Statue Game for virtual, in-person, hybrid, or social distancing

Try this wildly successful statue game no matter your teaching situation.

Statue Game

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.

150 American Folk Songs: To Sing, Read and Play (CHANT): Erdei, Peter,  Komlos, Katalin: 9780913932049: Books
A great source of songs and games for the music classroom
Notation and text for the song "I Lost the Farmer's Dairy Key."
Notation and text for the song “I Lost the Farmer’s Dairy Key” from “150 American Folk Songs.”

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.

Other ideas?

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!


Oshogatsu: Japanese New Year song

Photo credit:

What is Oshogatsu?

I am very lucky to have a coworker who is originally from Japan. She introduced me to the Japanese celebration of the new year, called Oshogatsu. While New Year’s Day occurs on January 1, Oshogatsu celebrations begin in mid-December and continue into the first few days in January.

During Oshogatsu, people show they care for each other by sending letters to friends and family and giving coins to children. Oshogatsu games include kite flying, paddle-ball-type badminton, bouncing a ball, and spinning a top.

When I taught this song to first grade, my coworker graciously let me borrow some of her belongings that she used to celebrate Oshogatsu when she was a child. The children were fascinated by the traditional string-launched wooden top and the Hello Kitty paddle-ball paddle.

Oshogatsu Song

There is no ONE “Oshogatsu song.” As with any holiday, there are many songs that people sing to express their joy and excitement about the season. This particular song was taught to me by my colleague as a song she remembers singing in her childhood. I found an English translation online and edited it to fit the rhythm of the song.

I encourage you to do your own research on Oshogatsu so you can have fun teaching it just as I did!

Click below to view, print, and download this traditional Oshogatsu song.

Free Rhythm Stick Routine: Shipping Up to Boston

Use a fun rhythm stick routine to add interest and energy to your class!

Watch the video at:

Play along videos have become very popular lately! They are great because they allow students to learn and experience music without necessarily being in the classroom with the teacher.

Students learning at home? Great! Send them this video to play along with. They can use pencils, spoons, straws, Barbies (ha ha), anything!

Students six feet apart at school? Cool! Rhythm sticks are easily sanitized between groups.

Everybody’s learning in person? Awesome! Your kiddos will love this fun video for Shipping Up to Boston. Then, teach them how to do stick flips and you can easily fill a half hour lesson. They will love tapping along with this energizing song and attempting to flip their sticks during the rests.

No matter what your teaching situation, I hope that you and your students enjoy playing along with “Shipping Up to Boston.”

(Big thanks to Jacob M. and Pam B. for your help and inspiration with this post.)

Have fun!

How to Create a Playlist Using Seesaw

Leverage this powerful educational tool for your music class.

As a Seesaw Ambassador, I am familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of the tool. One of the features we music teachers are still waiting for is the ability to upload audio files. However, there is a way to use YouTube to create a playlist in Seesaw!

Watch this video for detailed instructions:

To make a Seesaw playlist, you need:

(1) Links to YouTube songs
(3) A screenshot for each song
(4) A Seesaw drawing canvas

First, create a playlist on your YouTube account of all the songs you might want your students to listen to. This will be your teacher notebook–the place where you save everything for yourself to use later.

Second, select the songs you want to use and create safe links for them using This is important because it keeps the students focused on the academic activity rather than advertisements or other videos.

Third, capture a screen shot for each video. Save them as images on your desktop.

Finally, open your drawing canvas on Seesaw. (You do this by clicking the green plus sign, then select Journal or Activity, then Drawing.) Click the photo tool to upload the screen shots you took. On each image, click the three dots and select “Link.” Then, paste the link to the SafeYouTube video you created earlier. Finish by clicking the three dots again and selecting “Lock.”

That’s it! You’ve created a playlist of songs for your students to watch, listen to, and/or respond to. Check out my example in the Seesaw Community Library:

Click this link to view the “Songs of Home Playlist” in the Seesaw Activity Library

Song of Summer: Free Activity

This fun and engaging activity is a great way to break the ice. 🙂

When faced with the potential of distance learning this fall, I knew I had to come up with flexible lessons that could be delivered either in person or digitally. They also had to be fun, engaging, understandable, and oh yeah, music-related. Enter “Song of Summer!”

