Rain & Thunder!

RailsoilIt’s spring. That means no more snow, at least we hope not, here in New England. Enough already! But the rain’s a-coming, oh yeah.

One of my music students’ favorite activities is dramatizing a rain and thunder storm, using instruments, of course. My favorite instruments for this activity are rain sticks, drums and thunder tubes. More about these shortly.

I’ve used a couple of different songs for this activity, but my current favorite is a variation of the classic spiritual tune, “Train’s a-Comin’.” It’s a fun and very easy song to sing, readily adaptable to different topics. My Ohio-based colleague Joanie Calem offers another version, “Spring is A-Comin’.” You can see her video here:


The video will give you the tune to this song if you don’t know it.

This song is great for “zipping” in different lines/verses. Start with “Rain’s a comin’, oh yeah.” After that, you could ask the children what they need to bring if it’s going to rain that day. New verses might include: Bring your umbrella, oh yeah. And/Or: bring your raincoat, rain boots, rain hat.Scan 9

During these verses, ask children to keep their instruments quiet. Tell them it isn’t raining yet. For many young children, this requires enormous self-regulation (a big side benefit of group music class). Some can’t resist starting to tap their drums, rain sticks or thunder tubes, but urge them to try.

Finally, comes the moment when the rain sticks can play. I use the lines: “I hear a shower, oh yeah. Rain shower, oh yeah … “

After that comes thunder! “Rumble of the thunder, oh yeah!” Bring on the drums/thunder tubes! Sometimes we have someone flash the lights on and off to create a lightning effect. Very dramatic.

Occasionally, this activity can be overwhelming for children with sensory issues. I invite them to move away from the circle of instruments or cover their ears if necessary. It’s important to let children know it’s okay if they need to do that.

After the thunder verse, it’s time for the storm to pass. Here are possible lines:

Storm is a-passing, oh yeah.

See the rainbow, oh yeah. (Perhaps add a rainbow streamer or two.)

Here comes the sunshine, oh yeah. (Children put down their instruments and make a sun with their arms over their heads.)

Generally, you’ll need to sing this song two or three times in order to rotate the instruments and give everyone a turn.

This activity links to the following kinds of learning:

–       Musical/auditory learning about percussion/singing

–       Narrative non-fiction learning. The narrative has a beginning/middle/end just like a fictional story.

–       Science learning about weather and seasons

–       School readiness skills (listening to instructions, waiting for your turn, sharing instruments).

Other rain songs I like include the classic nursery rhymes such as “It’s raining, it’s pouring,” Nancy Hershatter’s “Once I was a Seed,” and my original song, “Rain” from my CD, Singing All the Way Home.

I also recommend “There’s a Cloud in the Middle of the Sky” described in a previous post, and “Cancion de la Nube” (Song of the Cloud), shown in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPHC2T0w9ik  You can find the original Spanish version of this song in Sarah Pirtle’s excellent book for music in the classroom, Linking Up.   My video shows the English translation, written by Sarah. This awesome song is not only about clouds and flowers, but empathy.

If you do not have these instruments and would like to buy them, here are some links to West Music, which is my favorite supplier.

Rain sticks.

Thunder tubes.

You can also purchase various drums appropriate for use by children from this site and many others. Or you can make instruments! For young children, you can easily make rain sticks by stuffing some crushed up foil into cardboard tubes, sealing off the end and filling with lentils, split peas or small rocks such as fish-tank rocks. Seal off the other end and decorate. More about instrument making another time.

Stay out of the rain! Come inside and make music.



  1. Fun ideas Liz….

  2. Lovely ideas for welcoming another season. As to instruments – yes to rainsticks – but no to thunder tubes! They can be easily destroyed – without too much effort!!
    I so appreciate the links and Soundcloud listening examples that you enrich your post with!

    • Brigid, I’ve been pretty careful to give good instructions on using the thunder tubes, telling kids not to pull the springs. So far, we haven’t had one destroyed. Kids think they’re so cool, that it’s really fun to get them out sometimes. But it’s also easy to make thunder sounds just with drums. That’s what I used before I discovered thunder tubes.

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