Passing games are a lot of fun but let's admit it, but when it comes to passing on the beat they are often challenging.  That's why singing and playing a lot of preparatory games in the primary grades is so important.  In my classes, we sing a lot of songs that encompass passing an object around the circle in grades K-2 without expecting or needing students to pass on the beat.  With the right amount of physical preparation, (in my opinion) students are ready to be successful at passing on the beat by the end of 2nd grade/beginning of 3rd grade.  

The first passing song that I do with my 3rd graders is this:

I love this version of "Deedle Deedle Dumpling" for a number of reasons.  First, it has a pentatonic melody that third graders can read melodically, with iconic notation (on the staff, without rhythm).  Second, the first new rhythm I teach in 3rd grade is tika-tika (we begin preparing it in second grade and present it by the end of September).  Tika-tika is nicely extracted in the first phrase of "Deedle Deedle Dumpling".  Thirdly, it also contains ti-tika, the next rhythmic element I teach in third grade.

Before we do the passing game, we do some preparation activities.  
  1. We keep a steady beat with the song on non-pitched percussion (i.e., drum, tambourine, etc.)
  2. We march the beat of the song.
  3. We march the beat of the song wearing only one shoe.  Have them take the first beat with the foot wearing the shoe, the second beat with the shoeless foot.  This is a nice reinforcement of duple meter.
  4. We practice an alternating beat pattern on our knees with our RIGHT hand- beat 1 the right hand is on the right knee, beat 2 the right hand is on the left knee.
  5. We use shoes to keep an alternating beat pattern in front of us, mimicking the prior pattern: beat 1 the shoe is in front of our right knee, beat 2 the shoe is in front of our left knee.
  6. We begin passing the shoes- the students say "pass, grab, pass, grab" while practicing passing shoes.
  7. We pass while singing the song.
  8. Finally, (remember this whole process is over the course of MANY lesson) we play this as an elimination game.  We assign a shoe that is the "out" shoe.   If you have the "out" shoe at the end of the song, you start/join the other circle that is formed next to the existing circle (remember to trade the "out" shoe with your neighbor and take a shoe with you to the new circle).  This "out" circle keeps all the students engaged/active in the game until the very end.  Some classes have even formed multiple "outed" circles.  

While I LOVE this game, one of the non-musical challenges that I always faced were students who didn't want to take their shoes off.  Here's how I solved that problem: I started collecting my own two kids' shoes as they outgrew them.  I now have this nice collection:
If you don't have access to your own kids shoes, try asking for old shoe donations in your school newsletter.

I use the shoes for more then just the "Deedle Deedle Dumpling" game.  We also use them for this passing game when we learn about anacrusis:

* In this passing game you pass on the first strong beat (the word "pass," works out nicely that the text of the song tells you what to do, huh?!) and it passes on the half note.  

HERE'S THE CATCH: it switches to the quarter note on "that is what you do."  On "that is what you do" you do NOT pass the shoe, but instead tap it right-left-right (and on the third beat, on the word "do" you begin passing again and switch back to passing on the macro-beat or half note.  I have them say "hold-hold-pass" on these three beats to reinforce the physical behavior that you are wanting them to perform).  

Because this passing pattern incorporates half note and quarter note patterns it's a great opportunity to teach/reinforce about macro vs. micro beat.

I use the shoes in the primary grades to teach about steady beat with one or more of my many versions of "Cobbler Cobbler."  First, I use this picture of a cobbler so they can make a visual connection.   Chances are your students won't know or have ever heard of a cobbler:
This is my favorite version of "Cobbler Cobbler," I learned it at a workshop that Lille Feierabend did for ROCKE a few years ago:

Using a toy hammer, I pretend to be a cobbler and keep the steady beat on the students' feet to "fix" their shoes.  They always think this is very humorous.  Silver Lake College sells these great crochetted hammers, but I've also found inflatable hammers at Oreintal Trading that work great with this activity.

I LOVE this chant for keeping a steady beat, also learned from Lillie Feierabend: 

There's a cobbler down the street
Mending shoes for little feet
With a bang and a bang and a bang, bang, bang
And a bang and a bang and a bang, bang, bang
Mending shoes the whole day long,
Mending shoes to make them strong
With a bang and a bang and a bang, bang, bang
And a bang and a bang and a bang, bang, bang

It's really hard with this one for them to not to tap the rhythm on the line With a bang and a bang and a bang, bang, bang and I choose to not make a big deal of it. :)

As students get older, they can choose to "fix" their own shoe or fix one of the shoes in my box.  I prefer them to fix their own shoes as I love that when they're keeping the beat they also feel it on another body part.

 Here are a couple other versions of "Cobbler, Cobbler" that I also use.


  1. Good ideas - my son's shoes are extra-smelly when he is done with them, though. I will have to get donations! Just curious - how often do you see your students?

  2. That's funny, my kids are getting to the age where their shoes are getting smelly. The ones that I use are their "itty-bitty" shoes from when they were 1-4 so at that age they were out growing them before they got stinky. Donations are great, especially if people can donate those littler shoes, they don't stink as much! :) lol!

    I see my kindergarteners 2 days on, 1 day off for 20 minutes (they are on a three day specials rotation (45 minutes in duration) but my pe teacher and I switch halfway through for kindergarten so we see them at a higher frequency. My first graders are on a four day rotation (45 minutes in duration) and all the other grades are on a 3 day rotation (45 minutes in duration). I also have an extra curricular 4/5 choir that meets twice a week, a 4/5 drum ensemble, a 4th grade tone chime choir and a 5th grade tone-chime choir. About 80% of my 4th and 5th graders are in one or more the extra groups- this is at the school that I opened last year. I'm hoping to get a higher participation percentage next year. In the past, I was at a title I school and I didn't have that high of participation because of transportation issues.


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