Musical Pen Pals

Work with a partner class to explore different cultures through music and dance!
Ages 5-10 / 45
min Activity


  • Explore global cultures through music and dance, and how these art forms express emotions, traditions, and stories unique to a community
  • Use technology to connect with peers who live in another community, and explore songs and dances that are popular in each community

Supporting Research

Researchers have shown that music can be an effective tool for students to learn about different cultural beliefs and values, and gain an understanding and appreciation for cultural diversity. Music is deeply embedded in our social lives and identities, and by exploring music in the classroom, students can foster skills such as self-awareness and inclusivity as they reflect on their own experiences and preferences, and show curiosity about others. And, as students work together to identify and share their cultural songs and dances with a partner class, educators should encourage them to practice diplomacy and collaboration as they explore their similarities and differences with kindness and respect.

To learn more about these skills, and how they promote students’ healthy growth and the development of empathy, please check out our Empathy Framework.


Activity Partners

Prepare: plan for the virtual exchange.

  1. Introduce the activity to your students. You might say: “We’re going to go on a special journey to faraway places through music! We’ll listen to songs and learn dances from different countries, like the energetic “Abang Beca” song from Malaysia, or the loving “Dudurai” song from Kazakhstan. To make things even more exciting, we also have friends from another community who are joining us for this adventure! Our partner class will be our musical pen pals as we exchange songs and dances with each other, and learn about each other’s community and culture.” 
  2. Coordinate with your partner educator to pick a theme for your musical adventure, such as: 
    Dance It Up!

  3. Then, decide whether you will facilitate:
    • An asynchronous exchange by sharing your students’ videos with each other, or 
    • A live virtual exchange by having your students meet over a video call 

    There is a suggested exchange structure below for both options.
  4. Guide your students through the theme’s packet, and how people around the world use songs and dances to share about important parts of their lives. For example, transportation is a big part of everyone’s day, but it can look very different depending on where people live! By listening to songs about transportation from different parts of the world, students can learn about what life is like for people who live there. 
  5. After reviewing the packet, work with students to identify a song or dance from your local community related to the theme. It doesn't need to be a “children's song” or a “folk dance”, though you'll want to choose something that won't be too complicated for students in your partner classroom to learn. If you pick a song that has a lot of words in the verses, make sure it has a singable chorus. And, make sure that any dances have simple motions that everyone can learn.
  6. Finally, help students come up with questions for their partner classmates, such as: 
    • What is your favorite type of music? How does it make you feel? 
    • Do you have a favorite holiday or festival? How do you celebrate it? Does the celebration include any special music or dancing? 
    • Do you have a favorite dance move? Can you teach it to me?
    • What kind of music do you listen to when you feel happy? What about when you’re trying to relax?
    • Do you play any instruments? If not, is there one that you want to learn? 

    If this is your first virtual exchange, visit this activity and watch our “Teacher Tips for Cross-Cultural Exchanges” video for more helpful suggestions around leading a positive, fruitful conversation with your partner class.

Option 1: Asynchronous Exchange (exchange videos with each other)

  1. Coordinate with your partner educator to decide how you will send your students’ videos to each other (e.g., through the built-in messaging tool on Empatico, or a tool like Google Drive, WhatsApp, WeTransfer, Padlet, or Microsoft Flip). 
  2. Ask students to prepare videos and other materials for their partner classmates, such as: 
    • A video introducing themselves and sharing a fun fact about your class, and asking the questions that they prepared for their partner classmates. 
    • A video of your students singing the song, or teaching a dance, that they selected. Make sure that the video is recorded in a quiet place with good lighting so your partner class can hear and see your students. 
    • Lyrics for the song, including a translation for your partner class if needed.
  3. After receiving your partner class’s materials, watch the videos with your students and encourage them to respond to their peers by recording a video or sharing comments, such as: 
    • Something they liked about their partner classmates’ song or dance
    • A video singing the song, or trying the dance, that their partner classmates shared with them
    • Answers to their partner class’s questions 

Option 2: Synchronous Exchange (meet over a live video call)

Facilitate the virtual exchange using the video tool that you previously selected, and follow the suggested exchange structure below:

  1. Start the video call by greeting your partner educator, and express gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity to connect with each other. Then, facilitate an introduction between students in both classes. You might have them introduce themselves, and share about their class grade, school, location, and/or a fun fact about their community.
  2. Encourage students to ask the questions that they prepared. Make sure that students in both classes participate equally, and celebrate behaviors that show respect and other strengths, like empathy, thoughtfulness, and humility. For example, express gratitude when students actively listen and thoughtfully respond to each other during their conversation.
  3. After students have warmed up a little, invite both classes to take turns singing the song, or showing the dance, that they selected, and encourage their partner classmates to join them!
  4. End the exchange by asking students to thank their partner class for sharing a part of their day with them, and for the opportunity to get to know each other a little better. Then, students can say “goodbye” and express excitement for meeting again during your next journey together!

If students in both classes have individual devices (e.g., mobile phone, tablet, laptop, etc.)...

Use a platform such as Google Meet, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams which allows you to screen-share during a video call. 
One educator should set up the Kahoot! game and share the code with students in both classes by following this tutorial about using Kahoot! in a remote learning environment, and share their screen so everyone can follow along.

If students in either class don’t have individual devices...

Follow the same instructions above, with one educator starting the game and sharing their screen so both classes can follow along.  
Instead of students joining the game to answer the questions, they can hold up their fingers, call out their answer, or use a paper template to indicate their response.

If you prefer not using Kahoot!...

Use this document (Spanish version) to prompt students.