Spreading a musical virus

Karen Marshall, co-author of the Get Set! Piano series and How to Teach Instrumental and Singing Lessons – 100 Inspiring Ideas, shares her advice for encouraging children to teach themselves daily through musical games in the playground. 

Spreading a musical virus

Every Wednesday I work at a Primary school – teaching reception right through to Year 6 across one day.  From ‘Big Sing’ assemblies, Kodàly lessons to whole class ensemble teaching, the day is hugely varied.  The children at this school are lucky to have a music specialist teaching them but I’m aware that they don’t get daily music lessons.  Because of this I have developed something to enable the children to ‘teach themselves’ daily through playground music games.  I call this our school ‘musical virus’.

How does it work?

  • I teach a song with actions to one class in their weekly music lesson.
  • The children are instructed to teach the song to everyone they can at play time.
  • The following week I check across the other classes who now knows the song, reporting back to the children how well they’ve done at ‘spreading the musical virus.’
  • I then set another class the task of spreading a musical virus – and so it goes on!

In reality I think un-named musical viruses have been spreading around our playgrounds for years.   The clapping and circle games I remember with such fondness from my own childhood I believe have played a valuable role in my music education.  I believe as music teachers, teaching the next generation, we can bring much musical happiness to children at playtime for many years to come.

Some popular songs to use:

  • Hi lo Chicka lo
  • Double double this this
  • This is Concentration
  • A Sailor went to sea, sea, sea
  • One potato, two potato
  • The Cup song

Karen Marshall is a practicing private and peripatetic teacher in York with students from five to seventy-one years of age. Karen specialises in multi-sensory music teaching and is a Kodály practitioner. A member of the British Dyslexia Association’s music committee, Karen has trained teachers across the UK on teaching students with Special Educational needs. She writes for Music Teacher Magazine, was a piano and pedagogue student of the late Christine Brown and works voluntarily to support music education at her local Primary and Secondary school. She is also the co-author of the Get Set! Piano series and How to Teach Instrumental & Singing Lessons: 100 Inspiring Ideas. 

Tune into our Facebook Live event at 3:30pm on Monday 20th November on the Collins Primary page to hear Karen Marshall speak about teaching dynamics and articulation in both piano lessons and the classroom.

Browse our full range of music titles at

Collins Primary

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