Fun ways to practice rhythm

Need fun ways for your students to demonstrate what they know? Try Musical Post Office, Meeting on the Street, or using your mascot as a rhythm eater.

At the beginning of the year, I try to ease my students through reviewing concepts while assessing new students. Playing Musical Post Office allows me to check their understanding of rhythms. (Click the link for examples with quarter notes, eighth notes, and quarter rest.)

Each student receives an envelope with the same rhythm cards in it. I clap a four-beat pattern and they clap it back. Repeat. Usually I ask the students to say the rhythm for the first few examples, and then hold the card at their forehead so I can quickly assess everyone. If I feel everyone understands, I’ll clap a few examples and ask them to silently find the card. Students put each used card in the envelope.

Meeting on the Street is a musical activity that fits the Tribes philosophy on my campus. Every student receives one finger cymbal. While the music plays, students mill to the music and “ding” finger cymbals with classmates. They hide it in their hands when the music stops and listen for a prompt. Students are given a question or topic and have a few seconds to discuss it with someone near them. Questions might include: 1. Talk about one special thing you did this summer, 2. Name your favorite music game from last year, 3. Can you name any rhythms we studied last year, 4. Do you have any pets, 5. Which solfége syllables do you remember? Each time the music resumes, students should stop talking and let their finger cymbals do the talking.

Our school mascot is a gecko. I tell the students we have a special Rhythm Gecko that only eats rhythms. He just had surgery (I cut a paper gecko in half!) and they need to nurse him back to health with good food. In small groups, students create 4-beat rhythm patterns (I provide small rhythm cards that we tape together) and feed them to the gecko one group at a time. To really play this up, the groups can give him a drink, salad, soup, bread, entrée, dessert, and after-dinner mint. Once all the rhythms have been presented to the gecko, the class has to clap the entire menu. They’re often surprised by this and laugh or groan, but they always play along. Yes, even fifth graders have fun with this! At the end of class, they take the gecko back to class to hang up as an artifact. Sometimes I still see the geckos in their rooms in May!

What creative ways have you used to practice rhythm concepts?