Plainsies, Clapsies is a fun game to practice beat and pitch. For the game, any small/medium sized ball will do. Tennis balls, foam balls, or even hacky sacks would work. You’ll need enough balls for each student to have one. If you don’t have that many, you can always try the passing game I describe below. This song would be perfect for first grade, but I think it would work well in second grade too. It really depends on your situation. You know your students best!


According to the Kodály Center, the directions are as follows:

Throw the ball up and catch it; throw the ball up, clap hands, catch it, and so on.

They go on to say that you could also play it as an elimination game, in which students are out if they miss, and the last player standing wins.
  • Students could simply throw and catch the ball to the beat for an easier version.
  • Play it as a passing game, where students sit on the floor and pass a single ball around the circle to the beat. The student holding the ball at the end of the song is out. The students who get out, go on to create their own circle (so that all students are actively practicing the beat).



This song is great for practicing so, mi, and la. It’s also a fantastic excuse for pulling out some manipulatives and letting your students get some hands-on work.

Start by having your students create their own musical staff. All they’ll need is a piece of paper, a writing utensil, and a ruler or other straight-edge. Have them write their names on the back, so that they can use the staff again. Students are more likely to treat the paper carefully and not tear it up if it’s personalized. For today’s purpose, I’m using a two-line staff and labeling the lines as high and low.

Next, you’ll sing a four-beat section from the song and ask your students to decode it using their manipulatives. For example, if I sang the first four notes of “Plansies, clapsies”, the students would decode it in the following way:
Teacher Tip: Students tend to have trouble when it comes to spacing their notes apart. Tell them to keep each note a finger-width away. Demonstrate this by placing your finger vertically against one of the manipulatives, then setting the next one down on the other side of your finger.
After you’ve tried the quarter note sections, you can move on to the barred eighths. The section “twirl around to backsies” would look like this:
Teacher Tip: My friend Elizabeth from Organized Chaos shared a fantastic tip about manipulatives. She discovered that allowing students to “explore” the manipulatives beforehand, made for better focus later on.

As with all lessons involving manipulatives, I find it helpful to have students play an active game first. This way, they’ve released some physical energy and are better prepared to focus on more intricate, hands-on tasks. How do you structure lessons with manipulatives? Please share your experiences in the comments section. I’d love to learn more about your classroom!