Human Body Music

Sarah Vitullo

In this lesson, students will be able to describe the functions of the skeletal system and the muscular system, while using songs and instruments to improvise a rhythm and melody.


Notecards with the jobs of bones/joints/specific body systems. Have enough cards for however large your class is and the number of groups you will need.
Rhythm/non pitched percussion instruments- have at least 1 for each student. Can include hand drums, rhythm sticks, shakers, etc.
If desired, pitched instruments as well, 2 or 3 Orff instruments should be plenty,


1. Teach the students the basic framework of the song, “When I was a baby”
When I was a baby, a baby, a baby, When I was a baby, that’s what I’d do. I went (verb) this-a-way, (verb) that-a-way, (verb) this-a-way, and that’s what I’d do.
2. Break students into small groups, possibly groups of 3 or 4.
Assign each group a notecard with the bone listed on it. Have them come up with a verb and movement to teach the class.
3. Depending on # of groups, these jobs can be acted out:
a. skeletal system
b. muscular system
c. skin
d. joints
e. gravity
f. motion
4. If any groups are stuck, here are some ideas:
a. When I was the skeletal system, this what I do, I would support this-a-way
b. When I was the skin, I would protect
c. When I was the muscular system, I would pull this away, pull, that away
d. …etc
5. Have each group tell the class what their job was and what verb and motion they chose. Have those students demonstrate and the class will participate with them.
6. Have one student from each group come up to the board and write their verse, so after all groups have gone you have the whole song written.
7. Have students select a non-pitched percussion instrument to play while singing. Have students mimic teacher, playing their chosen instruments on beats 2 and 4 while the whole class sings.
8. Then, select a few students at a time to improv on a beat, such as quarter, quarter, half, etc. Teacher can demonstrate several ways.
9. Sing the song with rhythmic improvisation once.
10. Discuss melodic improvisation. Choose one (or 2) depending on class levels. Guide them to certain notes in the key you are singing in- C/G, D/A, etc, and have that student do melodic improve with the class. You may add more students to this job if time.
11. You may perform the song several times as a class as needed allowing different students to improv on different verses.
12. Discuss how improv in music, is similar to following the rules of gravity in the body. Certain guidelines are given, and directions the bones and muscles can move, but then we have freedom within those guidelines.

Differentiation Approaches

1. English Language Learners – These students may need a picture of what the jobs are, or a picture of government buildings, to understand what the main idea is.
2. Students with ADD- These students may need to be in a group of calm students, or do their instrument improv-ing either near the teacher for extra reminders, or in a separate space if they need to move a lot so they can participate without harming others.
3. Students with autism or Asperger’s Syndrome
4. Students who are differently abled – These students can use instruments which are suitable to their needs, whether they need instruments with an easy grip, etc.
5. Students who complete the work quickly and carelessly – Ask students if they are sure they have the best verb and motion to describe this job. Ask if they can come up with one other verb/motion, and then decide which is best.
6. Students who complete the work quickly and successfully – have these students grab a sheet of staff paper, and notate one of the rhythms they have improv-ed. These students could also do melodic improvisation on an Orff instrument.
7. Any others types of students you may teach


The main ideas to check:
1. did students choose an appropriate verb for their bone/system
2. did students choose an appropriate movement for this verb
3. could students play their instrument appropriately and correctly on beats 2, and 4
4. could students improv an appropriate rhythm, could students come up with a steady rhythm that they could continue to play while we sang the song

Follow Up and Extension Ideas

Some fun YouTube songs you could learn, sing to, and add rhythmic improv are:

Another art form that could easily be added into this lesson is dance. Students could be put into groups and have to make the shape of certain bones or muscles and then “move” accordingly. A related lesson could be taking the improv-ed rhythms and melodies and learning to notate those. Designing this lesson shows me that if I give students a template for composing, we can use those for many different subjects, by coming up with the actions for each word we need to understand, and then rhythmic improv (and/or melodic) can always be added. K/1 could do this with just simple rhythms. 4/5 could become more complex with rhythms and melodies.

Additional Details

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