3 Ways to Use Plastic Cups in the Elementary Music Classroom

I don’t know about you, but I’ve struggled for years with plastic ziplock bags. Well, not me so much as my students. Plastic bags are great for holding manipulatives, but by the end of the day, my students have destroyed the zipper on half of them and unknowingly mixed the contents with their neighbors’ beside them. Regretfully, I could never think of a better solution, at least not one that I could easily afford.

This year I finally found something cheap, fairly sturdy, and perfect for holding manipulatives and other materials my students need for class.

Enter, the traditional plastic drinking cup.

To be honest, I can’t remember what I originally had planned for these cups, but they’ve turned into my go-to item for passing out classroom materials. Here’s a list of the ways I’ve found them useful this year.


Every year I have one grade level, or more, use crayons to compose music for Boomwhackers. We use a pentatonic scale to start, so they only need the colors red, orange, yellow, green, and purple. Instead of having students share out of a common basket, I put one crayon of each color in the cups. The process of getting crayons, putting them away, and assuring everyone has the right colors is a breeze. The best part is no fumbling with plastic bags. Students just toss the crayons back in the cup and go.


I use manipulatives a lot in my room, especially rhythm cards like the one pictured below.

Plastic bags, as I’ve said before, were always a struggle when students attempted to put manipulatives away. Thankfully, the rhythm cards are small enough to slip into the cup. Initially I thought that they might easily be tipped over and scatter on the floor, but I’ve been amazed to find that it happens very rarely. Students (including kindergarteners) keep a good grip on the cups and are careful to put them back without tipping them over.


This is nothing new, but these cups can also be used as percussion instruments. While I typically use traditional classroom instruments, I have to plan on several minutes of getting them out and putting them away again due to the setup of my room. This has come in handy for me when I’m running late and don’t have time to get out and put away the classroom instruments. We can use the cups for a quick rhythm practice.
I hope one (or all) of these tips prove useful for your own classroom. If you have any other ideas for using the cups, please leave a message in the comments. I’d love to hear more ideas!

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