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!

Taiko Games: Taiko Tag

You can never have too many games! They can be a sanity-saving brain break (for students and teacher alike!) in longer classes, and closing class with a game is a great way to reward good behavior.

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I found Dance Tag when I was first looking for activities for taiko residencies and adapted it for my classes. I used it for years in Tucson and still use it today. It’s a huge hit with grades 1-4, and students never realize how much they’re reinforcing rhythm and pulse. If you have a mixed age group, older students will enjoy the musician role described under “Adaptations.” Try it in your next class and let me know how it goes!


  1. This is a dancing game, not a running game. If a student runs, they’re out.

  2. If a student peeks while the “Its” are being chosen, they’re out.

  3. (Optional): If the room you’re playing in is very large, designate a portion of it as out of bounds. If students go out of bounds, they’re out. (For example, if you’re playing on a full-size basketball court, restrict game play to one half of the court or less.)


  1. Have the students stand in a circle. The teacher stands in the middle of the circle.

  2. Once students are in a circle, have them turn to face the outside of the circle (so they can’t see the teacher). Then, have them close their eyes and put their hands over their eyes.

  3. The teacher chooses two students to be “It” by laying a hand on the chosen student’s shoulders. Only the teacher and these students know who’s been chosen.

  4. Once the “It” students have been chosen, the teacher moves outside the circle and tells students to open their eyes and spread out.

  5. The teacher begins playing a song on a taiko and students - including those chosen to be “It” - begin dancing to the song. They can move freely around the play space while they dance.

  6. Students who are “It” tag classmates while dancing. If a student gets tagged, they’re out, and they go sit down at the edge of the play space.

  7. The game continues until 4 students are still dancing - the 2 who were “It” and 2 students who haven’t been tagged. The 2 who weren’t tagged are the winners of that round!


  1. If you have a large group of kids or older students, have some act as musicians, joining the teacher in playing the song.

  2. When students get out, have them become musicians, playing taiko, narimono, clicking a pair of bachi, etc.

Introducing Kuchishoka to Kids

The power of the Orff method comes from the way it fires up imagination and encourages experience. For kids between the ages of 4-8, hearing a story that includes kuchishoka primes their minds to understand how syllables relate to drumming.

“The Squirrel Village” introduces Kindergarten through 3rd grade students to don and doko. Nearly every time I’ve told it, the students join me in chanting and playing their laps by the time I finish. That even happened in the video below, where I’m telling the story to a group of adults as part of a training! (Bonus points if you spot the math integration in the story.)

I recommend using this story with grades K-3. As with any storytelling, delivery is much more important than getting the text exactly right. Try this in your next kids’ class and let me know how it goes!

(And yes, the story requires great suspension of disbelief, which is easy for most students in this age range.)