Thursday, October 4, 2012


One of my favorite songs to use for introducing the xylophones to kindergarten students is "Macaroni." I love to use this lesson, because it offers several activities at once. Therefore, all students are engaged throughout the game and I can work with a couple of students at the instruments. This game is so popular, that we vary the lesson slightly and play it again in first grade.

"Macaroni" offers the chance for students to work on the following skills:
  • Pitch-matching (sol-mi melody)
  • Steady beat
  • Galloping
  • Playing a bordun on barred instruments
I introduce the song by unveiling the PowerPoint presentation pictured above with the funny picture. I think it is important for visual learners and emerging readers to see the text as we sing songs, so I create PowerPoint slides for most of the music we learn in K-1. Although I sometimes use PowerPoint slides with all grades, I usually display actual music for them to read as they get older.

Kindergarten Version

Learn the song
  • Teach song by rote (demonstrating solfege hand signs)
  • Work on the solo at the end. Really extend the notes, so that students will have time to hear the pitch and be more successful when they sing by themselves. Use hand signs to demonstrate the melodic direction.
Prepare for Instruments
  • Explain (or review) proper technique:
    • Hold mallets like bicycle handlebars
    • Elbows out, hands a little higher than the bars
    • Strike bar in the center (not too hard)
    • Let mallets bounce like tennis balls (so bars can vibrate)
  • If this is the first time students have ever played the xylophones, I remove the bars surrounding the ones they will play so they can focus on form, rather than trying to find and strike the correct bars.
Play the Game
  • Class sits in semi-circle with two xylophones in front of the class.
  • One student gallops on stick pony while everyone sings the song and pats the beat on their legs.
  • At the end of song, student on pony stops in front of a classmate, who sings the solo part of the song. (Assess the soloist for pitch-matching and strive to at least get each child in head voice, rather than speech-mode.)
  • The pony rider then hands Macaroni to the soloist, who becomes the new rider. The first rider moves to the first xylophone.
  • Play game again with a student on the xylophone, and assist the student as needed.
  • After the next round, the xylophone player rotates to the next instrument, while the rider rotates to the first xylophone, and the soloist becomes the new rider. (Oversee the instrument players and assist, as needed. Students are usually fairly independent on their second turn at the instrument.)
  • Continue until all students have had a chance to sing the solo, ride the pony, and play two xylophones.
    How perfect that today was Cowboy Day in kindergarten!

First Grade Version

  • Review song, hand signs, and solo.
  • Use classroom set of barred instruments (if there are not enough barred instruments, add some unpitched percussion instruments into the mix)
  • My instruments are set up in 3 rows (I have 18 barred instrument). I walk through and demonstrate the rotation procedure prior to students moving to instruments.
    • Students rotate through the instruments by moving down row 1, back to row 2, across row 2 in the opposite direction of row 1, then back to row 3, and across row 3 the same direction as row 1. 
    • After the final instrument on  row 3, they move to the opposite diagonal corner of row 1. 
    • I call it "zig, zag, zig, zooooom." (The pattern is a little like a Z, zigging and zagging back and forth on the rows, then zooming from the back corner to the front one.
    • Use whatever configuration and rotation pattern works best for your space.
  • In addition to the instruments, set up 2 stations for the pony and for the solo. After the final instrument on row 3, students move to the open area and ride the pony. After the pony, they move to a microphone for the solo. Then they move to row 1 of instruments.
  • Play the game until students have moved through each spot.
Take a ride on Macaroni, the pony, and get with the beat!


    1. Cute Variations! My K loved the original.

      I'll try these when I need a slow down lesson.

    2. I loved teaching Macaroni to my K & 1st students as well. We had a slapstick and I would let someone give it a go after the word "stops" (on the quarter rest). Fun ideas! Thank you!

      1. Love the slapstick idea, and I'm sure the kids will, too! Thanks for sharing. :)

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    4. I love this! I just got some stick horses and I’m looking for some ideas. This will be great. Do you have students play the beat or an open 5th or the rhythm or what?