Building Blocks for Improvisation: Call and Answer


Improvisation is a skill that can be scaffolded and taught. (Here’s a great explanation of what scaffolding means in education, for anyone not familiar with the term.) Call and Answer exercises are an excellent way to build this skill. They also build beat vocabulary, form and strike fundamentals, and a student’s musical ear. 

Start off call and answer by playing simple 4-beat phrases and having students echo you. Start with simple phrases, without much ma or syncopation, and gradually work up to more challenging phrases. If you have a small group and/or are working with adults, do this with the drums in a circle, but keep the drums in rows for groups larger than 12 or for kids under 15. Keep this up for a few minutes; it will be engaging to students longer than it’s engaging to you. 

Next, pair students up, and have them choose someone to be A (the other person is B). Count everybody in; all As play a 4-beat phrase at the same time, and all Bs answer at the same time. Give them a “So-re” to reset and then all Bs play a phrase at the same time and all As answer at the same time. Do several rounds of this. If they get good at it, take out the “So-re” and just have them trade call and answer patterns continuously.

This gets tricky, because students really have to focus to hear the pattern their partner is playing. The advantage is that everyone is playing at the same time, so students feel quite safe in playing an improvised 4 beat pattern.

Finally, go back to large group call and answer, but this time, have students call instead of you. One student calls, everyone answers; the next student calls, everyone answers; and so on. If you have a small group and/or adults, do this in a circle. If you’re working with a group that doesn’t do well in a circle, keep them in rows and pass the call up and down the rows.

You can do these exercises in a row, or one each class, or repeat them all regularly. If you use them, let me know. Happy teaching!

Teaching 4th and 5th graders to solo


Just like younger students, older kids can be intimidated by the idea of soloing. Breaking it down into its component steps makes it much easier to approach.

Soloing requires awareness of and ability to play on the beat (pulse), knowledge of form and strike, and competency with basic kuchishoka. Improvising adds a level of complexity that can throw off new players, so I recommend using the method below a couple times before opening the door to improvisation. The whole thing takes about 20 minutes.

  1. Pair students up and give each team a piece of paper and pen. Have them draw a table with 2 rows and 4 columns on their paper.

  2. Give students 5 minutes to create collaborative rhythm patterns using the kuchishoka they know, writing one kuchishoka in each cell in the table.

  3. At the end of the 5 minutes, count them in and have all students say their patterns together in unison. Repeat 2-3 times, until everyone is saying their beats on the same pulse.

  4. Have them say their patterns and play them simultaneously on their laps with their hands. Repeat 2-3 times. 

  5. Have students move to the drums and play/say in unison. Repeat 2-3 times. 

  6. Add a jiuchi. Repeat 2-3 times. 

  7. Have 4 drum teams remain standing while the others sit. Have these 8 students play their patterns one drum at a time (as soon as the first one finishes, the second starts, then the third, then the fourth).

  8. Repeat Step 7 with different groups of 4 drums until every team has had a chance to play their pattern. 

At this point, each team will have a duet that can be worked into a song arrangement. If time allows, repeat the whole process but let students create true solos rather than working in teams. Alternately, you can just let them work as true soloists from the beginning if you time/equipment/space allows.

For this method to work, students need 1) to understand the jiuchi and how it supports unison playing 2) to understand basic kuchishoka and 3) to know a song structure they can plug a solo in to (Sanae Swing, Matsuri, or the alphabet/ostinato activity would all work). If they don’t have those building blocks, spend some time on them before moving to soloing.

Let me know if you have any questions about this method. Happy teaching!

(Interested in teaching other ages to solo? Here’s the post on teaching younger students; here’s one about teaching adults; and here’s a game that makes practicing this skill fun for all ages!)

Taiko Camp Part 3: Tanko Bushi & Putting it all together


Having a unifying concept makes an educational program cohesive. For my taiko camp, I chose Obon as the unifying concept because of the time of year (summer camp, summer festival), the ties between obon and taiko, and the cultural significance of the holiday both in Japan and in Japanese American communities in the US. 

That unifying concept pulled together learning taiko, making a papier-maché chochin, learning Tanko Bushi, and holding a mini-Obon on the final day. If you don’t know Tanko Bushi, a Google search will yield thousands of videos from which you can learn it. You should know the context of the song/dance before teaching it, and the Wikipedia entry on Tanko Bushi is pretty comprehensive. The best part about this dance is that it’s simple, so kids can easily build enough mastery to teach the dance at their mini-Obon, giving them a strong sense of accomplishment and pride. 

