Elementary Music, Folk songs, Games

How to Play Pass the Pumpkin Halloween Singing Game

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Looking for a not-so-spooky Halloween song that your kids will love? I’ve got you covered! Pass the Pumpkin is a fun singing game to practice quarter notes, eighth notes, and rest or songs in a minor key. It’s perfect for October, but it’s not specifically “Halloween”, so if you are trying not to be overtly “Halloween”, you can still use it.

Based on the concepts, this song is geared towards the younger students, but my students are so obsessed with this song that we do it all the way through fifth grade (at their request!). 

By the end of this blog post, you’ll have ideas for using Pass the Pumpkin with a variety of grade levels.

If you want to make this lesson even easier, then you may want to purchase the lesson pack to go along with it. This includes Google Slides and printable worksheets to teach the song, practice rhythm and beat, and teach the game– plus instrument options!

Click here to purchase!

Pass the Pumpkin Singing Game

Click here to download the sheet music free.

  • Students sit in a circle and pass the pumpkin (or a ball of orange paper) to the beat
  • Whoever it lands on is out!

Yup, it’s that simple! 

I typically play the piano with the melody in the right hand and the chords in the left (it’s just I, IV, and V). 

Using Pass the Pumpkin for Younger Students

When I use this song with K-1, we focus on steady beat, and beat versus rhythm. We’ll keep the beat in all different parts of our bodies before we play the game. When we play, we focus on the steady beat. 

Then we’ll practice tapping, reading, and playing the rhythm instead. There are slides in the lesson pack that outline exactly how to introduce rhythm to help you!

PS– the purple boxes are editable, so you can change it to whatever you’re calling the rhythms!

Pass the Pumpkin for Middle Grades Students

With second and third grade, we use Pass the Pumpkin to play instruments. We use the arrangement in the Pass the Pumpkin lesson pack.

The kids split into 3 groups. One group plays the rhythm on lines 1 and 2 on rhythm sticks. One groups plays the chimes (rain sticks would also work) on line 3, and the last line has sticks and then the final group on cow bells or any loud instrument. 

They get 1-2 chances, then we rotate groups, so that they get a chance to play all of the instruments.

Pass the Pumpkin for Upper Students

With the older kids, we work on minor keys and playing this on the glockenspiels. I have the glockenspiels that look like a piano keyboard (they have both the white and black keys), so this is usually our introduction to accidentals as well. 

If you don’t have those, just transpose to A minor. 

If playing in the original key, we focus on the first line- DFDFDFA x2.

We’ve also used this to have students create accompaniment! After we learned it on the glockenspiels or xylophones, the kids split into groups. The Orff instrument group plays the first 2 lines. Then the kids picked the instruments and what to play on lines three and four. They loved being able to choose their own adventure, and I enjoyed that it was different than I would have done. 

We played, and then swapped to a new group so that everyone coils play everything. 

You could also do this in groups, although it has the potential to get loud. We decided whole group what we would do, then the class did that arrangement.

You could use the arrangement above, but change out the sticks for the melody on xylophones. (DFDFDFA, DFDFDFA)

graphic that says halloween singing game from a blog post about using pass the pumkin with every grade level from becca's music room

One More Option….

PS One way to add some music reading to this is to have the student who is “out” come to the front and pull out a flashcard to read. This works with any rhythmic or melodic concept. I have a cauldron, so the student to is it comes to the front, pulls a card, reads it, and then goes back to the game. 

However you use Pass the Pumpkin, it’s bound to be your students’ new favorite Halloween singing game. I had 5th graders asking to play this in April and May! It’s simple, but it’s FUN. Use it to teach a concept or just have fun. 

Don’t forget to grab your Pass the Pumpkin lesson pack to help you teach this fun Halloween singing game without stressing (because we know you have PLENTY to do in October! It’s always such a crazy month.)

Click here to purchase!

Need more Halloween lessons? Check out Halloween folk songs here or favorite Halloween lessons here. 

Happy teaching! 


graphic that says how to use pass the pumpkin with every grade from a blog post about using pass the pumkin with every grade level from becca's music room
graphic that says fall singing game for elementary music from a blog post about using pass the pumkin with every grade level from becca's music room
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