Begin the year by tapping in to one of your students’ favorite things: music! Every kid has a favorite song. And we all know how powerful memories associated with music can be. Encourage students to reflect and share about their summers through the lens of a favorite song.

Begin by having students choose one song that they feel represents their summer. It could be a favorite song, one associated with a particular memory, or one that they just heard a whole bunch of times.

Then, students fill out the rest of the sheet, responding to the prompts. They can draw or write. They can use color or make it black and white. They can fill it out on paper or electronically. The options are endless!

After each student has had a chance to fill it out, share their responses by making a bulletin board, posting photos of the work online, or sharing videos of students talking about their song and what it means to them.

This is a great way for students to connect with one another, build a sense of classroom community, share something meaningful to them, and transition into the new school year. I can’t wait to see how you use it!

Grab your free download at:

Grieg’s Morning Mood

A fun and free Mad Lib lesson plan for teaching this classic piece.

This is a very serious lesson plan. No fun or giggles here. (wink)

Grieg’s Morning Mood

This recognizable piece is a great way to get students to activate their imaginations when it comes to music. While most people associate the melody with beautiful Norwegian fjords and mountains, did you know it was actually written to evoke sunrise in the Sahara Desert?!?

You can almost feel the heat of the desert and see the sheen of the sun on the sand. Plus the part about fighting off monkeys with a stick is hilarious. Why not share some of that juicy imagery and humor with your students?

The Piece

It is easy to find free recordings of this piece on YouTube or Spotify. Here is one of the many quality recordings that are out there.

The Lesson Plan

(1) Students will demonstrate recognition of a famous melody by raising their hands when they hear it.
(2) Students will demonstrate their ability to interpret mood and setting in music by filling out a MadLib-style worksheet.
(3) Students will demonstrate their understanding of what the piece is about by describing it verbally.

(1) Recording of “Morning Mood” by Edvard Grieg.
(2) Copies of “What is this music about?” worksheets for every student.
(3) Pencils for every student.
(4) Answer key for “What is this music about?” worksheet.
(5) Optional: Powerpoint files to project the worksheet and the answers.

(1) Invite students to close their eyes as you play the first 10-20 seconds of the recording of “Morning Mood.” Ask them to raise a hand if they recognize this music.

(2) Inform students that they are going to use their imaginations to try to decide what the piece is about. Turn out some lights to create a calm atmosphere for listening, and invite students to lay down and close their eyes while they imagine. Play the first two minutes or so of the piece (longer or shorter depending on your students’ attention spans and your available class time).

(3) Say, “Now I’m going to tell you what this piece is REALLY about.” Read the blank version of the worksheet, saying the word “blank” every time you get to a blank. Do it tongue-in-cheek so the students think it’s funny rather than frustrating. 🙂

(4) Reveal that the students are going to fill in the blanks themselves. Distribute the worksheets and pencils. Play the music in the background while they work.

(5) Invite 2-3 students to read aloud what they’ve written. The answers will be quite funny and creative!

(6) Tell them what the actual answers were. See if anyone got close or even some answers correct!

(7) Play the recording again, asking them to imagine Peer in a tree, holding a stick as the sun comes up.

Free Downloads

For More Information

The text for the worksheet came from the Wikipedia article about Morning Mood. You may read the rest of the interesting article at

Did you know the pentatonic opening melody matches the tuning of the understrings on a Hardanger fiddle? If you haven’t found out about this fascinating and funky Norwegian instrument yet, do yourself a favor and check it out at You’re welcome.

Better put a cushion on the floor. Cuz your chin is going to hit it.

Recorders: How Not to Lose Your Mind

Teaching beginning recorder can be a joy when the students do most of the work!


It is that time of year when many elementary music teachers bring out that old favorite: the soprano recorder. It’s a great instrument for teaching elements of music such as rhythm and melody as well as beginning instrument techniques such as posture, airflow, and hand position. But as we all know, those messy little squeakers can really get on your nerves! With low-effort cleaning, student helpers, and self-grading, you can keep recorders fun for students and you!

