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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Favorite Lesson for Teaching Dotted Half Notes

In honor of Music In Our Schools Month, I'm going to be sharing my favorite lessons for teaching various rhythmic elements. I'm sharing these ideas in conjunction with a month-long collaboration I'm doing with a group of amazing music education bloggers over on the Music Ed Blogs Facebook page, where we are sharing a new rhythm-related teaching tip each day. You'll get tons of great ideas just by following along, so be sure to go follow the page to catch all of the tips from other bloggers (and get the scoop on a special gift coming at the end of the month)! If you're reading this after the fact, do not fear- you can search for #31daysofrhythm any time to find all of the ideas that we've shared!

Today I'm kicking off my series here on the blog with my favorite lesson for teaching dotted half notes!


I like teaching dotted half notes in conjunction with triple meter. Of course I later have students identify and perform dotted half notes within 4/4 time examples, but I think starting off with triple meter allows students to really feel the groups of three. If you're introducing triple meter for the first time, you can use the first part of this lesson on its own without getting into dotted half notes as well!

My favorite song to use to introduce dotted half notes is "Take Me Out to the Ballgame". It's a great way to get the more "sporty" kids engaged, and many are familiar with the tune.


Any time I want students to be conscious of beat/meter in a song I start with movement. I introduce the song by having the students mirror me as a sway back and forth every 3 beats as I sing. Once they get the hang of that, I have students learn the song, echoing after me one line at a time, while we continue to sway the whole time. Then we stand and sing the song together (yes, still swaying!). My next question is to ask them how many beats are in each sway. I have them continue swaying with me but instead of singing, I have them tap one finger on their hand with the beat while I sing and count how many times they tap with each sway. 

Once we've established the groups of three, I teach students a basic clapping pattern by having them mirror me while we sing: pat their legs on beat 1, clap their own hands on beat 2, and turn both hands forward (clapping an invisible partner's hands) on beat 3. Then, of course, we split up into partners facing each other and clap with a partner while singing.

The key to all of this is to make sure that students are really experiencing a full 3-beat note and differentiating that from a 2-beat half note. When we're going through the steps of swaying, tapping, and clapping, I will often pulse my voice on the long notes to emphasize the 3 beats and make sure students are singing the dotted half notes for the full measure. I've found that students do this more naturally with a song in triple meter than they do with dotted half notes in the context of 4/4 patterns.

Now that students are fully immersed in the groups of 3, we go back to swaying and tapping and I ask students to identify all of the notes that are 3 beats long. I put a copy of the lyrics on the board, and we go through and circle or underline each of the words/syllables that have dotted half notes. Usually I have a few students who will point out the half notes, and when that happens we all practice swaying/tapping while singing the word to find out if the note lasts for the "whole sway" or "part of the sway", which usually helps any students who are still confused to really identify the difference between the two.

What are your favorite lessons for introducing dotted half notes? I'd love to hear them (and I'm sure other readers would as well!) in the comments below! And don't forget to go follow the Music Ed Blogs Facebook page for more great ideas all month long! Happy Music In Our Schools Month!

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