My Taiko Camp: Full Curriculum lays out exactly how I fit the Chochin, Matsuri, and Tanko Bushi activities together day-by-day. It’s a step-by-step guide to leading your first taiko camp. If you use it, I’d love to hear about it. Happy teaching camping!

Taiko Camp Part 2: Teaching a Song

It wouldn’t be a taiko camp if the kids didn’t play taiko! I recommend teaching a song that combines unison playing with soloing so students get to experience both of these elements of our art form.


In my most recent camp, I taught Matsuri, arranged to include short duets the kids wrote themselves. I broke the process down over the 5 days of camp as outlined here. By the last day the kids were ready to perform the song for their mini-obon.

Happy teaching camping!

Taiko Camp Part 1: Overview, and how to make a papier-maché chochin

Chochin Cover Pic.jpg

Once you’re established as a teaching artist, summer camp bookings will probably come your way. Summer camps are a great place to introduce kids to taiko! The camp format allows you to cover everything from taiko basics to taiko history (i.e., the way Internment of Japanese Americans during WWII relates to the development of taiko in the US).

I just finished a one week camp that lasted 3 hours a day for 5 consecutive days. I chose Obon as the central theme, with the campers hosting a mini-Obon on the last day. I covered 3 main activities during the camp: learning Matsuri (including solos), learning Tanko Bushi well enough to be able to teach it, and making a papier-maché chochin. We worked on each activity every day. 

Chochin are paper lanterns; at Obon, they’re often hung as decoration. The strings of chochin swaying above everyone’s heads at odori is one of my favorite sights at San Jose Obon. Here’s my step-by-step guide to making a papier maché chochin; it includes how I broke down the process so my campers did a little bit each day. 

In my next few posts, I’ll share the rest of my camp curriculum so you can take advantage of these opportunities when they arise for you. Happy teaching camping!

A crossover song for beginners: Yagura no Chochin

Crossing over (a multi-drum skill) is fun for players and impressive to audiences. Kristin’s most recent composition, Yagura no Chochin, helps beginning players of all ages learn this exciting skill using a limited number of repeated phrases. The first crossovers are slow, allowing players to practice the motion. Then, the patterns get into full swing, finally incorporating movement to other drums. The song is written out here. The video shows me demonstrating the Body and our recent community class playing through the full arrangement. (Shout out to Robin, Jennifer, and Sarah!)

A few notes: 1) solo length isn’t set; the solo is over when the soloist plays the Tag; 2) the number of times you rotate in the Big Rotation depends on the number of players; rotate until everyone is back at their original drum, then play Line 4 to end the section; 3) the speed in the first section (where I’m demonstrating the Body by myself) is the correct performance tempo; 4) these rhythms are particularly ripe for mnemonics. Our last class was fond of “right ov-er, left ov-er, move ov-er, “stay right here” as a memory aid in the Big Rotation. Use what works!

If you don’t know, the yagura is the elevated platform at the center at most bon odori. People on it lead the dances, and there may be a drummer on it. It’s usually decorated with chochin (paper lanterns) as seen in this photo from the Mountain View Temple Obon. The chochin sway with the movement of the dancers. The crossing over in this song is reminiscent of that swaying, and the rotation of the players alludes to the lead dancers on the yagura.

Let us know if you learn and perform Yagura no Chochin, and happy teaching!

Questions a taiko teacher should ask

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If you’ll be teaching more than one session in a school, you’ll probably have a planning meeting with the teachers you’ll be working with. The principal may attend too. Below are 11 questions you should definitely ask. These aren’t necessarily in order of importance, so ask them all! The answers will help you successfully launch your classes.

1. How big is the room where I’ll be teaching? What else is this room used for?

You want to make sure they’re not putting you in an unused classroom that’s full of desks. If it’s a room that’s used for other activities, you want to make sure your drums will be safe when you’re not there. Ask if you can see the room after the meeting ends.

2. Are there any adjacent classrooms?

If a school plans to put you in a room with an adjacent classroom, make sure they understand how loud taiko can be.

3. Is there secure storage? Can I see it?

Note, secure doesn’t HAVE to mean locked. In many schools, the stage in the cafeteria is a very low-traffic area and a safe place to store drums.

4. What time does the school day start and end?

Most school parking lots are bedlam during drop-off and pick-up (about 10 minutes before and after beginning and end of the school day). Do yourself a favor by avoiding these times.

