Musical Chance

(This lesson plan was previously printed on the website for MENC.  It has been adapted for ease of classroom management.)


Objectives:                          Using a version of the game "musical chairs," students will accurately                                                            perform a rhythm pattern created by chance methods.

Standards:                           Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.

                                                Composing and arranging music within specified guidelines.


Materials:                            Copies of rhythm patterns created according to level of student knowledge

                                                        (create enough so that each student may receive four rhythm patterns).

                                                Chairs without desks attached. 

                                                Drum or other percussion instrument

                                                Music of Changes sound clip (optional)


1.                   Arrange the chairs in a circle as in the game "musical chairs."  If you wish, have students arrange the chairs as you arrange  the rhythm patterns.  Place 4 copies of rhythm patterns underneath each chair.

2.                   Inform students that they will be playing a different version of "musical chairs" than what they are used to playing.  No chairs will be removed, but when the music stops, each student must sit in a chair and pick up one of the four pieces of paper underneath the chair. 

3.                   Play a short clip of music as the students walk around the chairs to a steady beat.  If the teacher wishes to discuss John Cage after the lesson, he/she may use the clip of Music of Changes included in the "Materials" section.  Once the music stops, make sure that the students have all picked up a piece of paper.

4.                   Repeat step 2 until all pieces of paper are removed from underneath the chairs.

5.                    Inform students that they may now look at their pieces of paper.  Explain to them that they must play the rhythms written on their papers in any order they wish.  Give the students a few minutes to practice clapping their rhythms.

6.                   Have the students perform their rhythms for the class on a drum or other percussion instrument.  If the teacher wishes he/she can play music to go along with the drumming.


Assessment:                       Students successfully perform rhythms chosen and arranged by chance methods.

If the teacher wishes to use this lesson as an introduction to John Cage, discuss the composer after the students perform their pieces.  Explain that he wrote a song called Music of Changes in a similar way as they wrote their rhythms, and then play the clip of Music for Changes above.

If the teacher wishes, pitches  may be used instead of rhythms, with students performing the notes on recorder, glockenspiel, or Boomwhackers.