Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Skin & Bones

Jill Taylor


Students act out the story and play instruments to accompany a spooky song.


The student sings a culturally diverse repertoire of songs (some from memory), with appropriate expression, dynamics, and phrasing.

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.

The student creates, individually and in groups, animate and inanimate objects through the movement of the human body (e.g., pantomimes living and non-living objects such as rocks, trees, and celestial objects).


-Xylophones, glockenspiels
-Old lady props-a cane, shawl, glasses, hat, purse or whatever you have available
-Maracas or rhythm sticks
-A copy of the American folk song "Skin & Bones". It can be found in Teachers text [Music & You], Third Grade, MacMillan Publishing Co., 866 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022 and "The Book of Call and Response Songs" by John M. Feireabend, GIA Music Publications. There is a recording of the song on Raffi's "More Singable Songs for the Very Young".


1. Teacher should be able to sing the song from memory and demonstrate the instrument parts.

2. Instruments should be easily accessible to teacher and students.

3. Students should have previous experience with Orff instruments and proper mallet technique.


1. Sing the song “Skin & Bones” with expression and shaking your hands on the word “Ooooh”. Students will jump when you say “Boo!”

2. Briefly discuss what students think the old woman saw in the closet.

3. Explain that the song doesn’t tell us directly, but that we think it’s something scary because of the spooky way the song is sung.

4. Invite students to help you express the spookiness of the song by shaking their hands and singing “ooh.”

5. Select a few students to shake a tambourine on the word “ooh.”

6. Allow instrumentalists to practice while the class sings and performs the hand movements.

7. Select a few students to play one drum beat at the end of the “ooh.” Allow students to practice.

8. Select students to play soprano or alto xylophone or glockenspiel part on “oooh”.

9. Remove the E bar and coach students to play the notes AGFD at the same time the "ooh" is sung.

10. Ask a student to come to the front of the class to show how an old lady might walk.

11. Guide students to come up with some words that describe how she is walking. (Slow, shaky, bent over, etc.)

12. Give the student a dowel or another long object that can be used as a cane. A shawl, purse, or hat will complete the ensemble.

13. Give out woodblocks to selected students. They can play an uneven rhythm to show how the woman walks.

14. Select a student to be the bones in the graveyard. The student must lie totally still.

15. Discuss how the old lady might feel when she sees those dead bones. (Curious, scared, freaked out)

16. Allow actors to practice while the wood blocks play.

17. Select students to play the sound of rattling bones on either maracas or rhythm sticks or whatever your class decides would make a good bone sound.

18. Choose a student to be the “Something Scary” in the closet. The student will jump out and say “Boo!” to the old lady.

19. Everyone can tap their instrument on the word “Boo!” Practice several times to get all the students to play together.

20. Select several students to play a crossover bordun (D-A-D1) or just a simple or broken bordun or whatever your students can handle.

21. Add all instrument parts together, sing the song, and let the actors play their parts.


Students will play instruments at the appropriate time maintaining a steady tempo. Students will receive a + for satisfactory performance or - for needs improvement.
Students will confidently sing the song with expression. Students not singing will be marked NS on the grade sheet.
Students who have difficulty with the pantomime will observe other students performing and be given an opportunity to try again on another day.


If students need extra practice on the instrument parts, you can split the lesson into two days, and act out the story on Day 2.

As with most folk songs, there are longer versions with more verses. Try doing an internet search to find other verses. Add instrument parts and new characters as you see fit.
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