5. Are there English Language Learners in the classes?

As taiko teachers, we’re lucky that kids can succeed in our classes without understanding every single word we say. Still, I find it’s helpful to know if there are a lot of ELL students so I can be sure to physically demonstrate a lot and talk as little as possible.

6. Are there special needs students in the classes? If so, what accommodations do they need?

Make sure you can provide these accommodations and be up front if you can’t. It’s a good idea for students with sound sensitivities to wear their headphones to class.

7. How many students are there in each class?

I’ve had 23-32 students in a class, which translates to enormously different equipment and space needs.

8. How much in-school music instruction have the students had before now?

I’ve had answers ranging from “none” to “multiple years,” which greatly affects my lesson planning.

9. Will the classroom teachers be staying in the room with me and their students? If so, will they be participating?

If you’re not certified, the classroom teacher will usually stay in the room with you, but not always. Even if they stay in the room, they may take advantage of the opportunity to catch up with grading or other tasks. It’s important to know the school’s expectation is of their teachers.

10. Are any of the following scheduled during the residency: fire drills, field trips, assemblies, or other special programs that might affect the schedule?

Schools schedule these kinds of things months in advance, but often don’t think to mention them to a teaching artist. It’s up to you to ask!

11. Do you have a method you use in your classroom for student participation or behavior?

Some teachers use popsicle sticks with student names on them to promote participation, or marbles in a jar as a behavior incentive, or other classroom management techniques. It’s useful to know these beforehand so you can fold them into your classroom management. (See this post for more detail.)

If you have questions or need advice on planning a successful taiko education program, drop me a line. I can help. Happy teaching!

Teaching K-3 students to solo

Creating patterns

Creating patterns

Soloing can intimidating. It’s a tough skill that draws on multiple competencies; acute awareness of the pulse, a large “beat vocabulary,” confidence, and more.

Soloing can be taught, but students get overwhelmed if you try to do it all at once. My method of introducing soloing to younger students breaks the skill into bite-sized pieces learned over several weeks. It’s one thing I do in class over those 4 weeks, rather than the only thing we work on. With students this age I let them create and play duets if they want, which is less high stakes and cultivates confidence.

Here’s my method:

Week 1

  1. Teach kuchishoka using the Squirrel Village story.

Fill the boxes with one  kuchishoka  each.

Fill the boxes with one kuchishoka each.

Week 2

  1. Remind students of the squirrel rhythm pattern from the story. Have them play it on their laps. Point out that the number of syllables they’re saying corresponds to what they’re playing.

  2. Draw a horizontal rectangle on the board. Divide it into 4 equal boxes.

  3. Choose 4 kids. Have each say don or doko. Write the words they say on the board, one per box.

  4. Lead the class through clapping the pattern their classmates created.

  5. Have students move to drums.

  6. Lead students in playing the pattern on the drums.

  7. Repeat steps 3, 4, and 6 two or three times.

  8. Introduce su. (It’s in the squirrel rhythm, but they won’t have realized it.)

  9. Repeat steps 3, 4, and 6 several more times, adding su into the mix.

Week 3
(Ask teachers to bring individual whiteboards, markers, and erasers to class.)

  1. Do steps 3, 4, and 6 from last week to activate their prior learning.

  2. Give 2-3 minutes for students to create a 4-beat rhythm pattern on their own whiteboard, drawing boxes and writing words inside them (the way they’ve been doing it as a class). Allow them to work in pairs with their drum partner or own their own.

  3. Have students say and clap their individual patterns all at the same time.

  4. Have students play their individual patterns on the drums all at the same time.

  5. Have students leave their whiteboards and rotate to a new drum.

  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 at the new drum.

  7. Rotate and repeat for up to 20 minutes.

Week 4
(Ask teachers to bring whiteboards again.)

  1. Have students make up their own patterns individually or in pairs.

  2. Have students play their patterns all together.

  3. Have students play patterns one at a time. You need to conduct this. I count in the whole group, then make friendly eye contact with a student when it’s their turn to play and mark their 4-beats with my hand. The first time around is rocky, but the second time goes fine.

At the end of Week 4, each kid or pair has a short solo ready to plug into a song. Have them play it twice if you need a longer one. Be sure to email your classroom teachers before Weeks 3 and 4 to ask them to bring their individual whiteboards to class (I have yet to run into a class that doesn’t have a set).

If you try this approach, let me know! I’d love to hear how it goes. Happy teaching!

Introducing a jiuchi: 4th and 5th grade

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The hardest part about teaching by yourself is holding the jiuchi. If you play it, students will try to copy you; if you don’t play it, then the group as a whole will have trouble staying on the same pulse.

