Submitted by Sandy Toms, Michigan

Idea posted December 19, 2001

I have a ziplock bag for each child with the following sets of laminated cards (plus a much larger set for myself that I use for demonstration before I put the bags in their hands). Each set of 2-4 cards, measuring 3x3, is a different color so that you can easily tell them apart. The cards are made from poster board and marker, and then they are laminated. It took a while to make them, but they're on their fifth year and still going strong.

Blue cards: I have two different sets of rhythms (one group on each side, only two beats per side, ex.: two quarter notes) using quarter notes, rests, and eighth notes (we use Kodály terminology; tah, ti-ti, etc.). These can be used to identify rhythms, to create your own and play rhythms, or to play games with (what order did I clap the cards in, Mix-up game, etc.).

Orange cards: One side has 'p,' 'f,' crescendo, and decrescendo (the symbols). We use them for identifying sounds, as well as practicing singing the sounds of piano, forte, etc. The other side has four beats of a 4/4 meter using tah, ti-ti, and rest.

Green cards: One side has an idea from Musicgarten: distinguishing between continuous sound and broken pitches.

  • One card is a series of five dots in a slanted line (up to right) and four more coming down forming two sides of a triangle.
  • The second card has five dots up to right, then a smooth curved line coming down to right.
  • The third card has a bell curve.
  • The fourth card has a snaking horizontal line.

I sing what these pictures look like and ask kids to repeat the sounds, then we play the identification game (this is pre-reading that I do with kindergartners). Then, I ask them each to choose a card and sing it for me.

Yellow cards: Melodic shape. One side has notes that go upward (all whole notes), downward, up/down/up, and down/up/down. The other side has the same notes with rhythmic values. (You could also do cards distinguishing skips and steps.)

White cards: Up/down. There are two larger cards with one arrow on each (different colors for up and down). I put a blue dot at the base of each card for them to cover with their forefinger and thumb to make sure they get the arrows in the right direction. When they are holding cards correctly and resting their hands on their knees, I sing patterns up and down asking them to raise the correct arrow. I begin with many pitches up or down and graduate to two pitches, using a variety of ranges.

Popsicle sticks: I use them for tah, ti-ti, and rest. I have them place on stick horizontally for rest.

Note: It is important to structure the using of the bags. Kids are told to remove ___ cards, put the rubber band back into the bag, and place it behind them or under their chair. When they pack the bag up, have them leave the zipper on the ziplock open so the air isn't trapped. This is nice because they pack into your bag more efficiently that way.

Glad to share.