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When I first started teaching, there were some things that I knew I wanted to teach and knew how I wanted to teach them. For example, I knew that I wanted to use movement props such as scarves and parachutes to dance and learn about form. Other concepts seemed more difficult. One that really stumped me was rhythm.
Now, I know what rhythm is. I use it everyday. I knew how to use it in class, but I did not know how to start out teaching rhythm. The whole idea of explaining rhythm to Kindergarteners scared me.
This week, I took a leap of faith and decided to (finally!) go for it. This is the lesson I used to start teaching rhythm.
And yes, I know that I should have done this in September. Maybe next year.
I was excited for this lesson, because I just received a huge box of popsicle sticks from Donor’s Choose! Check out this article to see how you can too!
I used this lesson with my Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd graders. The K and 1 did it just like this, and I made it more rigourous for the 2nd graders by using the actually names of the rhythms, like quarter note instead of ta. I also emphasized with the older kids the number of beats each rhythm gets and how many are in the whole group.
Having a hard time with behavior? Check out my posts on classroom management here and here.
Find the printable version here.Free K-2 Music Lesson Plan-Popsicle Stick Rhythms
I can describe and perform rhythms using “ta” and “ti ti”. I can compose rhythms with popsicle sticks.
- We read music.
- We write music.
- We listen and talk about music.
Popsicle sticks (I used jumbo, but here are regular)
White board and marker (or rhythm cards)
YouTube video, In the Hall of the Mountain King (I used this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLp_Hh6DKWc )
YouTube Video, Hey Jack! (I used this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-x-DdFg2SKE )
In the Hall of the Mountain King:
- Tell the students that we are going to listen to a song that tells a story without any words. Tell the story first, “Once upon a time, there was a man. And we walked up up up a mountain, and then he fell into a hole! And he fell right into the hall of the mountain king. The mountain king was a big, nasty, stinky troll. He had the guy captured, and tried to get him to marry his daughter, the troll princess! Do you think he wanted to do that? No! Because she was nasty and stinky too. So he waited, and one day (the day they were supposed to get married) one of the guards turned around for just a second, and he slipped out of the room and down the hallway. And that’s where we come in.”
- Have students make a person with their hand and keep the steady beat while pretending to tiptoe with their hands. When the earthquakes come, have them move their hand up. And at the end, the man jumps out of the mountain.
- Once they have tried it, have them stand up and tip toe (in their spots). Periodically look over your shoulder to make sure there aren’t any trolls behind you.
We really emphasized the steady beat, and made a sign language “b” with our hands.
Main Rhythm Lesson:
- Tell the students that you are going to listen to a song about Halloween and keep the steady beat. Listen to “Hey Jack” and practice keeping the beat different places (on your lap, your hands, your head, etc.)
- Then tell them in music we have beat (have them make a “b” in sign language) which is steady and doesn’t change. That’s why when we were moving, our movements were the same. We also have rhythm (sign language “r”). Rhythm changes and you can make it up.
- Listen to the song again, and keep the steady beat for the verses. On the chorus (the boo-shaka-laka part), have them tap the rhythm on their legs.
- Tell them, in our rhythm is made of long and short sounds. Draw a stem quarter note and stem eighth note pair on the board. Tell them the long sounds are call “ta” and the short sounds are “ti ti”. I usually point back and forth and have them tell me which one is which. With the second graders, we call them by their music names, and I show them what they really look like. Then I say that I will draw them with just stems so that the popsicle sticks will match my pictures better.
- Next, have students come up to the front and I hand them a handful of popsicle sticks (I used these).
- Then draw a rhythm on the board and ask students to match it. Once they are done, show a silent thumbs up.
- Next, read the rhythm. The first few times, I just have the repeat after me. We say them, clap them, tap them on our legs, and then audiate them (tap shoulders and don’t say the words).
- Finally, repeat these steps. Once students get the hang of it, have them create their own rhythm. (I tell them you can only have four things.) Have a few read them out loud, then you say them, then the whole class says them.
Listen to Hey Jack! And have students make up their own movements, or turn it into freeze dance. Next week we will do this with scarves, which is why I said that you could use them. It depends on how much time you have left.
I used the jumbo popsicle sticks. To emphasize measures, you could use regular sized ones and have them put them on a piece of paper with four boxes on it. I did not do that this time, but I may in the future.
The kids really loved this! They got to dance and be creative while learning about rhythm. I am not going to lie, I was kind of worried about introducing rhythm to my kindergarteners (and put it off longer than I should have). They grasped the concept very well! Plus, they did not have to sit still for very long, which always helps.
Also: Free K-2 Music Lesson: Animal Form
What are your favorite ways to teach rhythm? I am looking for some rhythm centers ideas to use soon. If you have ideas, let me know in the comments!
Happy Teaching! And Happy Halloween!