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Several years ago, cup games became all the rage in elementary music classrooms thanks to the movie Pitch Perfect. For good reason too. Plastic cups are cheap, can be purchased nearly anywhere, and can create a variety of percussive sounds. There are countless cup games you can play with your students, many of which can be found on Youtube. There are two main modifications for current times; the cups will need to be disinfected (unless students each have their own to take) and passing cups will be off limits. With that in mind, here are some of my favorite cup games for the elementary music classroom.

THE FAVOURITE RAG BY SCOTT JOPLIN (Kindergarten & Up)

This cup game has simple rhythms and is great for teaching form. I also love that they include a “copycat” activity for the B section. It’s a great way to keep the game engaging throughout the music.

CUPS! TUTORIAL #1 FROM KABOOM PERCUSSION (2nd Grade & Up)

I love that this video has rhythm tracks that includes other found sounds, such as drumming on a table and tapping a pencil against a cup. I think this would be great for students in 3rd grade and beyond, but I’m sure some of your second grade classes could do it as well. This video would be particularly good for virtual instruction, though do make sure that all your students have access to plastic cups before assigning anything like this.

THE CUP SONG (2nd Grade & Up)

The only modification needed for this game during social distancing, is to just have students keep the cup in front of them rather than passing it. I would recommend this version for students in second grade and beyond.

CUP ROUTINE WITH MR. DELGAUDIO (3rd Grade & Up)

I love that this video has rhythm tracks that includes other found sounds, such as drumming on a table and tapping a pencil against a cup. I think this would be great for students in 3rd grade and beyond, but I’m sure some of your second grade classes could do it as well. This video would be particularly good for virtual instruction, though do make sure that all your students have access to plastic cups before assigning anything like this.

CUPS! TUTORIAL #3 FROM KABOOM PERCUSSION (5th Grade & Up)

This video is a twist on the original cup game, except that it requires two cups. This one requires quite a bit of dexterity and coordination. It would be great for your middle school students.

If you have older students needing more of a challenge, I’d recommend searching “tutorial” on the Kaboom Percussion Youtube Channel. They have several videos that would be challenging even for high school students.

COMPOSING A CUP ROUTINE

Once your students have completed a cup game, let them create their own. For younger students, it may be best if each student contributes an idea/rhythm/sound and then you help them compile it into a single cup routine. For older students, they can create routines on their own, then write them down on a template like the one shown below.

The icons represent how they are making the sound. For example, the square can represent them tapping the bottom of the cup on the table. Students can create their own icons to help them remember the routine as they go.