Resource Review and Activities – Musication

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You can access the Musication Channel on YouTube here

Musication is a collection of video play alongs for boomwhackers, percussion, various melodic versions and you could sing along with the Do Re Mi versions as well. Versions with new layouts have also been added for home learning that are designed to use body percussion or junk percussion.

I have been using the percussion videos with students from reception – Y5, just differentiated slightly depending on the age of the students. For example with older classes, we divided into instrumental sections and took it in turns to play our parts in the right place. Younger students clapped the rhythms.

Each piece of music that I used linked to a wider theme that then became the focus of the lesson or series of lessons supporting one of my overarching musical objectives (there are many, pitch matching, pulse, embodying sound, playing and creating music etc.) learning to follow – a conductor/visual cues for playing along with music. These were first introduced through our warm up games and then consolidated in the other activities.

My favourite thing about using these videos was being able to show the children a performance by a full orchestra or opera company and then ask – shall we play the piece now? It didn’t matter that their part would be playing a tambourine or djembe, they felt that they were playing a ‘real piece of music’,and it really engaged them. No MIDI string sounds here, all the pieces we used were original so the children really were part of the orchestra!

Note – we all swapped instruments all the time so everyone got a turn on the djembe… We also took some time to listen to the sounds that the instruments made, grouped them by timbre – shakers, scrapers, bell sounds etc. and made sure we knew how to hold and play them properly to get the best sounds.

Once we jumped to online learning, we used ‘Found Sounds’. Younger children played just one instrument, while the older ones built their own ‘Found Sound’ orchestras so they could follow the colours and play each on a different ‘instrument’ at home. I wish I was allowed to share some of the video the children submitted, there were some great performances!

Here are a few ways that I used these resources.

Hall of the Mountain King

Our ‘scary themed’ warm ups included:

  • 5 Little Monkeys sitting in a tree from Voices Foundation Inside Music 0-5 book. We played a game where we were all crocodiles and had to snap at the monkeys together. To get it right they had to watch me (the conductor) really carefully
  • A Monster Came to Visit from Voices Foundation Inside Music 0-5
  • Ghosts from Cool4School
  1. First we discussed what a piece of music with the title In the Hall of the Mountain King might sound like. What is a Mountain King? Why might a King live in a mountain?
  2. Then we watched this performance which I chose because of the shots of the low pitched instruments, bassoons and cellos, the conductor. I also like the pace of the accelerando and crescendo in this performance. I asked them to listen out for what changed in the music as the piece went on and whether when they heard the music they thought the Mountain King was a ‘goodie’ or a ‘baddie’ and what in the music made them think that

3) Finally we played along with the Musication video, clapping first, then practising the quaver/crotchet patterns and finally adding in instruments

Can Can

Our over arching theme for this piece of work was about music and movement so our warm ups included:

  • Standing in 2 lines and stepping towards each other and stepping back in time to a backing track – this was hard enough for some classes!
  • Adding in some clapping inspired by this video
Rob Kitchen warm ups session for Musical Futures, OMEC Ontario 2014
  • My name is Joe inspired by this video
Sharon Durant warm ups session for Musical Futures OMEC Ontario 2014
  • Throw and Catch inspired by this video
Sharon Durant warm ups session for Musical Futures OMEC Ontario 2014
  1. We watched this performance of the Can Can. I asked whether the children thought the first singer was happy or not and how they knew.

2) We then used the percussion play along to play along

Note – it was really hard to find videos of female conductors that did what I needed so in this performance the conductor turtle that we all had to follow was ‘she’.

For fun we watch 42nd street and talked about singing and dancing at the same time and whether that might be easy or difficult to do (referring back to mixed success with the warm ups above!)

William Tell Overture

We just started this before schools closed so we didn’t have a chance to get far with our theme of exploring music that tells a story. However we were able to to discuss the tale of William Tell shooting the apple from the head of his son and talked about how the music sounded like horses galloping. I chose this video for the children to watch first as we were able to then discuss how the orchestra were separated into groups just like we were in our own orchestra! They loved how the conductor looks like a wizard with music coming from his baton and the fast tempo in this performance!

Resource Review and Activities – Rob’s Kitchen Music

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Click to visit Rob’s Kitchen Music YouTube Channel

I have always loved collecting activities and ideas which become absorbed into my portfolio of warm ups, ice breakers and games. A simple game or song, something rhythmic or some body percussion these activities are practical, flexible and fun (and they don’t just have to happen at the start of a lesson…)

Rob Kitchen, a fantastic practitioner with a wealth of experience working in schools and as a community musician, has started a YouTube Channel full of these during lockdown. Here he posts daily music activities using ‘found sounds’, body percussion, vocal percussion, cup songs and much much more.

There are 2 things I really love about these videos. Firstly the activities are often inspired by Rob’s travels and work overseas and he makes the links with the different parts of the world that the ideas originate from at the start. This means that you can go and find out more, work outwards from the activity into more depth, find other examples or create your own.

The other thing I love is that a little really can go a long way. Using these videos, I often found myself choosing one activity and then building other tasks around it and they are really valuable during live, socially distanced and remote learning with all age groups.

