If I Listen With My Heart- 2nd Verse: Paper Cup Tap pattern for Older Children

It’s just a paper cup, but it becomes a magical musical instrument in this activity.


Patsch, Tap, Switch, Tap

Patsch, Tap, Switch, Tap


I hold up a paper cup and say to the children, “Here is the pattern.”  I show them a couple of times, then say, “Pretend you have a paper cup in your hands and do this pattern with me.”  After a while I ask, “Who can put how to do this pattern into words?”  I receive the children’s answers.  We do the pattern again, but this time I begin to sing the 2nd verse of this song as we do the pattern.  We do the pattern all throughout the verse.


Once we have done the pattern throughout the whole song, I get several adults to help me start passing out the cups.  Before each child even has a cup, I begin the pattern (a management technique to help the transition).  As they get their cup, they join in tapping on the beat as I sing the song.


The brain is working hard to get the coordination of this pattern into a working pattern to the beat.  Meanwhile, the children are hearing the words in the background of the focus on the pattern.

I challenge the children “Who knows the pattern well enough to come up and lead this activity?”  I choose a couple of the children.  They stand in the front while I move to the back.  We do the pattern with the children leading as I sing the song again.

I thank the children and have them sit down.

“As we do the pattern to the song this time, I challenge you to sing the words.  Occasionally I will call out ‘Freeze!’  When I do I will point to a row to give us the next words.”

We sing and do the pattern.  I call out “Freeze!” and point to a row.  They tell us the next words.  We start with those words still doing the pattern to the beat.  I call out “Freeze!” a couple of more times, again having a row of children tell the group the next words.

Have the children pass their cups into their teacher.

As an extender for this activity, you could do Take it In, Take it Out.

Show the children the signal you are going to use.  (It could be a bell, two rhythm sticks hit together, or any sound.)  Tell the children that when they hear the signal, they take the song we are singing Inside so no sound comes out.  They are only singing in their heads.  When they hear the signal again, they bring the song Out and sing it so everyone can hear.  Start singing the song, giving the signal at random times throughout the song.

3 Responses

  1. Amy B

    Hi Sharla, I get a lot of push back from my senior primary whenever I try to do one of the physical activities. One of the main problems is with space when doing paper plates, windwands, etc. They get frustrated because they can’t really do it like I can because they’re sitting close to each other. And if they can’t follow my patterns they just start messing around with the props. They were so confused by the partner clapping a few weeks ago! I had so many irritated kids because they couldn’t do it. Then I end up frustrated and I wonder if I should just go back to teaching with pictures. How do you deal with the space issue and how can I get them on board with these methods? Interestingly, my junior primary seems to like them much better.

    Another question. Am I understanding correctly, you don’t worry about them singing while doing the activities? I remind them all the time that they need to be singing while they’re doing it. Is that wrong?

    • Sharla Dance

      Dear Amy, I’m glad you asked. Thank you!
      One of the things that helps to get children used to do purposeful movement (they are good at doing a lot of movement, but sometimes not in a directed way), is “secret” demonstrations. I call them secret because the children don’t really know it is a demo of the movement. They are super necessary if the children aren’t used to moving to a song.

      I will ask a child to be my partner and do the partner body rhythm pattern with me up in front. I am singing as we do the pattern, and the other children are just watching. Then I ask my partner to go choose another partner, and I choose another partner. We sing the song again doing the pattern (and the other children are watching the two partnerships). If I sense the children that are watching need to see it one more time, I then ask each of those three children to go choose another partner and I choose one, also. All four partnerships do the pattern while I sing the song. THEN I ask all of the Primary children to choose a partner and we all do the pattern as I sing the song.

      Because they have watched the pattern 3 different times, they usually can do the movements successfully.

      As you transition your Primary into the movement, remember to use occasional “Freeze!” commands to stop everyone and remind them of something. It is a great way to get them back on board, also.

      Second question: reminding them to sing is okay, but there is a whole lot more to learn from a song than just the words. We as music leaders sometimes don’t recognize that the children just need to be involved and engaged and the song will soak in. You might want to read the post “But they are not singing.” I posted it last week.

      I so love you asking specific questions and being brave enough to try. Note about using the paper plates or wind wands if you are short on space… I often will have half of the Primary come out and do the activity on the outer edge of the room, then switch with their friends who haven’t done the activity yet. I don’t know your space and the configuration of the room.

      Please keep asking. Take care, Sharla

  2. Nynke

    Hi Sharla,

    I am so grateful for all your ideas. We are having a lot of fun singing and moving and doing rhythms in Primary, and I am excited to start using the paper cup instrument! Thank you for sharing your talents and your knowledge!

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