Messenger Song & Mail Game

What can I say, I'm a teacher that LOVES to incorporate "holiday" themes WHEN it supports my curriculum.  My first graders are preparing so-mi and we will **hopefully be presenting so-mi before Valentine's day.  This is one of my favorite songs. . . and one of the things I love about it is it's not Valentine's Day specific.  You can really use it anytime of year but with passing out Valentines this song works well.  Here it is:

Here's how we play it:

seated circle, with one student as the “messenger”

The “messenger” walks around the circle as the song is sung, carrying a bag or basket that contains envelope.  (Inside the envelopes are rhythmic or melodic patterns.)  The person that the “messenger” is behind at the end of the song receives a “letter,” which they read to the class.

I currently use handwritten cards and wanted to re-do them on the computer so they looked nicer.  I'm a little obsessive so of course I started thinking of other games that could use these cards and how I could use them across more grade levels.  Soooooooooooo I ended up creating a file of cards with 8 rhythms of each rhythmic element written in stick notation both with and without note heads.  Here is my "key" to the file:

Here are some sample cards:

I numbered the sets and within the sets are 8 letters.  In other words, there are 8 different rhythms for each rhythmic set.  

For the Messenger Song game I will use cards from sets 1-4 for my first grades: they know ta, ti-ti and ta-rest.  It does take a long time to sing the song and for each student to get a "letter" so often times part of the class will get a letter in one lesson and the other will get one in the next lesson.  

An extension activity that I'm going to do with it is to have the students match the stick notation with note-heads to the stick notation without note-heads.  That is, each student would be handed a rhythm card.  They must find the other person in the class that has the matching card.

Here are some other games to play with these cards:

"Clap What You Don't See":
Four cards are placed on the board.  The students begin by reading each of the cards individually.  They then read the cards in progression: card 1, card 2, card 3, card 4.  After reading through the cards a couple times, the teacher turns one of the cards around.  The students clap all four cards, including the one that they don’t see.  The teacher turns another card around and the students read all four cards, even the two they can’t see.  This progresses until all cards are turned around.  If the students are very successful at this, more cards can be added.

"Music Four-Square":
This is a great option when using centers.  It requires 4 players and is set up in a traditional 4-square court (but can be made smaller to accommodate your classroom space.  Each square is assigned a rhythm.  The player in box 1 begins and says someone else’s rhythm before bouncing the ball to them.  That player then reads/says someone else’s pattern and bounces the ball to them.  If an error is made, the person that read the card incorrectly goes to box 4 and all players in boxes lower than that person move up a box.

"Mail Game":
All students are given an envelope.  Within that envelope are all 8 cards of that specific set.  For example, each students’ envelope would contain cards 1-A, 1-B, 1-C, 1-D, 1-E, 1-F, 1-G and 1-H.

The teacher would call a card.  All students must find the card that matches the pattern that the teacher performed.  The students turn that card over until everyone has chosen a card.  The teacher will show the students the correct card.  If their card matches, they get to put it back in their envelope.  If their card does not match they must put it back on the floor.  The goal is to be one of the first people to get all the cards back into their envelope.
**  There are many opportunities for differentiation in this game:  the teacher could clap and say the rhythm and students must find the card; the teacher would ONLY clap the rhythm and the students must find the card; the teacher would sing a song fragment that matches the rhythm of the card and the students must find the card; the teacher would play the rhythm on an instrument and the students must find the card; a student could lead the game and be in charge of calling the cards.
**  multiple students will get all their cards into the envelope at the same time.  This it not that “competitive” of game but is used more for assessment.
**  the cards get easily mixed up in this game.  Have the students make sure they have all the LETTERS in their set and only have one of each of those letters, before handing their “mail” back into you. 

The possibilities with flashcards are really endless!!!  I'd love to hear some of your ideas!  If you're interested in the cards above, you can find them at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Also, don't forget that beginning in February I will be giving away a "Monthly Freebie" to all my Teachers Pay Teachers followers, so please follow me on there to get those coming free files! :)


  1. Hi, Amy! I love all the possibilities this song opens up. What is your source for this song? Thanks!

    1. I'm pretty sure I got it from a textbook (not a good source), I wish I remembered which one! It's probably on my mastercopy at home. I"ll look it up!


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