Elementary Music, K-2, Lessons

Free K-1 Music Lesson: Beat v. Rhythm with Soul Music

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If you have been reading my blog for any amount of time, you will know that I love to teach students about different kind of music. We do tons of listening activities with music from all different places. This is partially because of my personal teaching philosophy, and aided by the program that my students do called Musical Explorers. There are now three of four places that do the Musical Explorers programs. Basically, we learn about six different styles of music and go to two different concerts every year. This year, one of our styles is soul music!

I was really excited about the soul music style, because it is really great for beginning of the year, because it is very accessible (more accessible than the music from Mali, which is definitely my favorite for this semester). And what are we talking about at the beginning of the year?

Beat v. rhythm.

Now, I used variations of this lesson with my kids from kindergarten to third grade. Obviously, we didn’t do exactly the same thing with my kindergarteners and my third graders, but we did parts of it. This version of the lesson will focus on what I did with kindergarten and first grade.

We start working on steady beat as soon as the school year starts with my kindergarteners. We don’t name it right away of course. By the time we get to October, they get the concept pretty well (most of my students can keep a decent steady beat the first week!), so we start talking about rhythm.

This lesson is just to prep students for the concept of rhythm. We did not actually learn ta and titi yet, we are just getting used to the idea that the beat is steady and rhythm is not.

Free heartbeat beat charts! There are charts in 2/4 3/4 and 4/4, with the quarter note on the bottom or the real time signature (or none!). Help your students work on the steady beat and rhythm with there free beat sheets! Becca's Music Room

Also, in this lesson we use beat charts. I have a free beat chart (in 4/4, 3/4, and 2/4) available in my free resource library. This is a new thing I am rolling out to help you get free stuff! Sign up for my email list and I will send you the password to the library. Once a member, always a member. More things are being added every few weeks, so check back to see what is new. Sign up here.

If you already have the password, then you can click on the picture above or the “free resource library” tag at the top of the page to get it!


Also read: Free K-2 Music Lesson: A Train Jazz Lesson

Soul Music and Beat v Rhythm

  • Listen to the song, I Feel Good and have students follow you by keeping the steady beat. Switch where you are keeping the steady beat while listening.
  • Tell the students that this is the beat. Tell them the beat is steady, which means that is stays the same. Another thing that has a steady beat is your heart beat. Have them try to find their heartbeat.
  • Give them a page with heartbeats on it to track. Students can point to the steady beat while listening. You can get a FREE one in my resource library here!
  • Show them the Musical Explorer page here. It has the rhythm for the song along with the heartbeat. Have students walk up and point to the steady beat on the board while the others are keeping it at their seats.
  • Afterwards, ask the kids if the beat changed. (They should say no!) Then ask them to look at the rhythm. I tell my students that rhythm is the long and short notes that do change. Even though I have not showed them ta or titi in kindergarten (although first grade has a handle on this), I will show them the rhythm of the song. Then I ask, “Does the rhythm look the same?” I will point to some of the extra weird looking ones. Then I will say some of the words and have students play the rhythm (one tap for every sound). on their legs.
  • Then we listened to I Heard it Through the Grapevine. I had students keep the steady beat by holding up their right hand, then their left hand, and back an forth. This prepped us so that we could play tambourines on the backbeat! We love our blue star tambourines, and the kids are excited for any chance to use them.
  • Usually on the next day or a different day, I will pull in beat and rhythm with a song they have already learned to focus on ta and titi. In this case, I am using 2, 4, 6, 8 Meet Me at the Garden Gate, which you can check out here.
  • I like to have students use the popsicle sticks to make rhythms almost immediately after showing them what they look like. I talk a lot about popsicle stick rhythms in this post.


  • Have the students learn the dance to I Heard it Through the Grapevine. It is pretty simple- step out, step across, step out, together. Then you go the other way. With the littles, I just taught it as step, together, step, together until they got it.
  • Have students draw pictures of grapevines (if you are in GA, parts of a plant is a first grade standard. Bonus points if you have them label their leaves and stems!)
  • Have students write or draw a picture of something that makes them feel good.

I hope that is helpful! It is really just an introduction to the concept of having beat and having rhythm. I did not use this to introduce rhythm (I saved that for 2, 4, 6, 8) but this helped students realize the difference between the two. Plus, it was fun! I mean, who doesn’t love soul music?

If you liked this post, make sure that you share it so more people can enjoy it too! You can get access to my FREE RESOURCE LIBRARY (which includes the beat charts I talked about here) by signing up for my email list here. I only send out two emails per month, usually announcing some free stuff!

Happy teaching!

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