Low-Effort Cleaning

If students borrow recorders from you, you must clean them after they are used. This can be a very time-consuming process. Here are some ideas for a cleaning process that won’t keep you at school until 10:00pm every night.

Idea 1: Keep a (covered) bin of bleach water in your classroom. Take the recorders apart and put them in the bleach water to soak. Let them air dry on towels. Change out the bleach water every seven days or less.

One of these could easily hold enough bleach water to sanitize multiple classes’ recorders.

Idea 2: Have students place their used recorders on a recorder rack. Spray all the mouthpieces with Sani-Mist and let air dry.

A stand-up recorder rack makes it easy to quickly spray and sanitize the mouthpieces.

Idea 3: Run the recorders through the school’s lunchroom dishwasher. (Make sure to turn off the detergent supply; it leaves a residue.) The water temperature alone is enough to sanitize the instruments.

A crate of used recorders waiting to be run through the school dishwasher

Student Helpers

One of the best ways to save time in your classroom is to have student helpers. You could have kids in charge of spraying used recorders, bringing the dirty crate to the dish room, putting clean recorders back together, etc. Here are some ideas for jobs that students could do:

  1. Count and sort clean recorders into piles or buckets with the right number for each classroom.
  2. Put clean recorders back together.
  3. Carry the crate of recorders to and from the dish room.
  4. Spray the mouthpieces with sanitizing spray (teach them how to get every angle, of course!)


Assessment can be dreadful and time-consuming, or it can be a joy and a useful communication tool that helps leads students along the path of improvement and lifelong musicianship. Which would you choose?!? 🙂 I have chosen the latter by having students grade themselves. After filling out the rubric, they bring the rubric to me, I listen to them play, and I either confirm or disagree with what they chose. The grading process is so much faster, students are happier because they know exactly what they need to do to get better, and I am happy because the rubric is clear, easy to understand, and grades students on the exact things I want them to be graded on.

With low-effort cleaning, student helpers, and self-grading, your recorder unit can bring you the same joy it once did when you were in elementary school!

What do you think? Do you agree with these ideas? Which one(s) would you like to try? Any other ideas you’d like to suggest?

Teaching Meter Through Manipulatives

Unifix cubes and toothpicks are a great way to show meter.


Meter is one of those concepts that is difficult to teach because it is abstract and must be felt. You can give your students lots of experience with meter, and they can be pros at finding the steady beat, but if they don’t understand the organization of beats into groups, they just won’t get it.

I’ve been teaching meter using Quaver Music. It’s brilliant how Quaver presents it: beats can be strong or weak, and they are arranged into groups. Meter is how the beats are grouped. Unifix cubes (also called snap cubes) make a great way of taking this abstract concept and making it concrete and tactile for kids.

First, the kids grabbed a handful of cubes and found a place on the floor.
Second, I played a song with an easily identifiable meter. The students had to pat the steady beat, then switch to patting only the strong beats and clapping the weak beats, then count how many beats were in a group (starting with “one” when they patted their legs). This is how they arrived at the number of beats in a group.
Third, the students arranged their cubes in a line, with spaces between each group of beats.


Students create beat groups to show the meter of a piece

Some students even chose two different colors; one color for the strong beats and one color for the weak beats. (Differentiation! Boom!)
Fourth, students placed toothpicks vertically between the beat groups to represent bar lines.
Finally, as the music continued to play, students tapped the cubes with their fingertips in time with the beat. This allowed them to check their answers.


This boy is tapping his cubes in time with the music to check his answers.

The whole process was great for assessment because I could immediately see who was struggling AND what they were struggling with. It kept the class occupied so I could give individual attention to the students who needed it.

And the best part…? The whole activity took only ten minues. TEN MINUTES! Visual, tactile, kinesthetic, and aural learning, authentic music learning, and formative (and summative if you want) assessment, all in ten minutes. Pull this one out the next time you’re being observed. You’re welcome. 😉

What do you think? Have you tried this before? Would you like to try it? How do you see it going over with your students?

Thanks for reading!
-Mallory 🙂

How to Create a “Strong” Password

Lately, many of us have noticed prompts for creating “strong” passwords. As if passwords have muscles. Some of us are even required to change our passwords as frequently as every month!

