the squiggle

Children’s Literature Lesson: The Squiggle

Head Voice and Pathways and Shapes, Oh, My! Mileage from The Squiggle

The Squiggle by Carole Lexa Schaefer (ISBN-10: 9780517885796) is a charming little book about a child who finds “a squiggle” (string?) on the ground as she and her class are walking in a “bunched up, slow, tight, straight line.” As children do, she gets off track, picks up “The Squiggle”, and proceeds to use her imagination to create all sorts of wonderful items, such as a Dragon, the Great Wall of China, and other works of art….all with a piece of string.

When first glancing through the illustrations of “The Squiggle”, one who has an Orff Schulwerk background might instantly think about pathways. However, there are other means to incorporate this story to meet objectives for the kindergarten/first grade classes that also involve vocalization and inventive statue activities.

Kindergarten/First Grade Objectives

1. Vocalization/head voice

2. Pathways

3. Creative Movement with partners/groups in statues

4. Demonstrating musical opposites/elements with movement

Read the story to the students, and then pick one or all of the following activities:


Display the attached PowerPoint. For each slide that says “Use Your Voice”, trace the design with your finger and ask the students to follow it with their voices.

Questions for higher level thinking:

* Where do you think your voice will be in your head voice?

* Does it start high or low?

* Where is the highest your voice will be?

* The lowest?

Your own Squiggle!

Divide the students into pairs. (For this, I usually give half the students Mardi Gras bead strands and ask them to find a non-beaded friend or I use partner cards.) Each student will get a red strand of yarn that is their “squiggle”. Students will take turns: one as the person who forms his/her “squiggle” into a pattern. This first student will serve as conductor and trace the path of the squiggle. The second partner will vocalize the path. The students switch and take several turns. You may choose to use an instrument signal to help them determine when to switch turns. 

the squiggle


Using the Power Point slides that say “Now draw the path with your feet.” Tell the students to pretend they have paint on their feet. Their job is to use their feet to leave paint prints in the design that is shown on the board.

  • Select a recording that is either made for freeze dancing or one you can pause. (Eric Chappelle’s various “Potpourri” arrangements in his Music for Creative Movement CDs are great for this). Once they hear music, the students should move in the pathway design of the first slide shown. When the music stops, they freeze. Advance to the next slide. When the music starts, the students make a pathway using the next design, etc.

Here is an example of my students doing pathways from the lesson.

Squiggle movement

Recording: “Forrest Gump Suite”, Alan Silvestri. From the “Forrest Gump” soundtrack by Epic.

The students will stay with their partners to create statues of the items/objects mentioned in the story. The students should be directed to consider the following:

* They must join together to create their statue, but they can also join another group.

*  They need to show any opposite changes in the music (high/low, fast/slow, loud/soft)

*  They need to follow your normal classroom movement safety rules.

* Point out various movement terms/Laban action words you use in class.

(Locomotor/nonlocomotor, levels, implied, etc.) You might want to display action words on your Smartboard. I have action words hanging up in my room.

Begin the recording and call out an item that was represented in the story. Allow plenty of time for each group to make creations before moving on to the next one.

Here is a video example of my students making their creations.

Although I have not utilized this book for my older students, there are instrumental possibilities to be had here by using barred and unpitched percussion to represent the various items from the young lady’s imagination. Another idea is to use listening/movement examples to represent these items. I have a playlist on Spotify of recordings I have collected for a future movement project for older students.

The book is charming. My students enjoyed it and the activities a great deal. If I had to select their favorite activity, it would actually be using the yarn. Maybe because they got to take their own Squiggle home?

Karen Stafford

Karen Stafford is an elementary music specialist and adjunct professor from Union, Missouri, currently working on her dissertation for her Ph.D. through the University of Kansas. She has all three levels of Orff Schulwerk, Masters level, and Level One Kodaly. Her professional affiliations include NAfME, the American Orff-Schulwerk Association (movement and recorder instructor and member of the AOSA advocacy subcommittee), The Organization for American Kodaly Educators, The American Recorder Society, and The National Education Association. Karen has presented clinics and workshops at the local, state, and national levels and has had several articles published in the Orff Echo.

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  1. Karen Petty on February 14, 2019 at 8:36 am

    Thanks, Karen! Love all the ideas and the literature connection.

    • Karen Stafford on February 14, 2019 at 7:01 pm

      Thanks! I especially love when they create the objects thru movement.

  2. Susan Young on February 14, 2019 at 12:08 pm

    Wonderful ideas, Karen! Thank you for bringing this resource to life!

    • KarenStafford on February 14, 2019 at 7:02 pm

      You’re welcome! I love it.

  3. Felisa Magee McCullum on February 18, 2019 at 1:00 pm

    Love this….so very creative!

  4. Lisa Mandelstein on February 19, 2019 at 11:27 am

    Karen – I’ve loved this book and used it as well! Thanks for all your great ideas. I want to share that I’ve also had students use ribbon wands (like Chinese ribbon sticks) to move to traditional Chinese music:
    – they can show melodic line, beat, dynamics through the shape of their ribbon movement.
    – play ‘follow-the-leader’ where all try to follow the ribbon movements of one student; or mirroring in partners
    – move without the ribbon sticks, imagining different body parts as the ribbon – both arms, just left leg, shoulders, etc.

  5. Heidi Stathus on March 13, 2020 at 8:20 am

    I have this book and have used the yarn activity for a few years now with Kindergarten students who love it, Would love to hear more about your future movement project for older students!

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