Looby Loo Scores and Scrambles

by Terolle Turnham

May 2020

Playful Teaching – Vibrant Learning! What an inspirational tagline! Yet we easily fall into ‘habitual teaching’ where we take the same route to achieve a specific learning goal.

This group of lessons, which I would have presented at our SWEA 2020 Conference, is suggested as a pathway to vibrant learning. The pacing of each segment is critical to the success and engagement for the learners. Only you can determine how long to stay on a task, can decide which steps are no longer needed for a group of students, and know which challenges might be appropriate for a specific class.

The following lessons suggest several experiences for students to build song analysis skills through whole group, small group and partner tasks. The ultimate goal is to be skillful in reading and musical in performing several different scores for “Looby Loo.”

Teacher dialog is in quotations. Teacher suggestions, things to think about or to prepare ahead of time have no added punctuation.

Looby Loo Score

Lessons for Singing and Reading Scores

Rhythmic Study

“You have probably noticed that sometimes I present a Secret Song by simply showing you the movement that we know. That is a score for the song. It is a concrete presentation of the song that may stimulate your mind to recall what the sound is.”

The example below recalls arm gestures that rise to the right for the first and third phrases of the chorus for Looby Loo. Gestures for the second phrase descend to the left. The cadence phrase looks like a cowboy lassoing with one hand, the other hand rests at the hip, and both hands land on the thighs with the word “night.”

“Here is an example from our shared history.” Teacher demonstrates the movement students developed for “Looby Loo” silently singing the song in her mind.

“What song came to mind as you watched the movement score unfold?” Have students sing aloud all the songs that they suggest and then have them silently check as the teacher does the “Secret Song” gestures once again.

“Now that you have identified “Looby Loo” and we’ve sung it together and antiphonned several times, here is your task: Antiphon with your study buddy taking turns as leader, singing the text and tapping.”

Teacher leads antiphonning, gesturing to herself to sing “dudadi dudadi du” at the cadence. Teacher invites students to try that cadence on their own, looking at the teacher when they have perfected the cluster. Students could antiphon with partners again, using the text or a one syllable sound (zip, ping, bop) until reaching the cadence to sing the rhythm syllables.

“Listen as I sing the rhythm syllables for the whole song. Join in as you are able.”

“Sing the rhythm syllables without me. John and Susan will be listening to check which phrases you articulate with the greatest clarity.” Following the singing, John and Susan describe what they heard.

“Prepare to song dot at the board by dotting the rhythm from your left shoulder to your wrist and singing the rhythm syllables.”

Once several students have song dotted the score at the board and others have read what was written, show this score.

“What do you notice about this score?”

“Does anything surprise you or cause you to be curious?”

“What will you sing as you track the score?”

“Could you tap lines 1 & 3 on your lap, lines 2 & 4 on your hands?”

“What performance challenge would you suggest?”

“Could you sing and tap this in a round?

Tonal Study

Another day, recall “Looby Loo” asking students to tongue the tune. Removing the text and using one vowel sound helps students hear the tones more clearly. Challenge them to show the contour of the phrases. The arm gestures that were used in the “Secret Song” activity align with the contour of each
phrase so that may come out as they are given this challenge.

“Where does your voice sing the same pitch three times?” “here we go…”

“Sing that cluster using “Do Do Do” with “too” as the tonguing sound for the rest of the song.”

Add this to the cadence: “SLSFMRD.” Invite students to practice it on their own 3 times. If scale patterns are new, try “all on a FMRD.”

“We’re going to use the cadence solfa as an ostinato. This half of the class will repeat the cadence solfa over and over while the other half sings “DDD looby loo. DDD looby light. DDD looby loo SLSFMRD.” Once that is accomplished, the groups exchange parts.

Guide students to identify that phrase 1 and 3 have the same tonal pattern—DDDMDS while the second has DDDMDR.

Another day, show and study the following two scores.

These dots are not in a straight line across the page. What reasons come to mind to explain.

Guide the study by drawing out of the students what they recognize.

Where is the DDD cluster?

Where is the leap up?

Students can sing rhythm syllables, “too” or the text as they track the song.

“What has changed on this score?”