How’s a busy, cluttered mind supposed to keep it all straight?!?

Easy! Turn your password into a sentence.

This neat little idea is something I learned from my husband, which he learned from his previous job, where he was required to change his password every 30 days…and oh yeah, it had to be “strong.”

First, why would a password need to be strong, anyway? It’s not like they have little password muscles that they flex at their monthly password meetings to see who is the strongest. No, frustrating as it may be, it’s actually to protect your security. There are some pretty advanced computers out there that can randomly string together characters to try to hack into your account (email, banking, cloud drive, etc.). If your password ONLY uses lower-case letters, and it is six letters long, there are approximately 300 million possible combinations of letters. A password-cracking computer could try all 300 million of those combinations in less than one second. Boom. Hacked.

*Math geek warning* So let’s say you add capitals to the mix, you’re now up to 52 possible characters, and let’s say you go up to an eight-character password. That increases your number of possible password combinations to 53 trillion. That password-cracking computer would now take about eight hours to crack your code. Still…boom. hacked.

But adding numbers and special characters to the mix? And increasing the length of your password to 10 characters? Now you’re on to something. It would take a super computer…get this…TEN YEARS to randomly guess your password. (Assuming it doesn’t randomly guess it on the first try! Hah!) Go up to 12 digits and that super computer would have to stick around for 7 MILLION YEARS to randomly guess your password. Starting to see the light?

But yes, it’s frustrating to create a password that’s long and complex. And it’s difficult to remember it. You’re just going to end up writing it down on paper, which makes it that much less secure. So here’s how you remember it: Make it a sentence.

For example: the sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” could be turned into this password: “Tqbfj0tld!” Each character in the password stands for a word from the sentence. The first letter is capitalized, adding to your security, and the sentence ends with an exclamation point, bringing in those special characters IT guys love to hold over your head on password-change days.

Here are some more examples of strong passwords based on sentences. *PLEASE DO NOT use any of these as your actual password. You will anger the password gods.

Ig8ho$en:) = “I get eight hours of sleep every night (smiley face)” — The dollar sign is used to represent the word starting with “S” in the sentence. The smiley face is the self-satisfaction you should feel if you are actually getting eight hours every night.

M1cbi0J1* = “My first child’s birthday is on January 1st (asterisk)”–Family names and dates are great, as long as you don’t make them too obvious (“Mike6/6/09” would be too obvious and the supercomputers would figure me out right away). If you can’t think of a way to include a special character, add an asterisk to the end of your password.

Iw!wak0C = “I wish I were a knight of Camelot”–An exclamation point is substituted for the letter “I” and a zero is substituted for the letter “O”. Use special characters and numbers to stand for words in your sentence.

Now it’s your turn. Take some time to think of 8-12-word sentences, then reflect on how you could use letters, numbers, and special characters to represent those words in a password. Write down your ideas, and by all means, share them with your partner! I can’t imagine the look on my spouse’s face if he were to read all of these crazy passwords I’ve invented…Hah! (By the way, writing down a password is still way more secure than having a weak password. You’re 1,000,000,000x less likely to get hacked from someone breaking into your home or office and randomly finding your password post-it than you are from a supercomputer running your numbers [statistic totally made up, but it sounds legit, right?].)

Thanks for reading! I hope your new strong passwords give the supercomputers the run-around. If you’ve found this helpful, please share! ❤

Sources/For more reading:

Crayon Jars

How to create your own crayon jars for easy and quick classroom coloring.


Step 1: Drink coffee.
This one is easy. 😉

Step 2: Wash bottles and discard lids.
They are dishwasher safe.

Step 3: Remove labels.
Peel the labels off. There will be a residue from the adhesive. Remove it by soaking in Goo Gone and wiping with a soft cloth. Wash again to remove Goo Gone.

Step 4: Fill with crayons.
Each bottle can hold 24 full size crayons. I got the crayon boxes for $1 each at Office Max.

Step 5: Decorate cartons.
I picked up some cute wrapping paper at Staples. Wrap the boxes just like you would with a gift.

Voila! Cute crayon holders that are easy to collect and distribute and easy for students to use!