Author Archives: Noel Tessier

The Atoms Family


CONTEXT: J is a teacher and she uses this song to teach atoms to her students about atoms.

What is the song?

It’s a song about atoms that riffs off of the Adams Family theme song. 

How does the song go?


“They are so small 

*clap clap*

They’re round like a ball

*clap clap*

They make up the air, they’re everywhere

Can’t see them at all

*clap clap*

They’re tiny and they’re teeny

Much smaller than a beanie

They never can be seenie

The Atoms Family!


Together they make gasses

And liquid like Molasses 

And all the solid masses

The Atoms Family!


Neutrons can be found

Where protons hang around

Electrons they surround

The Atoms Family


Where did you first hear this song?

I think it was when I was teaching chemistry at South Pasadena, and I needed something to help kids remember atoms. 

Where did you hear it from?

I just googled it!

How did it resonate with the kids?

They thought it was the funniest thing. It made them laugh, so they liked it. 

What’s it’s purpose?

Its purpose is to teach kids about atoms.

Is there a specific age group?

Nope. Whenever you want to teach your kids about atoms, that’s a great song. 


My informant, J, is my mom, and she uses this song to teach atoms to her students. I was once one of her students, and she taught me this song when I was in elementary school. The catchy tune made it a lot easier for me to learn about atoms. By turning the information into a fun song, students are more motivated to learn, and will continue to learn when the song is stuck in their heads or they sing it with peers. 

Zip Zap Zop Oikotype


CONTEXT: J is an actor and theater major, who brought in a variation of a common theater game to class. 

Before we talk about this specific variation of Zip Zap Zop, let’s talk about what the most common version of Zip Zap Zop is.

For sure. Zip Zap Zop is one of those games where anybody who is remotely immersed in the performing arts– if you say those three words, it immediately brings up memories, visceral reactions… It is the child’s first theatre game. It is so ubiquitous– the gestures, the complete understanding. 

Can you talk about how it works?

Yeah, so one person claps slash points? Slides? One person slides there hands in the direction of another person saying “zip”. That person then slides their hands at another person saying “zop” and so on and so forth with zip, zap, and zop, connecting between a bunch of people who are standing around in a circle. It’s very simple, it’s face paced. It doesn’t require a lot of thought but it requires a lot of focus. It can be played in competition mode or just for fun. 

What is the purpose of this game?

To keep your mind engaged on what’s happening here and now. Not necessarily mental engagement that requires a lot of critical thinking or robust vocabulary, but quick response time.

Right. And what about the version you brought into class?

Okay so I knew I had to bring a game into class, and that it couldn’t be just regular zip zap zop– I’d look like an amateur. I was thinking about how it was so well known, and how I could use the fact that it is so well-known to my advantage. Because when you play the game for a decade, your response is ingrained in you– it becomes reflex. I realized it would be less easy if I changed the words. If I put four words instead of three words, or if I put a bunch of spins on it. Like, imagine you’re on a sitcom and midway through the day the writes hand you a new script and you have to get to a complete different mindset about what words are coming out of your mouth. So it was a fun way to leverage the familiarity of the game to make it more difficult. 

Nice. So you just changed the words?

Yeah I changed the words. First, we rearranged it to zop, zap, zip. Then we changed them to other random sounds, like zee zah zoh. Then I did four instead of three, and that’s when a lot of people ended up getting out because that 1-2-3 rhythm is so ingrained in our brains because we’ve been playing zip zap zop. 

Do you remember the first time you played zip zap zop?

It would probably have to be… third grade, in elementary school. How old are people in third grade? Eight or nine? If I was eight years old, it has been a good thirteen years since I’ve been playing zip zap zop. I could’ve played zip zap zop, a child could have been born and bar mitzvahed by now.  


As somebody who has played zip zap zop my whole life, I was wildly excited and intrigued when Jordan brought a new version of the game to class! Because of its simplistic nature, zip zap zop is an iconic game amongst the theater community. In a community of creatives, it is kind of shocking that I hadn’t experienced an oikotype of this game yet. 

In my experience, zip zap zop is a great way to get actors into a sense of play, and to hone focus at the beginning of class.

Counting Shoulders




J has shared this as a way to flirt. He shared it as a joke, but many people use this in day to day.

What is Counting Shoulders?

So basically what you do is you ask the other person “How many shoulders do we have?” Then they say “two” because they’re not stupid. Then you say “Really? Let’s count.” And you tap your own shoulder for one, then your other shoulder for two. Their closest shoulder is three, and then their furthest shoulder is four. When you tap the further shoulder, your arm will be around them, and you keep it there.

So it’s essentially a pickup line?


And people actually use this?

Yeah, in the way that people use pick up lines. Everyone kind of acknowledges that it’s cringey, but they let it be because it’s funny. 

Have you used this?

Only ironically. 

Did it work?

I mean I used it on my girlfriend as a joke. So yes, but I also didn’t need it. 


The nature of pick up lines has evolved over the years as people begin to recognize how ridiculous they are. That being said, they still maintain some of the charm, and are an effective way to break the ice. While most pickup lines exist to start conversation, Counting Shoulders exists to break the touch barrier, which can be very nerve-wracking for people. Because of the playful nature, however, Counting Shoulders makes it much easier for this step to be taken. As a result of the physical nature of Counting Shoulders, it requires that a relationship is already established, where a pickup line can be used on anyone.