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Tuesday, May 31, 2022

5 Ways to Explore 5/4

I've been working on 5/4 meter with my 4th graders the last few weeks and the lessons have really piqued their interest in time signatures in general, which is the ultimate goal I was aiming for. Here are five ways to explore 5/4 meter with upper elementary students!

This song is a great introduction to 5/4 meter because the drumbeat has a very clear downbeat. I have students aurally identify how many beats are in a measure by tapping on their hand and counting the number of beats in a set- most of them got it after a few measures. After discussing the time signature, I turned the music back on and had students echo my 5-beat rhythm patterns on body percussion. It definitely takes a few tries to get into the feel of 5 (they're so used to echoing me after 4 beats) but the echoing was really helpful for getting settled into the meter.

I had students aurally identify the 5/4 meter with this song as well, then we practiced walking on beats 1 and 4 and clapping on the other beats. I've been doing the beanbag passing activity with Take Five for a few years now and it's the perfect level of challenge for this age group. I know this activity has been making the rounds online and it took a while for me to figure out myself: I had to make a slowed down version with a shortened solo section myself, it's not something I've been able to find available anywhere. I found this year that doing something else (15 Step) to introduce and help students get used the meter before jumping into this passing game really helped them be more successful- I highly recommend saving this one for after they've gotten into it a little bit.

Once they had the feeling of the meter, I taught students just the first 2 phrases of this song. I had them first pat their legs on beats 1 and 4 and clap on the other beats while they listened to the song, then once they learned it, they practiced clapping with a partner while singing: clap your own hands on beat 1, clap each other's right hands on beat 2, left hands on beat 3, clap your own hands again on beat 4, and clap both of your partner's hands at the same time on beat 5. 

I used these tracks to have students start trying to create in 5/4 time. The rap is just fun. The students were so impressed to hear someone rapping in 5/4 time! I challenged them to try to beatbox or make up a body percussion pattern to go with the music while they listened. I introduced Fivefor after they had echoed my patterns with 15 Step, and improvised a little with Take Five (in the solo section) and the 5/4 Rap, so they had some preparation to get them ready for this next step: I gave everyone rhythm sticks to use as drum sticks on the backs of their chairs, and I first had them all echo a few of my patterns again to get used to the feel of the song. Then I had them each improvise a 5-beat rhythm with their sticks, counting each student in in between and going around the room in order. 

5. 5/4 composition

The last step was to have students compose, and notate, rhythms in 5/4. I split them up into small groups and gave them these rhythm card manipulatives I made a few years ago, which show how many beats each note is, and had them each create a 5-beat rhythm by laying the cards in a row on the floor, then they practiced performing them on body percussion. 

This has been a great way to get my 4th graders excited about exploring time signatures, not to mention an awesome way to keep them engaged as we approach the end of the school year! If you want to see my favorite lessons for triple meter, which I do mostly with younger students, check out this blog post. And if you have questions, or more ideas for exploring different time signatures, please leave them in the comments below!

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