Post Office Rhythm Game

It’s the beginning of another school year and time to review, review, review! All those previous concepts must be reinforced before preparing new ones. I put a new spin on a game Lamar Robertson taught in Kodály training called Post Office. There are three free sets for download: quarter and eighth notes; quarter, eighth, and quarter rests; sixteenth notes, quarter, eighth, and quarter rest. The patterns in these sets come from familiar folk songs, so they should tie into your curriculum easily.

I prepare students for the activity by telling them there’s a secret code or message in each rhythm pattern and I’ll share it with them when they find the correct one.

Every child receives an identical envelope of 4-beat rhythms. They’re instructed to lay them on the floor in front of them with the meter/time signature on the left and stand when they’re done.

Here’s my sequence. I clap the pattern and they clap it back. Repeat. The third time I clap the pattern, they clap it and say the rhythm syllables to match. If the class is correct, I ask them to find the pattern and hold it at their foreheads. A quick visual check lets me know if they need help. When the class is correct, I tell them the secret and they put the rhythm in the envelope. After two-three patterns, ask the students to find the pattern on their own without saying the rhythm syllables aloud.

Examples of secret messages or codes: Count the number of quarter notes in this pattern. That’s how many dogs I have at home. Which beat has eighth notes? That’s how many people are absent today. How many beats are in this pattern? That’s how many games we’ll play today, etc.

I copied my post office rhythm sets on card stock and didn’t need to laminate them. Feel free to change the game to suit your situation, and have fun!

What are your favorite ways to practice rhythm?

Post Office - Quarter Rest quarter_eighth_post_office_rhythms takadimi_post_office_rhythms

Engaging Activities in Small Spaces

This post is in response to a reader who requested ideas for a traveling teacher. Traveling music teachers are constantly adjusting lessons around furniture or available space. The good news is: your lessons can still be powerful and engaging!

Today’s post will focus on activities for Kindergarten and first grade music classes. All of my games and activities reinforce an important musical concept and tend to support kinesthetic, aural and visual preparation as part of a Kodaly curriculum. Please don’t be scared off if you’re not a Kodaly educator. Good teaching is our goal, no matter how we approach it, right?

Rain, Rain Go Away

Concepts to prepare: Steady beat, meter

Students may be spread out, possibly near their desks, for this activity. Sing the song several ways: patsch the beat, step the beat, put raindrops on their heads on the beat, etc. Then demonstrate with an umbrella on the beat, opening on the strong beat and closing on beat two. Finally, hand out drink umbrellas such as these: 1 Gross (144) of Cocktail Umbrellas for Your Tiki Drinks and invite your students to match your movements. (If you purchase a gross, you’ll still have enough for your next class if a few get damaged. Shop at!)

Hey, Betty Martin (I only use verse 1 for this game)

Concepts to prepare: Steady beat (Also great for quarter notes and eighth notes)

(Fellow music teacher Cindy Hayes suggested this song and I love it for this age group. We need to include songs that deviate from so-mi-la!)

Teach this song as a non-locomotor game first (students move in place). Then, if there’s room to move around, students can earn locomotor movement once they master the game.

Game: Students stand in place and only move on ‘tip toe.’ It can be played as an elimination game, but doesn’t have to be. If they successfully stay still on the other words, I allow them to move around the room, still only moving on the verbs! Suggest some verbs to use in the game and allow students to practice, then solicit their ideas. For example, “Hey, Betty Martin, hop hop, hop hop…”

Hey, Betty Martin in G

(There’s another version whose last three pitches are la, so, do.)

Naughty Kitty Cat

Concept: Quarter Rest

Sure, there’s a chase game that many of us play with this song, but I always teach the song with motions first. If you don’t have room for a chase, leave it out or save it for a day when you can take your class outside or into the cafeteria. Here are the motions I use with the song. Feel free to adjust them to fit your style.

Phrase 1: Shake index finger at the cat then put hands on hips on the quarter rest.

Phrase 2: Shake index finger again, then put hands in front of you to show a big belly.

Phrase 3: Start at the sides of your mouth and pretend to wipe the butter off your “whiskers.”

Phrase 4: Shake index finger, then brush your hands together once on the word “scat!”

This is a great kinesthetic preparation for quarter rest and you can follow it up with simple aural questions. For example, sing phrase one and have the students echo you. Then ask which word they sang right before they put their hands on their hips. “Cat” Repeat for phrases two and four. Then ask if they sang any words when they made those motions. “No.” When the students are close to learning quarter rest, I might even ask them to sing the song with rhythm syllables, but still use the song motions. Then challenge them to sing with rhythm syllables, but put their hands on their shoulders if there is not a word. (This is the motion I use for quarter rest.)


Hopefully these ideas will spark new ones in your teaching. Which songs and activities do you use that require less space?

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Teaching meter

It’s so exciting to teach meter to first graders. They’re curious about everything, and when I tell them that the “big kids” know something, they want to learn it even more.

One of the most helpful songs for teaching meter is “Bounce High, Bounce Low.” The students form loose circles with one ball per circle. The person who is “it” bounces the ball on the beat, sings the name of someone in his/her circle, then bounces it to them. The play continues until all have had a turn.

Using my SMART board, the rhythms are displayed with words under them. It’s helpful at this point to remind the students that eighth notes share a beat. In some classes I’ve even had the students mark the beats with a dot before proceeding. Then I circle the first beat and tell the students we’re going to circle the beats for each bounce of the ball. This song is ideal because the first three are on the word “bounce.” The students always catch on that there’s a pattern of bounce, catch, bounce, catch. We discuss which takes more strength – bouncing the ball or catching it? Bouncing. I tell them there’s a pattern in music of strong and weak beats.

Although I haven’t presented meter yet, I’m actively preparing it and will present next week. I’m adding some songs to my Resources for Teachers page without barlines for your convenience. They’re helpful for prepping, but also for practice. A few weeks after learning meter and barlines, individual students come to the board to draw in barlines. A week or so later, they might complete a half page worksheet independently, filling in the missing barlines.

How do you present meter and what has worked well?

Rain, Rain and Doggie, Doggie