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Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Teaching Meter in Elementary Music

We spend a lot of time teaching different rhythmic elements, but meter can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. But in terms of music consumption meter is actually an important concept for everyone to understand- perhaps even more so than rhythm! All those jokes about clapping on 1 and 3 come to mind... Here are my favorite ways to teach meter in elementary general music class, including some general strategies as well as several of my favorite specific lesson activities.

General Strategies

The most obvious and frequent strategy I use for exploring and understanding meter is through gross motor movement. I have found Dalcroze techniques are so effective for truly getting the feeling of various meters! I've had students step on the strong beats and clap on the weak beats, or do a vine step for duple and a waltz step for triple- anything that helps students feel and demonstrate the strong and weak beats.

Another similar but less common strategy I use a lot is clapping patterns. I grew up doing clapping games and I love adding them to songs to get even my oldest grades singing with gusto while trying to do some kind of complicated clapping pattern. I usually will either have them clap their own hands or even pat their laps on the downbeat, with other variations of clapping each other's hands on the other beats, to get them to experience the feeling of the meter.

Conducting is another great way to explore meter, and students love getting the chance to really conduct! I first show them the conducting pattern for a specific meter and have them practice conducting with a recording, then I have them conduct with batons to make it feel more authentic. I love showing this video once they've got the basic conducting pattern to get them to explore the expressive elements and conduct with expression!

Specific Lesson Activities

Of course I try to mix in a variety of meters in the songs that we learn in class in general throughout the grade levels, but I always spend some time focusing specifically on triple meter in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade, and focus on other more unusual meters, especially 5/4, starting in 4th grade. Here are my posts my favorite specific lesson activities for each of those:

What are your favorite strategies for teaching the concept of meter and exploring different meters in elementary music class? I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments below!

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