Below is my method for introducing a jiuchi to 4th and 5th graders (here’s the post about doing this with younger students). The alphabet/ostinato activity is from my original Orff training, and I developed the taiko extension.

This activity takes 20-30 minutes, longer if you have to do Step 9. The three parts are written out here for reference.

  1. Teach the alphabet body percussion exercise described here.

  2. Point out that you have two elements going: a melody and an ostinato.
    NOTE: “melody” isn’t exactly the right word, since clapping isn’t pitched, but it’s close, and it’s a word they’re likely to recognize, so I go with it.

  3. Have students do the alphabet body percussion with the ostinato again.

  4. There is a 99.9999% chance that they will speed up. Point out that they did. (If they didn’t, congratulate them on that, and say that groups usually do.)

  5. Define tempo. Discuss how faster isn’t always better, and that what you’re usually going for in music is a steady tempo and a shared pulse.

  6. Explain that in taiko, we use a jiuchi to help keep a steady tempo and shared pulse and that this rhythm pattern usually happens on a shime.

  7. Demonstrate the pulse for the body percussion exercise they just did.

  8. Have them do the exercise again using body percussion while you play a jiuchi on a shime.

  9. If students haven’t yet played drums in your class yet, spend some time describing how to play the drum safely, respectfully, and musically.

  10. Have students transfer the body percussion to the drums as outlined in the pdf.

In my experience most 4th and 5th graders do well with this method. A few get confused, but they usually figure it out by watching their classmates. Notice, there’s more talking/explaining with students this age than with younger kids.

Let me know if you try this method and how it works for you. Happy teaching!

Introducing a jiuchi: K-3

A big challenge when teaching by yourself is the jiuchi. If you play it, many students will copy you rather than playing their part; if you don’t play it, then the group as a whole will have trouble staying on the same pulse.

I’ve developed two methods for introducing the jiuchi, teaching students how to pay attention to it without copying it exactly. The method varies from K-3 to 4th/5th; here’s how I do it with the little ones.

  1. Introduce a Play 4 Step 4 pattern.

  2. Gradually build in more Play 4 Step 4 patterns until they can do 4-5 in a row.

  3. Have them to do Play 4 Step 4 the whole way around (i.e., each student plays every drum and winds up back at their original drum).

  4. Introduce bachi (covered in a later post).

  5. Repeat steps 1-3 with bachi.

  6. Gradually introduce jiuchi.

Basically, I play in unison with them for several rounds of a simple pattern they’re comfortable with, and then phase in the jiuchi. When they stop, I ask them if I was playing the same thing as them the whole time. Most of them have noticed that I wasn’t (but stayed with their pattern even when I switched).

This takes place in Week 2, and I return to it in Week 4. With those two introductions, students usually have the understanding they need to listen to and be on beat with the jiuchi without copying it exactly.

Send me an email if you have questions, and happy teaching!

Taiko Games: Read My Mind

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I first encountered this game in my Orff training and adapted it for taiko. It’s an excellent way to review songs, but can also be adapted to give students low-risk practice in making up 8-beat rhythm patterns. It’s great for students in grades 1-5 (roughly ages 6-11). Adults and playful high schoolers can have fun with it too, but it’s not a good fit for the middle school set (roughly ages 12-14).

The set-up

Choose a piece of a song you’re working on in class, but don’t tell the students what it is. For example, if your students are learning Matsuri, choose a line from that song (i.e., don don don kara ka ka).

Ask the students if any of them can read minds. (A few will raise their hands.) Tell them you’re thinking of a part of a taiko song and you want to see if they can read your mind. For beginning or younger students (1st-3rd grade), tell them which song. For more advanced or older students (4th grade and older), don’t tell them which song. For all ages, DO tell them how many beats long the part is.

How to play

  1. Arrange the taiko in a circle so all students can see each other. Include a shime.

  2. Teacher begins playing a jiuchi on the shime.The students begin playing phrases, trying to guess what phrase the Teacher is thinking of.

  3. When a student plays the phrase the Teacher is thinking of, Teacher says “1 person is reading my mind!”

  4. The other students then use deductive reasoning to figure out who’s “reading the Teacher’s mind.”

  5. As more and more kids figure out the correct pattern, the Teacher keeps giving updates. “Now 2 people are reading my mind! Now 3!”

The game continues until everyone is “reading the Teacher’s mind.”


