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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Favorite Lesson for Teaching 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 focusing on half notes. I teach half notes in 2nd grade, and it's the first rhythm they learn that is longer than one beat. There are lots of great lessons that I love using to teach and practice half notes, but today I wanted to share one of my favorite songs to use to introduce half notes.


I like to introduce half notes for the first time with the song, "Bickle Bockle":


I particularly like this song because I can also teach the solfege pitches 2nd graders are working on, mi, sol, and la, with the same song! It's also short enough for students to learn quickly.

We start by learning the song, then I have the students walk around the room on the steady beat while singing. Once they can do that, I have them stop and practice clapping with the rhythm of the words while they sing. After doing it the first time, I point out that there are a few long notes in the song where we keep singing but we aren't clapping, and I ask students to identify those long notes ("sea" and "me"). Then I tell them to clap and then keep their hands together, then I tell them that they actually have bubblegum stuck to their hands and I stretch my top hand up while making a grimacing face. The kids love that idea! I tell them to stretch out their bubblebum on the two long notes, and we practice singing and clapping the rhythm in place again. We all grimace when we sing the long notes too ;) Once they can do it while standing in place, I tell students to walk around the room on the beat while clapping and singing. The final step is to take out the singing and just walk and clap.

Once everyone can successfully walk on the beat while clapping the rhythm, including stretching out the long notes, I tell students that the "bubblegum notes" are actually half notes, and we discuss how many steps they took for each bubblegum notes (2!).

Whenever I introduce a new rhythm, I like to have students practice reading it from notation in short, 4-beat rhythm patterns right away. We practice speaking the rhythms, clapping them, and then playing them on instruments. Here are some examples I use with my students- I like to first have them play one line at a time, and then eventually try to play all of them in a row without stopping.


Once they can perform the new rhythm, I like to have them use it in a composition exercise. For this lesson, I have them create a 4-beat rhythm and have them play it on an instrument of their choice as a rhythmic ostinato while the other students sing the song and play the accompanying game. By doing the song with a game, I can have my students repeat the song over and over without it feeling like drilling! My favorite game instructions are at the end of this video:


With this age, I like to do most of my composition activities with manipulatives. For 2nd grade, when they are learning to incorporate half notes in their compositions, my favorite manipulatives to use are my monster magnets. The kids love them and they are such a great, concrete way to help them see the 2-beat value of the half notes! You can read more about them in this post:


There are plenty of other manipulatives that you can use, though, that are much less work to put together. If you're looking for more ideas for composition manipulatives that work great with lower elementary students, here is a post I wrote on where to find them cheaply:


What are your favorite ways to teach half notes? There are so many great songs and activities to use to teach this rhythm- I'd love to hear your favorites! Leave a comment below to share your ideas. 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!

Looking for more lesson ideas? See my full curriculum here.

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