Wake Up, You Lazy Bones!

This one is a hit with kindergarten and 1st grade! They love the game and playing the big tubano to wake up their classmates. I love that we have fun while learning about form.

Suggested Grade Levels: Kindergarten, 1st grade


To be completely honest, I was very worried about this song when I thought about the lyrics. If you search “lazy bones song” in a search browser, you are likely to see the song titled Lazy Bones by Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael pop up. Digging into this song tells you that it was related to “black subject matter” and is derogatory against American-American people (Hewitt, 1983).

Thankfully Wake Up, You Lazy Bones! has absolutely nothing to do with the Mercer and Carmichael song. Wake Up, You Lazy Bones! was composed and written by the mountain dulcimer player and folk singer Jean Ritchie. The song’s original title is actually Hunt the Cows and can be heard here. I assume that the title and lyrics were altered as to not alarm the youngest singers. Not many children, at least not many that I know, want to think about hunting cows, even if the lyrics are not to be taken literally.

In an interview with Sally Rodgers from the Children’s Music Network, Jean Ritchie told her the song’s tune came from Down in the Meadow. The B section of the piece was inspired by the prolonged note from the Danish folk dance Seven Jumps (click here for the entry on the dance). With the brilliance of Ritchie and the combination of these two very different songs, the popular elementary school song Wake Up, You Lazy Bones! was born.

This game is in two parts, following the AB form. I like to have one student play a loud (or forte, for music vocabulary) hit on the tubano to wake everyone up and restart the A section.

A section: Students walk around looking for the cows.

B section:
“The sun is hot” (drop down on one knee)
“The cows are gone” (drop to both knees)
“I think I’ll rest” (drop to one elbow)
“‘Till they come back” (drop to both elbows; pretend to fall asleep)
“WAKE UP, YOU LAZY BONES!” (jump up and start over from the A section)

Classroom Applications:
–Recognizing AB form
–Changing meters
–Experience with a fermata
–Dramatic play opportunity
–Singing s-m-d and s-d

Children playing the game
Jill Trinka singing Wake Up, You Lazy Bones!


–Hewitt, R. (1983). Black through white: Hoagy Carmichael and the reproduction of racism. Popular Music, 3, 33-50. https://www.jstor.org/stable/853093

–Jean Ritchie – Topic. (2015, May 30). Hunt the cows [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aqmGNr3Yug

–Jill Trinka – Topic. (February 9, 2017). Wake up you lazy bones [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLvbKt3nyJk

–Lauren Scavone. (2020, March 18). Wake up you lazy bones [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6Q1PRQnsOQ

–Rodgers, S. (n.d.). Sowing the seeds of love for traditional music: An interview with Jean Ritchie [Interview]. Children’s Music Network. https://childrensmusic.org/pio-article.aspx?ID=42

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