  1. Instead of a phrase from a song, think of an original 8-beat rhythm pattern and see if any of the students can figure it out. (Sometimes I start a round with no particular pattern in mind. When a kid plays one I like, I decide that’s the one.)

  2. Let a student lead this activity. Advanced/older students can try playing shime while they have their mind read.

  3. If your kids need to get some wiggles out, play this as a movement game. You play a song or rhythmically regular pattern on the taiko and think of a SIMPLE movement that could be used to show the pulse of that pattern. (Tapping head, patting knees, jumping jacks, the floss, etc.) The class tries to figure out that movement.

Try this in your class next time you’re working on a new song and the students need a brain break. It gives them a rest AND reinforces the patterns. Happy teaching!

Another Song for Beginners: Sanae Swing

Many beginning students have trouble feeling a swing jiuchi. This is especially true for new players who don’t have music or dance training before coming to taiko. I created Sanae Swing as an entry-level piece to help these players build facility with swing ji and with creating and playing solos.

Structurally, the song is very simple. It’s just an Intro/Outro pattern, a tag, and places for players to plug in solos (or duets, if they’re not comfortable soloing yet). The kuchishoka deck is a great tool for students who are new to creating solos. I highly recommend printing one (or more) and using it (them)!

The video above shows our community class playing a short arrangement of Sanae Swing. They opted for duets rather than solos and used the kuchishoka decks to create them. The kuchishoka and western notation are here. If you teach this song, please post video and let me know! I’d love to see where people go with it.

Happy teaching!

Introducing New Songs: Method 1

There are a lot of ways to teach new songs to your students. Kristin and I have different “go-to” methods we rely on. This week I’m writing about mine; in a future post, she’ll introduce hers.

My method is adapted from my Orff training. Under the Orff method, students learn music much the way humans learn language - through listening, repeating, getting it wrong at first, learning from mistakes, and repeating the process until they’ve got it. It’s active learning that, over the long haul, builds real ownership of the material and a capacity for creative risk-taking. It’s a great way to teach kids and adults and it’s a great way to teach taiko.

The steps are below. I usually stop between steps and take questions, or if I see people struggling in a way that indicates lack of understanding. I don’t usually stop for struggling that reflects the normal effort of memorizing a new pattern.

The video on the right shows all of the steps. It’s just under 3 minutes long, but the full process takes 10-20 minutes, depending on how long a phrase you’re teaching and how quickly your class learns.

1. Introduce the full phrase while tapping on your body.

Use whatever phrasing is natural in the song you’re teaching. In the video, it’s 4 measures, which I find to be a good length. Tap your shoulders and legs to show where the pulse of the phrase is.

In the video, I’m teaching the tag from Sanae Swing, one of my beginner songs. Note that I tell the students what I’m going to do before I do it. This kind of signposting is helpful for most types of learners.

2. Break the full phrase into smaller sections and echo teach them.

Get students copying you on the body tapping. Then say “First me” and say a small section of the phrase. After you finish, say “Now you.” Students say that same section back to you. Keep tapping the entire time.

They will not get it right the first time - they’re not supposed to! They’re supposed to do their best. Don’t stop when they make mistakes. Just say “First me” again, repeat the section, and say “Now you” for them to echo again. Keep this up until about ⅔ of them are getting it right about ⅔ of the time (the ⅔ ⅔ rule).

3. Keep adding small sections until you’ve introduced the entire phrase.

Once you hit the ⅔ ⅔ mark on the first section, add the second. This time, DON’T signpost. Just do it. In the video, I add a third section because the class had gotten to ⅔ ⅔ on the first two sections.

I can’t say it enough: don’t wait for everyone to have it perfect before you add the next section. You have to allow for things to be imperfect in this process; imperfection is a natural step in learning. Aim for ⅔ ⅔ and then add on.

4. Show sticking.

Once you’ve introduced all sections and hit ⅔ ⅔ on the full phrase, teach the sticking. Either turn your back to students when you do this or mirror the sticking if you’re facing them (i.e., use your left hand for right hand hits) so highly visual learners don’t get confused.

Change to a count of “ichi ni so-re” to start rather than First me/Now you. It prepares students for the next step.

As you did with the echoing, go over the sticking for one section several times. Add on the next section when you hit ⅔ ⅔. Keep that up until you’ve taught all of the sticking.

5. Build the phrase by sections on the drums.

Have students go to their taiko. Add the jiuchi. Build up the full phrase by sections, as you did with the echo teaching and sticking. Count in by “ichi ni so-re.” Add a new section when you hit ⅔ ⅔. In the video, the class is working on sections 1 and 2.

