Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Five Little Pumpkins

Jill Taylor


Students learn to play rhythm instruments as part of a rhythm band to accompany the well-known poem, "Five Little Pumpkins." They learn instrument names, playing techniques, and playing at the appropriate time. Students learn how to perform a vocal solo.


The student uses volume, phrasing, and intonation appropriate for different situations (for example, large or small group settings, sharing oral stories, dramatic activities).

The student performs independently simple patterns and melodies on rhythmic and melodic classroom instruments (e.g., percussion instruments and barred instruments) and maintains a steady tempo.


-"Five Little Pumpkins" poem and song in Macmillan's "Music & You" first grade teacher's edition.
-CD of song
-CD player with balance control
-Piano, guitar or autoharp
-Assorted tambourines, hand drums, triangles, woodblocks, rhythm sticks, and jingle bells
-Play microphone


Teacher should be able to recite the poem from memory . The teacher should be able to sing the song and provide a basic accompaniment. The words to the song in the Macmillan series are in a slightly different order than the poem. For continuity, you may want to alter the lyrics to match the poem directly.

Teacher should have the rhythm instruments in separate bins or locations that are easily accessible to teacher and students.


Day One

1. Recite the poem for students at least twice. Swapping out the word "witches" for "leaves" maintains the fall feel without being overly Halloween-ish. Use pitch variance and facial expression on the words "Oh my, it's getting late!"

2. Give students the opportunity to say the poem as group without the teacher's help.

3. Introduce the tambourine and that it can be played by tapping or shaking.

4. Distribute several tambourines to selected students keeping all the students who play the same instrument together in a group.

5. Instruct the tambourine players to shake their tambourine on the word "leaves" (or '"witches").

6. Allow students several practice tries playing their instrument part while teacher recites the poem. Correct students playing technique as necessary.

7. Repeat steps 3-6 with the drums playing 3 beats on the words "we don't care."

8. Repeat steps 3-6 with rhythm sticks tapping 3 beats on the words "go and have some fun."

9. Repeat steps 3-6 with jingle bells shaking an eighth note pattern on "run, run, run, run, run."

10. Repeat steps 3-6 with students striking triangles and letting it ring on the word "Ooooh."

11. Repeat steps 3-6 with woodblocks tapping on the word "out" in the phrase "out went the light."

12. Instruct everyone to play their instrument with a steady beat on the last phrase of the poem.

13. Tell the class that it is now performance time and to imagine that they are part of a fancy orchestra and the audience has paid a lot of money to hear their performance of " Five Little Pumpkins."

14. Make an announcement, "Introducing ____________Elementary's Rhythm Band Orchestra playing their famous rendition of "Five Little Pumpkins."

15. Tap your baton (or pencil) on the stand to call the orchestra to attention and let students play through the poem while teacher uses conducting gestures.

16. Allow students to "clap" for themselves on their instruments and cut them off with a conductor's gesture.

17. Call up students one group at a time to put away their instruments. This helps you assess if they remember the names of the instruments. Tell them that you are having a contest to see which group can put their instruments away the quietest.

Day Two

1. Review the poem from the previous class. Speak it with the class and let them do it by themselves.

2. Select five students to come to the front ot the class to speak the parts that are spoken by the pumpkins. Encourage them to say their parts with expression.

3. Discuss the meaning of the word solo. Explain that when students are performing a solo, that no one else may speak or sing during that part.

4. Repeat the poem several times to give every student a chance to be a soloist.

5. Sing the song "Five Little Pumpkins" from the Music & You 1st grade teacher's guide.

6. Let students echo sing after you to learn the pitches.

7. Have five individual students come to the front of the class and speak or sing into an echo microphone the words that are spoken by the pumpkins.

8. Review the fact that when students are singing solo, that they are the only ones to sing their part. Encourage the other students to be silent when soloists are singing.

9. Repeat the song many times so that each student gets to sing solo at least once.

10. When students are comfortable singing the song, add a simple guitar or piano accompaniment or use the CD with the balance turned to the right on the stereo to eliminate the vocal track.


Students are able to play their instrument at the appropriate time in the poem and keep their instrument quiet at other times. Students will receive a + or - on the seating chart.
Students use proper playing technique and show respect for the instruments. Those who play at improper times will be marked "bi" for instrument behavior.


Use the song "I'm Singing a Solo" from Ella Jenkins' "I Know the Colors of the Rainbow" CD to have individual students practice singing and understanding the concept of a solo.

Use the song "I'm Playing a Solo" from Ella Jenkins' "I Know the Colors of the Rainbow" CD to have students pantomime playing the solo instruments (guitar, violin, piano, saxophone) in the song. If you have the real instruments or play versions, let individual students hold them and pretend to play. The melody is exactly the same as "I'm Singing A Solo," so it is a good review of the singing from the previous class.

Students learn to play the descending and accending pitches of the C major scale on Doolin Bells. Another song to reinforce the scale is " Burn Little Candles" also in the Macmillan's Music & You first grade edition. Students can use their hands or whole bodies to show the movement of the pitches from low to high

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