pentatonic Boomwhackers and invite them to create a rhythmic composition with movement. (Melodic composition is possible, but takes longer) My students really enjoyed this and all groups were on-task, engaged, and successful. We did this for 2 periods, then groups performed for each other.

Boomwhacker Composition

Drumming or Bucket Drumming .  I’ve been teaching bucket drumming in several elementary classes this month. It’s tons of fun, but would be fun to teach outside. You wouldn’t have the ability to project music to teach, so you’d have to plan to teach everything by rote.

Summer Workshops 2017

Artie and Denise #8 in Las Vegas – workshop to be held at University Methodist Church.  There’s still space in this workshop, and flights are still cheap!   Our hotel rooms at Treasure Island are just $59 (+25 resort fee).  We’ve got great sessions planned, and you’ll get a certificate with 16 hours of PD

Edmonton – August 24, 2017
Calgary – August 28, 2017
Toronto – August 30-31, , 2017
Langley, BC – Oct. 20th, 2017
Register online at