There are also activities that Rob models with his own children at home which is an important reminder that making music together at home is great for wellbeing, relationships in lockdown and a break from screens during online learning.

Here are a couple of Rob’s ideas that I have used recently and the others will remain firmly in my stock of warm ups and ice breakers to revisit in the future.

  1. EYFS classes loved warming up to different pieces of music using some of these Finger Exercises and creating their own!

2) Year 3 spent several weeks exploring activities inspired by the Table Top Rhythm.

In primary lessons we were using Charanga Musical School (currently offering free trials) Home Learning projects. It was great to integrate a new and different way to perform with the songs at home and to get started with composing their own rhythms to build on the rhythm work we had been doing in school. At the end of our project, the children were given a week to complete and upload their work.

The video below gives an idea of how far this simple idea went to refresh an existing project as we switched from asynchronous to live online learning during the course of our closure.

With older students, the opportunity to use the ideas at the end of the video to dip into some minimalism would definitely be a great next step and the fact that you don’t need any equipment makes this a great warm up activity for all ages in a socially distanced music lesson.

3) Year 5 have been exploring Motown music, again as part of the Charanga home learning projects. As we switched from asynchronous to live lessons, I used the ‘Original Cup Song’ video below to incorporate some new opportunities to perform and compose whilst still holding onto the Motown theme.

We started every live lesson listening to some music as everyone joined the call. In the chat box, students answered questions about what they could hear.

Across several lessons we chunked the cup song task into parts – learn the cup pattern, chant the words, sing the song then put it all together. With very short lessons and little time for students to practice between them, these tasks spread nicely across several weeks. Students then composed and performed their own cup patterns to fit with a Motown song of their choice.

As our students have now started to return to school, the ‘Found Sounds’ projects that we started remotely have gone on hold. However, Rob has shared plenty of videos that show just how creative it’s possible to be with the different sounds and objects you can find around the house.

With older students, I will definitely be adapting some of these for warm up activities and to consolidate learning in wider projects. I believe that if you have a musical objective in mind, whether that involves pulse, movement, listening and responding, co-ordination, building ensemble skills or just having fun, practical warm ups are an essential part of every lesson and this bank of ideas is a fantastic resource to draw on, thanks Rob!

Resource Review Cool4School

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Cool4School are currently offering a 2 week free trial and you can view information about subscription here and visit their website here.

About the Resource

The official Cool4School blurb describes it as

a music resource for primary schools. Top quality, accessible, relatable, songs, spanning different genres. Reggae, Latin, African, Funk, Pop, Rock and much more. Videos accompany the songs, encouraging the use of movement and dance making it ideal for performance, or simply a fun classroom experience. 

What you get is a bank of songs with videos and audio supporting resources and a selection of rhythm warm ups, all broken down into easily accessible activities. Children can learn to sing the song, and/or follow the movements and start to really embody the groove as they learn. And boy do these songs groove……

My favourite things about Cool4School are (obviously) the grooves, the quality of the recordings and the fact that you can link the songs to cross curricular topics such as World Book Day, Ghosts, Animals and many more. The songs can be used by non-specialist teachers and can also act as great warm up activities or to break up a lesson with younger children who sometimes just need to get up and move! This can be done in a socially distanced classroom (just be careful of any furniture around) or online. Subscribers get a student log in so that they can access the videos at home if need be.

Here are some ways which I have used Cool4School in the last few months in both face to face lessons and remote learning. For live lessons via Google Meets, I just cast my screen for the children to watch and hear.

  • Reception and Y1 LOVED the Animals song. After we sang and danced along, we mixed in some animal songs (incorporating our own games) from The Voices Foundation (click for a free sample). Once learning went online, we adapted the 5 Little Monkeys Rap from Charanga Musical School (click for free trial) so that all the cuddly toys that came along to the live lessons had a chance to take part and dance along to the beat in front of the camera. They were mostly very well behaved….
  • Also in EY lessons, the Ghosts song led us to sing some songs about monsters, also from the Voices Foundation books. We watched a video of an orchestra performing In The Hall Of The Mountain King and before we heard the music we tried to work out from the title what the music might sound like. Was the Mountain King a villain or a superhero (the topic for that term in reception class)? We weren’t really sure. Maybe there would be a clue in the music. As we listened we heard how the low pitched instruments and slow moving pulse sounded pretty scary and we used music language to describe how the music gradually builds up to a exciting cacophony of sounds as the tempo, pitch and dynamics change. We also noticed that there was a conductor and so we were ready to play along with this fantastic video from the YouTube Musication Channel and try our best to play our parts in time with the conductor. The children were so excited to be able to play the music they had just heard and seen played by a full orchestra. In face to face lessons we used percussion instruments and body percussion. At home we built Found Sounds orchestras so that we could all play along together.

My head of department also shared the school log in with primary class teachers so that they had the option to use the songs if they linked with any topic work or relevant themes.

Although Cool4School is aimed at primary schools, my teenage children and I had great fun at home dancing along to ‘The Beat of The Drum’ and singing ‘I Feel Free’ at the tops of our voices after a long day of home learning and being stuck behind screens.

