Educational Blog: The Thinking Cat

Programming for early childhood and elementary students and teachers

Hello there!

My name is Megan Masterman AKA the “mew-sician” behind the “Thinking Cat” mask. I currently work at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, creating programming for Early Childhood and Elementary students and teachers. Before joining the ISO, I taught K-8 Music and Creative Drama for five years. I also have lots of experience with students in Pre-K.

I believe that instruction in the Fine Arts is essential. If we want to foster the growth of well-rounded students that are prepared for success, we cannot deem the Fine Arts as optional.

I am here to encourage you to keep being the “paw-some” teachers that you are, and to share some of ideas that worked “purr-fectly” in my classroom experiences. I love hearing your ideas too! Every class is unique, and I want to help you find easy ways to incorporate the arts in your classrooms! Please feel free to leave ‘paw-sitive” comments and ask great questions on the full blog!

Go to the Blog



Are you hoping to include musical instruments in your preschool classroom, but too afraid that it will turn into a noisy mess? Here are some ideas to help you:

Set The Environment

Communicate to students that the instruments are special and exciting! These are not just your regular toys – these are real instruments, and they have to be treated with extra care. Model this for them – show them how to gently pick up and put down the instrument, and show them how to play the instrument correctly. Instruments are exciting, but students must focus their energy so they can make the best sounds. When they are hard on the instruments, they don’t make the best sound…and students in your class make the nicest instrument sounds around.

Give Positive Guidelines and Redirections

As in other situations, it is easier for a student to follow a specific, positive reminder rather than a general, negative command. Keep your eyes out for students who are doing a great job and be sure to reinforce their behavior. If students are being too rough or making bad choices, first remind them of the environment that you created and that they are playing a real instrument. If their behavior doesn’t improve, feel free to take the instrument away until those students can demonstrate they are calm and focused (like good musicians). These students don’t necessarily need to be removed completely from an activity, but they can only  tap along on the floor or their knees until they show you they are ready for an instrument.

Set Up An Instrument Playing Routine

Just like all other activities, it takes time and planning to train your students how to behave around musical instruments. You will be much more successful if you establish a routine and expectations before you go handing out lots of “noise makers” in your classroom. It is easiest if you introduce the idea without instruments the first few times, then gradually add the instruments in.


Here is an example:

Step One

Have students sit in one big circle. Teach them “Silent Position” – arms across their upper bodies with fingers touching their shoulders like a mummy. Then teach them “Ready Position” – fists on their knees. Finally, teach them “Playing Position” – patting their hands on their knees. Practice these 3 things several times over the course of 3-4 minutes. You can make a game by trying to “trick them” when you call out the positions. You can practice patting to the steady beat of a short song to keep it interesting. You can also pat on different parts of your body (head, toes, back, tummy, shoulders, floor, etc.)

Silent Position
Ready Position
Playing Position

Step Two

Review the positions. You can choose a “Student Conductor” to call out the positions as you practice.Then sing a song or say a rhyme and have students pat their knees to the steady beat/pulse of the music/rhyme. (Silent Position, Ready Position – now pat as we sing.)

Example Rhyme (the steady beat pats happen on the underlined words)

Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down
And broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after.

Remember you can also practice patting to the steady beat of a short song to keep it interesting. You can also pat on different parts of your body (head, toes, back, tummy, shoulders, floor, etc.)

Step Three

Review the positions (you can choose a “Student Conductor” again, or have students turn to a neighbor and remind/teach them..really anything that keeps it interesting). Then sing a song and have students pat their knees to the steady beat. (Silent Position, Ready Position – now pat as we sing.) Then choose 1-5 students that did a great job to be your “Instrument Players.” Have students assume “Silent Position,” and place an instrument on the floor in front of your 1-5 students. As you sing the song, only those 5 will play the instruments while the rest of the students continue to pat. When you are finished, everyone goes back to Silent Position, and the students with instruments (or teacher) GENTLY place their instruments on the floor in front of  someone who has not had a turn yet (“If you haven’t had a turn and would like to play, raise one hand and keep the other in silent position – everyone else should be in silent position”). If this seems like it is going to take a long time, you can give them a certain number of seconds (10-15)  to complete the task and have the students in  circle help you count down.

Feel free to repeat the 3rd step as many times as you like if it is effective in your classroom. Remember you can also practice patting to the steady beat of a short song to keep it interesting. You can also pat on different parts of your body (head, toes, back, tummy, shoulders, floor, etc.)

Step Four

This step is the same as the rest, except you can now give instruments to as many students as you like! Remember: they shouldn’t actually pick up the instrument until you say “Ready Position.”

Examples of Rhymes/Songs to use:

  • Hickory Dickory Dock
  • Two Little Black Birds
  • Humpty Dumpty
  • Baa Baa Black Sheep
  • Bye, Baby Bunting
  • Jack and Jill

Each Pre-K classroom is unique, so feel free to adjust these suggestions to best fit your students. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, please feel free to comment on the blog!

Go to Full Blog

Teacher Resources

Go back to more teacher resources

More Info