The Cup Game Lesson Plan: Teaching Rhythm

By chopsooy
In Best of the Best
May 26th, 2013

If you’re looking for a music lesson other than singing a song, The Cup Game makes a great alternativeHaving studied at the Conservatorium of Music in Australia, and being a drum teacher back home, means that I like to incorporate some music into my classes every now and again. Song lessons have never been particularly easy to pull off for me (even as a music teacher). Chinese kids are shy and don’t always want to perform. Add to that the fact that you can never please everyone, with half the kids not liking the song… not singing or taking part…I rarely do songs.
Drums or more specifically rhythms however, are a different story. With clapping games being popular at schools here, the students really love The Cup Game lesson.

In this post I have included  the lesson plan I follow when teaching this. I have also written step by step instructions on how to play each small part and slowly join them together.  If you learn this yourself, you can impress the class and really get them motivated… they will be asking “How do you do that?” To really supercharge this lesson I have designed an interactive PPT that has step by step video instructions, metronome feature to practice each step in time and two original tunes that I designed especially as “play alongs for this rhythm.

Note: In the lesson plan below you will notice I incorporate explaining rhythm and beat by playing my djembe drum. If you can also play a hand drum…it’s a great way to start the lesson, however…it’s really not needed. If you want to get a basic grounding on playing a hand drum you can look at Life Is Rhythm: Beat A Drum For Health where I run through basic hand drum techniques and benefits of drumming. It may give you some more ideas to add to the cup game class.

Title: The Cup Game Rhythm Lesson 

Photo Credit: <a href="">CurveTo</a> via <a href="">Compfight</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Keywords:: Clap, Tap, Move Over, Pick Up, Put Down, Exchange, Over, Hand, rhythm, beat, cup

Objective: To be able to say the new words, learn about what a rhythm is and how to go about playing one.

Starter: Explain what a beat in music is and how we can also call it a rhythm. Rhythms and beats are played on drums. Demonstrate with the hand drum and let some kids try.
Next, show them how we can play beats on anything and that today they will learn how to play a beat with cups called the cup game. Demonstrate what it will look and sound like and then hand out a cup to each student .

Note: Students must either have desks for this lesson or sit in circles on the floor. If you are teaching in China…getting the kids to sit on the floor is not likely to happen.

Activity: Go through the beat and actions with words slowly… section by section, first demonstrating and then getting the kids to try. Make sure you do it section by section and slowly tie each section together.

The Cup Game Rhythm

This is the chant I teach the kids. I have heard slight variations on the words used, however, I find this chant works well.

Clap clap, tap tap tap, clap move over, clap pick up…down, change over hand.

Get the kids to practice by themselves. Next,show them how they can play in a group passing the cups around the table and keeping the beat even (like in the group video below)

Extra Stuff: Show them a couple of extra stacking the cups whilst playing the cup game beat tricks…for example setting 5 cups up in a row and starting from left moving to the right, play the cup game rhythm and as you “exchange over hand” at the end, put the cup on top of the next cup in the line, so at the end, you will have your 5 cups in a stack..

You can also get them to play all together resulting in one big class beat… Be inventive.


  • You will need one plastic or paper cup for each student and desks for them to play on. My findings with the cups are that the paper ones sound better, and if you can find some fairly sturdy ones, they also last longer…the plastic ones seem to split down the sides fairly easily. I teach over 600 students, and I find I need 1 pack of 100 cups to safely get me through a week. Packs of cups are not expensive, so you can also buy enough to double up. Give each student two cups for double the strength.
  • Djembe drum for rhythms introduction

Reminder: During the cup game lesson, we must remember to remind the students – don’t hit the cups too hard, they will break.

Standards:The standards we will fulfil during this lesson are: learning new vocabulary, team building, playing rhythms.

If you’re feeling really inspired, see if you can get them to do it in time with some music like in the ppt I designed.

If you’d like to see The Cup Game interactive ppt in action you can view this short preview video

Photo by , CurveTo via Compfight cc“>some rights reserved.

2 Responses to “The Cup Game Lesson Plan: Teaching Rhythm”

  1. Sue Gurney says:

    This is fabulous, thank you so much . Lovely clear instructions. From Sue in South Africa.

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