“What will you sing?”

“Who will guide us at the score?”

“Try singing and using your pentahand. Pinkie, ring finger and middle finger touch each other for the DRM cluster. A gap is kept open between middle and pointer fingers. The pointer and thumb are on top as SL. Point with your other hand touching each spot as the tune suggests.”

“Find a partner. Play the song on your partners pentahand as you both sing the solfa.” “Try the same task with your eyes closed.” Older students love this!

“Looking at the score once again, people on my left will sing lines 1 & 3. People on my right will sing line 2. All students will sing line 4 together.” Students use hand sings as rehearsed.

“Think of another way to divide the tasks. Is there a part that we will do in our inner hearing? Who will teach us their plan?”

“You are ready. I will be listening for clarity and accuracy on the tone names.” Give feedback about what you hear.

If more practice is needed, add variety to the task by inviting four people to a group. Students will need to decide how to reach one another, who will ‘play’ my hand and whose hand will I ‘play.’

On another day: “This score gives us more conventional notation information.”

“What do you know?”

“Come to point to the symbol and name it.”

“Sing the solfa syllables.”

“Use your hand staff with D on your ring finger.”

“Which finger will be M…S…?”

“Where is L…F… R?”

“Play your hand staff and sing the solfa.”

Score Scramble

Preparation for the study (on another day):

  1. Prior to this lesson, duplicate enough copies of each score (from the scores in this article) so that you will have enough for your largest class.
  2. Cut the scores into strips.
  3. Place four different score strips in an envelope. Example: one strip shows rhythm, another song dots, others conventional staff.

Decide which of the following game and study versions is best suited to your class.

Game 1 – Reading and Constructing Scores


All lines of the song will be present in each envelope but there will be a variety of symbol systems included (stick notation, song dot score showing melodic contour, solfa score showing contour, and conventional score).

Each student will be in a group of four. Each group will receive an envelope with strips of paper inside. Each strip shows a different line of the song, though some may duplicate a line.

Each student takes one paper strip. The student studies her strip to decide what line of the song it is- 1, 2, 3 or 4. She scurries to find classmates from other groups who have the same type of score parts for the rest of the song, i.e., if her strip is a solfa score, she finds others with solfa scores. (Game 1)These new
groups of students arrange themselves according to their song strips to match the order in the song.


Each group sings through their score to make certain that it is arranged to match the song.

Students are assigned the task of singing the song in two different ways. Choose from the following: song dots (too, too), rhythm syllables, solfa syllables.

Game 2 – Creating, Performing and Assessing


The envelope will NOT include all lines of the song and will have a variety of symbol systems. When making a group, it is NOT necessary to have symbol systems that match.

Each group can add expression, form and texture. Students can generate lists of musical terms for expression such as crescendo, decrescendo, forte, pianissimo; for texture—rounds and ostinati; for form—introductions or codas. Students must remember what they create and perform it. The teacher will make a video recording of each group performing their version in the “recording studio” which might be a corner of the room or a closet. The audience can listen with their eyes closed, imagining the score that they are hearing. They open their eyes to find out if they saw it correctly.


Each group sings through their score to make certain that it is arranged to match the song.

Students are assigned the task of singing the song in two different ways. Choose from the following: song dots (too, too), rhythm syllables, solfa syllables.

Assessment activities

  1. To assess recognition of compositional techniques, students (individually or in partners) can identify and list all of the elements used in each performance they view.
  2. To assess the performances, classes could watch videos of each group, identifying from a list those qualities that are present in the performance such as: clear diction, singing in tune, remembering their variation with a solid performance, singing the decrescendo evenly, giving breath for the entire phrase,
    producing the note at the end of the phrase with support and accuracy, etc.)

This experience offers the students the chance to synthesize learning from the various lessons described in this article. It is playful and vibrant! Students use their knowledge to gather in groups, to use their decoding skills, to make musical choices, to rehearse, and finally to perform.

This article was developed with the aid of feedback from Anna Langness and Marilyn Winter.

This article first appeared in the May 2020 Newsletter. It has been adapted for the “From the Archive” series.
Visit the Newsletter Archive for more articles like this and to subscribe.

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