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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Favorite Lesson for Teaching Quarter Notes, Eighth Notes, and Quarter Rests

It's hard to believe, but the month of March is coming to an end! I'm finishing up my series on my favorite lessons for introducing different rhythm elements with the very first rhythm concept I introduce- quarter notes, paired eighth notes, and quarter rests. I introduce all 3 at once to my kindergarteners in the spring. Of course since this is their first time really working with standard notation and working with rhythms in a conscious way, I have a million different lessons to practice these rhythms. But today I want to share my favorite lesson for first introducing the concept and notation for each of these rhythms.

The song I use to introduce these rhythms is "Acka Backa":

The first task is getting students to experience beats with one sound, two sounds, and no sounds. The reason this song is great for this is that I can have my students sing the song over and over again while experiencing and demonstrating the steady beat without them throwing things at me! We do this with a bean bag passing game.

First we practice passing a bean bag around the circle (that in itself takes some time!), then eventually work on passing it on the steady beat while I sing the song. Once they can do that (I spread this practice out over several class periods), I teach them the song. First I have them learn the song, echoing after me while patting the beat on their legs. I make sure not to hold out the last note of each phrase (so they can hear the quarter rest), but I don't fuss about whether or not they are singing it that way yet. Once they can sing the song, I have them sing it again but whisper "shhh" and hold a finger to their lips on the two quarter rests, then do it again but without making the "shhh" sound- just holding up a finger. Finally we sing it and I tell them to just close their mouth "to stop any sound from coming out" on those beats, then we sing it that way while passing the bean bag.

The way we repeat the activity is by making it an elimination game. Once students can pass the bean bag on the beat while singing (making sure they pass it on the last "silent beat" as well), tell them that whoever gets the bean bag on the last beat is out, then keep repeating the game until there is only 1 left (or until you're tired of it!). I keep the students who are out engaged and learning by having them take a percussion instrument of their choice and playing the steady beat on it while singing with the others. So it's a win-win!

After we've played the bean bag game, I have students clap with the "rhythm of the words", and I show them how to hold their hands out empty on the two silent beats. Then I tell them they are about to learn REAL MUSIC NOTES!!! ;) I first show them a quarter note, paired eighth notes, and quarter rest on the board and explain how the note with one circle on it is one sound, and the note that looks like two cherries, with two circles holding hands, is two sounds together sharing a beat. The squiggly thing is a "shhh"! Then I start writing 4-note patterns and we practice saying and clapping them, eventually ending up on the pattern "titi-titi-ta-sh"/"dude-dude-du-sh". I tell them that this is from the ACTUAL SONG, and ask them to figure out which part of the song it goes with (Acka backa boo). From there, it's off to the races!

My students are always so excited to learn about real music notes, and most of them get a pretty good grasp on the concept after these lessons. What are your favorite ways to introduce quarter notes, eighth notes, and/or quarter rests? Share your best lesson ideas in the comments below- I'd love to hear them and I know other teachers would too! :) And don't forget to head over to the Music Ed Blogs Community page on Facebook to find all of the wonderful rhythm teaching ideas being shared this month through the #31daysofrhythm collaboration- you're guaranteed to find new ideas to implement in your classroom! Enjoy these last few days of Music In Our Schools Month :)

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

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  1. I've never tried this rhyme but it looks like fun, thanks for the great lesson ideas!

    1. It's so simple but the kids love it (and they think the words are hilarious!).