Rig-A-Jig-Jig: Word Choice

Author: Loretta Walker
Year: 2015
Artform: Music
Subjects: Language Arts
Grade: 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade & Kindergarten
Duration: 10 - 20 minutes

Sing and play the singing game, Rig-a-Jig-Jig. Tweak the game to explore the nuances of related of verbs. A student favorite all the way through the upper grades if presented in a developmentally appropriate way.


  • Whiteboard or document camera
  • Prefer 2 colors for writing



Download PDF Lesson Plan

Standards & Objectives

Fine Art Standards
Integrated Standards


  • Natural voice free from strain
  • Use the voice to characterize text


Shades of meaning

Explore and demonstrate shades of meaning of various verbs through singing and movement.

Teaching and Timeline


Students may be seated at desks or on the floor in any configuration. There needs to be space in the room to move. After learning the song, older students will be able to learn the game simply by having the teacher model playing the full game with them.

Sing the song (or play the recording) for the students. Ask students to summarize the story the song is telling (i.e. I am walking down the street, I unexpectedly meet a friend, and we continue down the street together). Clarify words the students may not know, such as “chanced.”

I usually change the words “a pretty girl I chanced to meet” to “a friend of mine I chanced to meet.”

As you repeat the song or phrases of the song in the course of this discussion, invite the children to sing along with you as soon as they are comfortable doing so.


Once children know the song, introduce the singing game, showing the movements while everyone sings the song. Older children may be able to learn two or three of the following steps at once or skip directly to learning the full game.

  1. “As I was walking down the street…” teacher walks in place or in a small area.
  2. “A friend of mine I chanced to meet…” teacher waves at students. Continue waving through “Heigh, ho” section.
  3. “A rig-a-jig-jig” teacher does a motion a little like “The Twist” dance in place, with elbows at waist level.
  4. “And away we go, away we go, away we go” teacher skips in place
  5. “A rig-a-jig-jig” teacher repeats “Twist” motion.
  6. “And away we go…” to end. Teacher skips in place.

Have students do these actions in place with you while singing the song. They will remember the lyrics much better if they perform the movements while they sing.


Next, demonstrate the full game. Using the same phrase segments listed above, use the full actions of the singing game. Be sure students sing with you in a natural, unstrained singing voice while you demonstrate.

  1. “As I was walking down the street…” teacher walks among students.
  2. “A friend of mine I chanced to meet…” teacher shakes hands with a student. Continue shaking hands through “Heigh, ho” section.
  3. “A rig-a-jig-jig” teacher keeps holding student’s right hand while also grasping student’s left hand. Arms will cross and make an X. See-saw hands back and forth as if in a sawing motion. The more energetic it is, the more fun it is.
  4. “And away we go, away we go, away we go” teacher and student skip, with hands still joined, anywhere in the room.
  5. “A rig-a-jig-jig” teacher and student stop their feet and repeat hand motion.
  6. “And away we go…” to end. Teacher and student resume skipping about the room until the song stops.
  7. Teacher and student drop hands. The next time the song is sung each one completes the steps above, choosing a new partner for a total of four players. The number of participants doubles each time.
  8. On the last verse, if there is not the correct number of students for partners to come out even, pause the song just before “A rig-a-jig-jig” and make sure everyone has a partner before finishing the game.
  9. When the last verse if over, invite students to “rig-a-jig-jig” back to their seats.

Work Period

After completing the game once, write “walking” on the board. Explain that it gets pretty boring for a teacher to read story after story written by students when they use the same word over and over, such as “walking.”

For younger students, have them think of other ways to get down the street, such as jumping, running, slithering, etc. and write them in a list on the board. For older students, have them think of descriptive words for different kinds of walking, such as strut, stride, scurry, limp, etc., and write them on the board.

Practice singing the song, using one of the words on the board instead of “walking.” While still using a good quality singing voice, sing the new word with a vocal style that matches the meaning of the word. Throughout the subsequent game, use vocal styles that match the words being sung. Have plenty of fun with this.

With the list on the board, play the game several more times, pointing to a different word for students to use on each verse. On the first half of the song, any students who are already in the game need to move the way the word describes.

For younger children, on the second half of the game (“A rig-a-jig-jig) do the original moves.

If older students need more of a challenge, have them move with their partner in keeping with the descriptive word during the rig-a-jig-jig section, as well.


Play the game once again, if time allows. Review all the different words the class listed. It is most effective to have them both say and show the meaning of the word.

For a more in-depth exploration of the implications of word choice on meaning and inferences, discuss how the possible back story of the song might change if similar, but different, verbs are chosen. For example, if the person is strutting down the street, how might they feel and what might have happened to make them feel that way? What might the story be if they are limping? Sneaking? This could be used as a writing prompt.


This game provides students excellent opportunities to demonstrate the meanings of verbs that can often be more accurately shown than explained. In fact, showing the difference between a “strut” and a “stride” can be a challenge for many adults. Yet, knowing the difference between the two is important to comprehension, because that shade of meaning might make all the difference when interpreting text.


Does the exact word you use in a sentence really make a difference?


This game is accessible to almost all students.

It is an excellent tool for teaching nuanced meaning to ELLs.

Students with physical disabilities can perform the actions they are able to in place while partners come to them.

Students with social disabilities may need to have adult partners throughout the game.

Gifted and talented students can explore the limits of their vocabulary.


Prior to the advent of TV and video games, children often spent many hours with their friends, playing singing games such as this one.

  • Singing Voice
  • Singing Game
  • “Chance”


Observe students singing. Listen to be sure they are singing in an unstrained, natural voice.


Adjust assessment to ability, ranging from counting the number of people standing, to creating individual input-output charts.


Observe how students act while choosing or being chosen as a partner and during the game.


MANAGEMENT NOTE: Classroom management is very rarely an issue with this game if a few simple rules are strictly observed:

  1. Whenever the singing stops, partners drop hands and all body movement and voice sounds stop, also. Players may move only while singing.
  2. Quickly choose the closest partner as soon as the word “friend” is sung so the new partner gets a full turn.

Notation and/or recording of Rig-a-Jig-Jig, available from Utah State Board of Education Elementary Songbook

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