A Song By Any Other Name

Courtney Bailey

Lesson Goals

Students will utilize dance and music to discover the rhythmic pattern found in names. Student explore the story “Tikki Tikki Tembo” and interpret key details through theatre arts. Students create and interpret extended rhythmic patterns by dissecting and musically interpreting syllabic content of different words.

Students explore folk tales and the rhythmic content of words.


Small white boards
Expo pens
“Tikki Tikki Tembo” by Arlene Mosel
Multiple sets of 10 nonsense words flashcards
Lined paper
Landscape manuscript paper


1. Split students into two teams. One team will be given white boards and pens.
2. Ask students to move through the space in the room to music according to the teacher chosen pathway. The teacher will periodically stop the music and the students with boards will pair with a student that does not have a board.
3. Students with boards are given 1 minute to write out their partner’s name and figure out the rhythmic pattern displayed in their name. Have student write their partner’s name and the rhythmic pattern in STANDARD notation on their white board (Teacher should front load this skill, by using their own name as an example and performing the task as a class).
4. Once students with boards have their answers, teacher should have students hold up their boards above their head to show they are finish, and you should check for understanding and proficiency.
5. Have the student with the board give their board to the student without it, and then repeat the ENTIRE process of walking around the room in a chosen pathway, stopping when the music stops and writing out the rhythm of their partner’s name 3 more times. (Doing it this way should give each child an opportunity to “rhythmize” a different partner’s name twice.)
6. Split students in groups of 3-5. Once groups are set, students will be shown the cover of “Tikki Tikki Tembo”. Using the 1-minute tableau challenge, have students predict the plot of the story.
7. Have students remain in their groups while the story is read. Periodically check in with students with comprehension questions being answered through tableau challenges.
8. After the story is read, have students tableau the beginning, middle and end of the story. Tap a narrator from one group for each part of the story to explain their tableau.
9. Post Tikki Tikki Tembo’s full name on the board. Have the class work through rhythmizing his name together. After the standard notation is figured out, have the class group the notation in sets of 4 beats with bar lines.
10. Give each group a set of nonsense words flashcards. Have each group work together to create a long “traditional” name like the main character’s name in the story by ordering the 10 flash cards.
11. Have students to rhythmize their “traditional” name using standard notation for quarter, half and beamed eighth notes, group the notation by sets of 4 beats and bar lines. Check their work, and then have students transfer their name and its rhythm on to their manuscript paper.

Differentiation Approaches

Provide visual examples of all instructions.


Final tableaux will be assessed for ability to convene idea adequately with the technique. Students’ name and rhythmic composition will also be assessed for accuracy in written form and performance.

Follow Up and Extension Ideas

Explain the cultural inconsistencies in the stories (i.e the author credits the story as a CHINESE folktale when the story is actually JAPANESE), and how social ideas about non-artistic things can affect art greatly. Use the conversation to set up reading “Three Names of Me”. After reading the 2nd story, compare and contrast the two books. Have students pick one of the two books, and write a book review about it to promote cultural awareness in literacy.

Additional Details

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