There is a subscription cost for Cool4School, but it is a versatile resource that works when socially distanced in a classroom, can be adapted for online learning and in face to face lessons by non-specialists and specialist music teachers alike. I hope that the addition of more songs and warm up activities over time will continue.

The songs link well to primary topics and it’s easy to dip into other resources to create some really exciting musical projects around the central themes of the Cool4School songs, always reinforcing those foundational skills of pulse, embodying sound, recognising changes music heard and listening and responding in a variety of ways to different pieces of music.

It’s refreshing to find a resource that has paid real attention to the quality of production, creating super catchy grooves to move to. Cool4School is adding new activities including rhythmic warm ups, a great move toward supporting teachers who are less confident with leading these activities with their classes.

Resource Review and Activities – Musical Futures Chair Drumming

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Chair drumming workshop at Music China, Shanghai, October 2019

About the resource

Musical Futures International and Musical Futures UK both offer resources for chair drumming. This review focusses on the version that delegates are given for free when they attend a Musical Futures International workshop. However, I hope that something in this article is relevant regardless of which version of the resource you are using.

This unit is from Just Play a whole class approach to instrumental learning. Consisting of audio/visual resources and play alongs that support whole class instrumental performing, composing and improvising, Just Play encourages the development of holistic musical skills through playing and creating music as a whole class band. Click to read more…

I am proud to have been one of the original developers of the Just Play resources and training program and this review has a focus on how I have adapted the resources for use with my primary classes during remote learning. Click to read my reflections on home learning and remote teaching

I chose to use this resource with my Y5 classes (although it’s a great resource for use with students of any age) in conjunction with other resources that are free and open-access. I also simplified it with the help of ‘Cartoon Mrs G’ to supplement some of the activities we did in one of our weekly year 3 live music lessons.

My objectives were for students:

  • to be able to play kick and snare in time with music heard
  • to be able to interpret and follow simple rhythmic grid notation
  • to be able to hear and maintain a pulse
  • to recognise different rhythms in the music they heard

What’s in the resource?

This resource consists of videos that scaffold students from beatboxing through lap drumming to being able to drum along with real songs using a chair as a drum kit. This makes it ideal for home learning and social distanced learning in classrooms as it doesn’t require access to a musical instrument and videos can be played from a mobile device or via a shared screen as students play along at home. 


  • Video: Beatboxing intro
  • Video: Rock beat lap drumming
  • Video: Rock beat overhead
  • Video: Chair Drumming 101 play along – includes how to set your chair up as a drum kit, some practice beats and songs to play along to
  • Video: Disco beat, 8 beat, 16 beat lap drumming
  • Video: Disco beat, 8 beat, 16 beat overhead
  • Video: Disco beat, 8 beat, 16 beats drumming demo
  • Video: Chair Drumming 101 play along – includes how to set your chair up as a drum kit, some practice beats and songs to play along to

Tips for online learning using Musical Futures Resources

  • Extract the video/audio files from the full powerpoint and share with students using the online platform that your schools uses
  • Try to set students tasks that don’t require instruments at home. You might encourage them to build their own drum kits from household items using chopsticks as drumsticks
  • If your school and online platform allows, try to encourage students to share a video, photo or recording of their work each week so that you can assess engagement and suitability of tasks and to support assessment

Using this resource for online learning

It’s important to note that there is a huge difference in how much content is needed for an online lesson – far less than when we teach classes face to face. Some of the activities below may take much longer than one online lesson to achieve success!

As lesson starters or music to play as students join the online lesson – watch various performances on drums or listen to related music.

Please note that some of these videos may not be available on the Musical Futures UK version of the resource. However you can replace them with the suggested related resources, all of which build on the core skills needed to achieve the learning objectives

LessonActivityLink to related resources
1BeatboxingShlomo beatboxing tutorials
Little Kids Rock Hip Hop resources
Beatboxing Basics from Rob’s Kitchen Music Lessons
2Lap drumming and body percussion (1)Beat Goes On free online tutorials
For younger children Musication Percussion Playalongs (YouTube)
Pen Drumming from Rob’s Kitchen Music
3Chair drumming play along (1)You can chair drum with any song or online tutorial – freely available on YouTube! Here’s a video of students at Shrewsbury International School getting creative with socially distance chair drumming
4Lap drumming and body percussion (2)Cool4School rhythm warm ups are great for younger children
Check out Rob’s Kitchen Music Lessons channel on YouTube for some fantastic ideas
5Chair drumming play along (2)You can chair drum with any song or online tutorial – freely available on YouTube!
6Review and reflectMake this as interactive as possible using the platform allowed by the school. You might consider a google form or online quiz to get more detailed answers from individual students

Next steps:

Consider a Junk percussion project. Check out:

  1.  The Found Drum Challenge from Little Kids Rock
  2. Junk drumset from Little Kids Rock
  3. Various activities linked to music from around the world at Rob’s Kitchen Music
  4. Heaps of ideas and online workshops for STOMP style body percussion from Beat Goes On UK