Thursday, November 15, 2018

Jan Ken Pon Yo

In Japan, there are epic battles that have played out for centuries. Yes, you guessed it, Janken or "Hand Games".  In the US we call this game Rock, Paper, Scissors.  I use Rock, Paper, Scissors as a way to determine partners, and as a way to determine who plays what instrument. My students are allowed to choose Orff instruments when we use them - and so I call small groups of students and if two students go the same instrument at one time they immediately go into "Rock, Paper, Scissors" mode and that determines who plays what.  It is a random determiner and the children never fuss about who won as it is solely by chance! Win win!

This is a great song for mixed meter.  The body percussion is something my students helped me to create as when I first taught this I had a class that struggled with the feeling of 2 vs 3 so we quickly devised some body percussion patterns to reinforce that feeling. It stuck! Once the song is learned, students can play the game:
Class stands in a designated area, each facing a partner.
Sing song, performing body percussion. At end of song, students tap one hand in a fist onto the other hands open palm on "one, two, three, four" and on "five" they reveal rock, paper, or scissors.
Those who win stay in the designated area and find a new partner, all others circle around them. Everyone sings again, performs the game with new partners, winning partners remain to find new partners, etc. until there is one winner. My students beg to play this game and it is a great one when you need a quick 3-4 minute activity or brain break.
You can also add the extension activity with the cards below.  Print out enough for small groups to create rhythmic B sections in triple or duple meter (or both!) and have some fun with having students create the corresponding hand signs as an added challenge. Transfer to unpitched percussion-  it works out nicely as there are 4 cards to go with the 4 timbre groups of metals, skins, shakers, and woods!
This song and game makes a great addition to a unit on Japanese music.



  1. Thanks so much for sharing these wonderful,fabulous contents.

  2. I used this today as a fun introduction to mixed meter with my upper elementary students, and I segued into a piece by Akeboshi, a Japanese folk-pop singer, called Wind. It's the theme song to the popular anime Naruto, which my kids are obsessed with. What a great, accidental tie-in! Thanks for posting this!


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