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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Favorite Lesson for Teaching Sixteenth Notes

Something about teaching barred sixteenth notes is always so much fun. I think students get a kick out of singing and playing fast notes and the 4 barred sixteenth notes look "fancy" to them, so it's inherently exciting :) Today I'm sharing my favorite way to introduce and practice barred sixteenth notes for the first time.

I teach sixteenth notes in 4th grade in my current district, and by the time I get to introducing them they have already experienced them, without labeling them, many times in 2nd and 3rd grade. The song I like to use to introduce it is Ding Dong Diggidiggidong. I love this song because it is perfect for practicing other concepts and skills my 4th graders need to review from 3rd grade as well: singing rounds, and pentatonic solfege. It's also quick and easy to learn and easy to sing. 

I first teach them to sing the song by having them pat the beat while they listen, and then practicing singing it in canon to get them more familiar with the song. Then we review pentatonic solfege and decode the melody. Now that they've spent significant time with the song, I ask them to identify how many sounds are in each beat, and they quickly discover there are several beats with 4 sounds all in one beat! That's when I show them what 4 barred sixteenth notes look like and we practice counting them in a few example rhythm patterns.

But my favorite part is having them practice playing the melody on xylophones! We remove the F and B bars (burgers and fries) and I have them figure out the notes with a partner, using what we've already discussed about the solfege of the melody. They are so proud of themselves when they can play the whole thing, and it sounds instantly amazing when we play it in canon! Some years when I have the time we take it one step further and add some ostinati- because it's pentatonic pretty much anything goes, honestly, but here's one example of how you can put it together, and there's also an arrangement in Orff and Keetman's Music for Children Volume I.

Of course there are lots of other great songs with sixteenth notes that we use to practice them throughout the year, but this is definitely my favorite song to use to introduce them! What is your favorite song for introducing barred sixteenth notes? I'd love to hear more of your favorites in the comments below. And if you want to see my favorite lessons for teaching other specific rhythmic elements, you'll find them all in this post:

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