If you follow these steps, by the time you’ve built up the whole pattern on the drums, students have said, played, or air-bachied (that’s a word, look it up) the phrase 30-50 times. This is enough repetition for many students to have memorized it. Note, we don’t touch drums until Step 5.

This method is harder for visual learners. For this reason, I encourage students to write down what they’ve learned when we take a break and check it with me to make sure they’ve got it right. I don’t let them read from this paper as we play, however. Visual learners CAN succeed with this method, it just takes a little more time and a little more support from the teacher during breaks.

If you use this method, let me know. I’d love to hear how it works for you. Happy teaching!

Basic Beats: Three drills for beginners

When players are first starting out, they need drills with simple patterns. The video on the right features three drills I created to help students practice basic beats (don, doko, ka, kara, tsu, and tsuku). These drills work for both kids and adults.

It’s important to get people vocalizing from the get-go, to prepare them for kiai later on. I also like to get people playing both right and left hand lead from the very first class.

The drills are written out here (in kuchishoka and western notation, thanks once again to Kristin). I don’t recommend giving written materials to students before introducing a drill or song, because it reinforces learning through intellect rather than learning through experience. But giving written materials AFTER introducing a drill or song is great! It helps students practice patterns correctly and can be critical to the success of your visual learners.

Happy teaching!

P.S. A shout out to my current community class students, who are demonstrating the drills in the video!

Practicing Kuchishoka: Kuchishoka Cards

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When they’re first learning, students need steady practice with kuchishoka to build fluency. The more fun that practice is, the more likely they are to fully engage with it, which results in better understanding, which makes the practice more fun, making them more likely to engage fully, which results in better understanding, which makes it more fun, making them more likely to engage...you get the idea.

My wonderful life and business partner Kristin helped me create this set of kuchishoka cards, and below are 2 games that use the cards. The cards incorporate western notation and Japanese lettering, allowing for easy and natural connections to general music classes and lessons on Japanese language and culture. There are lots of ways to use these in support of your state and national standards while also building skills for taiko.

Students love these games! They’re good for kids ages 7 and up - even adults get into them. Download and print the deck and try these out. The composition extension is a fun challenge for more advanced students. Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

Kuchishoka Karuta

I first encountered Karuta in my Japanese language classes, where teachers used it as a way of practicing hiragana and katakana. For Kuchishoka Karuta, the teacher breaks students into groups of 2-3 and gives each group one set of kuchishoka cards. Students sit on the floor and spread the full deck of cards face up on the floor in between them. The teacher plays a single note and students look for the card with that note. When they find it, they slap it. Whoever slaps it first gets to keep it.

For example, if you play don, students search for a don card. When they find one, they slap their hand down on it. The deck has multiples of each card, so it’s possible for everyone playing to wind up with a card. You can make it harder by removing duplicates, or make the game last longer by giving each group two sets of cards.

Continue until all cards have been picked up.

Composition Extension: Guide students in creating a short pattern using the cards they won during the game. Have students rotate to other groups and try playing the patterns other students created. If time allows, have the class work together to put all patterns together into a song.

Kuchishoka Go Fish

Just like regular Go Fish, the goal is to make a book (a complete set) of a type of note (i.e., all of the don, all of the doko, etc.)

Divide students into pairs and give each pair a deck of kuchishoka cards. Students deal out 2 hands of 7 cards each, with the remaining cards going face down in a pile in the middle. Students play Rock, Paper, Scissors to see who goes first.

The first student plays a note on their drum of a card they’re seeking. They must have at least one of that type of card in their hand to ask for it. For example, if Michelle has two don and wants to know if her partner Mia has any, she plays a don on her drum. If Mia has any don cards, she gives those cards to Michelle. If Mia doesn’t have any don, she says “Go fish!” and Michelle draws the top card from the pile. If she draws a “don,” she gets to go again. If she doesn’t, it becomes Mia’s turn to ask.

Once a student has collected all of the cards of one type, they put those cards together in a small pile face up in front of them.

The game continues until all cards have been collected into books.

You can play the game in groups of 3 as well; in that case, only deal out 4 cards to each student.


Kuchishoka Cards (PDF)

Want to discuss how to incorporate these in your classroom or integrate lessons with your state/national standards? I can help! Email me to set up a video or in-person session.

Interested in ordering the fancy version of Kuchishoka Cards (seen in the picture with this post) for yourself or your classroom? They’re available at our South Bay Beat Institute Store.