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Around the Room Mystery

Aim: How can we identify musical phrases in and out of the context of a song?
Summary: Students identify phrases in a known song and create new patterns of music.
Standards: US 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6; NYC 1, 2
Grade: 2nd
Concept: Tempo, Dynamics, Articulation
Artistic Process: performing, responding, creating
Materials: whiteboard or chart paper; signs A, B, C, D hung up around the room
Time Required: 20 minutes


  1. Sing through a well-known classroom round (“Frère Jacques”; “Hey, Ho, Nobody Home”; “Dona Nobis”; “Chairs to Mend”; “Ah, Poor Bird”; etc.) and follow along with the music and lyrics on the board. See the Teacher Worksheet for three example rounds in four parts.
    Download Teacher Worksheet (PDF)
  2. Prompt your students to identify individual phrases (the layers of the round) and label them with letters. Sing through the phrases out of order as a class by pointing and calling out the letter of a phrase on the board. (Note: for more success in singing out of order, count students in on the pitch that they will start singing.)
  3. After singing through the phrases together a few times out of order, divide students up into groups and send them to the labeled areas of the room that correspond with the phrases. Have each group practice singing its phrase.
  4. Have students perform a series of phrases out of order. Write the desired order on the board (e.g., C–B–D–A) and conduct/lead students through a few examples of mixed-up rounds.

Going Deeper

  1. Have each small group add body percussion to their rhythms (e.g., snap for quarter-notes, pat shoulders for eighth-notes, etc.).
  2. Try clapping all of the newly composed 4/4, 3/4, or 6/8 measures in a row without repeats. Decide on an order that seems the most interesting and musically rich.
  3. Have students add pitches to their rhythms to create melodic compositions.


Grade 2 Activity Exemplar: Form and Design

This video is an exemplar of an activity from Carnegie Hall’s Music Educators Toolbox entitled "Round Around the Room Mystery." Students identify phrases in a known song and create new patterns of music.


Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

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