Saturday, February 25, 2017

Tug of War in the Music Classroom

Every year in 4th grade, we do a very fun activity that the students love. I got the idea from my favorite mentor. There is so much to learn from this activity and it is a huge hit.


We sing the song, "Oranges and Lemons" and play the game by getting into a circle. My person of the day chooses a helper for making a bridge. I encourage them to choose someone who will be good at helping them come up with opposites. We discuss what opposites mean and come up with ideas as a class to help them get their brains going. 

We learn the song before we start. 

Form a circle with two kids making a bridge clasping their hands above the circle. The two students secretly come up with an opposite, such as up and down and assign one word to each of the two. Kids walk through the bridge on the beat as everyone sings. Going through the bridge on the beat can be very challenging for some kids. I remind them that the goal is to go through it on the beat and not just to run through in order to not get caught. I stand right by the bridge and even put my hand between each kid to help them go on the beat. 

At the end of the song, the bridge comes down and catches one student. Then the two bridge students will tell the "caught" student their opposites and the student who has been caught will choose one of the words. I assign my student of the day to be team 1 and the other student to be team 2. If the "caught" student chooses team 1's word, I write it down on a paper under team 1. Since we do several activities during a half hour music period, we will only do 3 or 4 rounds during a music period. 


For the first few music periods of doing our "Oranges and Lemons activity, the kids who are "caught", just sit in their teams on the side of the room. I encourage them to sing along. Once we have done this activity for a few days, I then have the kids who are "caught" form their own circle so they have something to do. In this separate ground, they don't sit out when they are caught. That second group seems to easily choose two kids to be a bridge and it keeps them busy and out of trouble.

When we have finished sorting every student after many class periods, the two teams are never exactly even, so we put all of the kids back into a big circle and "catch" enough kids to even out the teams. 

I just tack my three class teams lists on the bulletin board above my desk to keep track of my lists. It is super easy to find my list in a second during each class. 


Once the kids are sorted out, we wait until the weather is good enough to go out and it isn't too wet outside because of rain. (We rarely get rain so that usually isn't a problem).

On the day that we play tug of war, I explain the rules up front, even the day before. Once the kids are out there playing the game, it is hard for them to hear and they aren't listening. It is always a good idea to explain rules while they are sitting quietly and listening. 


  1. Walk quietly in the hall to go outside
  2. Safety is very important - When I say to stop, you must stop so no one is dragged on the ground and injured. I've done this for 8 years and never had injuries, other than minor hands that feel tender from pulling on the rope. If I see any kids doing something unsafe, they are asked to sit out. In an ideal world, we would have gloves for each kid. I tell the kids that they can bring gloves if they want. 
  3. Be a good sport. This game is just for fun. You will win some and you will lose some. It is a team sport and we must work together.
  4. If we don't have even numbers, one student will volunteer to stay out of the game for one turn. 
  5. Walk back to class quietly


 I have figured out a way to make it all fair. Obviously, some kids are stronger or bigger and you are bound to have one team that is just better. My rule is that the team who loses gets to choose one student from the other team and must give up one student from their team. I remind the kids that we are all different sizes and it doesn't mean you are less of a person just because your team gives you up. It just means that you are smaller than some other kids right now. The kids accept this and I've never had a melt down from it. 

We do this every round and somehow, they keep going back and forth and seem very happy with the end results. One other Rule I have is that once you move teams, you can't move again. That keeps it really fair. 


We take the time once we are inside to discuss things we learned, such as working as a team, etc. It is interesting what the kids learn from this activity.


I did some research to find the best rope I could. I found one that is rated well for safety. I talked to my PTA about getting one and they paid for one that I use but could also be used in PE or for our field day. 

I hope your kids love this as much as mine! 


  1. What a fun activity! I love involving movement in lessons and this is perfect.

    1. Thank you! In my state, you just have to wait for warm weather to go outside!

  2. I'd never heard the Oranges and Lemons song before. This would be great for older kids who are ready for a new spin on London Bridge :)

    1. Oranges and Lemons has been around for a long time. I was thrilled to see it in the older version of "A Little Princess". They play it at Sara's birthday party.

  3. What a fun idea! Would have never thought to make tug a war a musical activity! Thanks for sharing!

  4. I just love playing games and this is so creative! I know my students would love it. Thanks for the detailed directions. Looks fun!

    1. Thanks for reading! They absolutely love every aspect of it!

  5. This would be great when the kids are getting ready for field day! Super creative, thanks for sharing! :)

  6. Oh!!! Great tie in with your PE teacher. Cool idea!

    1. Thanks for reading! I actually do this all by myself every year, but you could do it with the PE teacher's help for sure!