Try this wildly successful statue game no matter your teaching situation.
Teaching in the time of COVID has been a challenge for all of us. We have been forced to completely overhaul our curriculum and get very creative in how we deliver content. Some activities have transferred well to new situations such as Zoom meetings and social distancing; but, many have not.
I developed this statue game within the constraints of mask-wearing, singing not allowed in person, no shared materials, and social distancing. It has proven to be wildly successful with my 3rd-5th graders. When 5th graders beg for a game, you know it’s a good one. I also came up with a way to play it via Zoom, which I will explain below.
For this game, I used the song “I Lost the Farmer’s Dairy Key” from 150 American Folk Songs edited by Peter Erdei. I made the connection between the song and the game by saying that the students are statues in the “lady’s garden” from the song. I made it exciting by telling them it was a magic garden where one of the statues would change positions when the farmer wasn’t looking. It was a bit of a stretch, but kids are great at imagination, and they love mysteries and guessing, so they were willing to go with me on this one. Really you could pick any song and make up some connection to the game.
I use this song to teach anacrusis/pickup. They need LOTS of repetitions of the song to internalize the beat structure. So…we turn it into a game! They get the repetition without getting bored. By the time they are ready to label the concept of upbeat, they can feel the pulse and they have happy memories of the song so they don’t mind singing it over and over.
How to Play
Materials needed: Nothing.
You can play this game in the classroom or go outdoors. Find an area that will fit everyone–you can use the seating area in the classroom, or if you have a larger space like a field you can spread out.
Choose one student to be the “farmer.” All students except the farmer create a statue pose in the magical “lady’s garden.” I remind them that they better pick a comfortable pose since they’ll be frozen for a long time!
The farmer looks at the frozen statues and memorizes them. (I find that most students can do this quickly–around 10 seconds.) The farmer then turns around and covers their eyes.
Begin singing the song. During the song, the teacher points to one of the statues. That statue magically comes to life and changes its pose. With younger children, the pose shift should be something obvious, like an entire body change. With older children, the change can be more subtle–moving a hand six inches to the left. The magic statue changes positions and re-freezes before the end of the song.
When the song ends, the farmer turns around. The farmer has three guesses to figure out which statue moved.
That’s it! It’s simple and fun. It can take a few rounds for all the students to understand how to play, but once they do, it becomes a favorite!
How to play online
If you are meeting virtually, you can still play this game!
Materials needed: Paper and marker for the teacher.
Cameras need to be on to participate. I allow students to have their cameras off for privacy, but I gently let them know they will be observing the game rather than participating. (Even though this seems obvious to us, some children might get disappointed if they never get picked for a turn, never realizing that it was because their camera was off the whole time.)
As with the in-person game, choose one player to be the “farmer.” The rest of the players freeze into a pose in front of their cameras. Remind them to stay near their devices so they can be seen. The farmer looks at the poses to memorize them, then turns away from the camera and covers their eyes.
The teacher writes the name of one of the students on a piece of paper, and holds it up to the camera. That person changes their position while the teacher sings the song.
When the song ends, the farmer turns back to the screen and tries to guess who moved.
I have found that kids love this game no matter if they are in person or virtual! They continue to ask for it and that is a huge success in my mind.
As mentioned above, you could use any song to go with the game. Just come up with some imaginative way of connecting the song to the activity.
Example: “The Jolly Miller.” The student closing their eyes is the miller. The rest are windmills. One of the windmills is trying to get away, and the miller has to catch which one it is.
Let me know if you found this successful in your classroom!