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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Lesson Warmups to Practice Rhythm

I've been using student-led warmups at the beginning of my elementary general music lessons for years now and I am a big fan! I've gotten a lot of questions about the warmups I do and how I do them, so today I'm sharing my favorite warmups to practice rhythms.

You can read more about why I do student-led warmups and how I manage the logistics of warmups in general in this post, but essentially I have a small group of 2-4 students who are assigned to lead the warmup / opening activity / do now at the beginning of class. These warmups are super easy to implement and a great way to review rhythms in a different, fresh way without taking a lot of class time.

1. Note name identification

This is an easy one to use that I pull out every now and then to review the names of different note values (quarter note, whole note, etc). I find most of our time in actual lessons is spent on being able to use the rhythms- read, write, perform, and identify them- so I don't reinforce the names of the notes that often. This is a quick and easy way to review them in a low-pressure way.

To set this up, I have a slide with all of the different rhythms they know in scattered formation on the board. The warmup leader points to a note, and students identify the name of the note.

2. Rhythm identification variations

Besides naming the notes, I also use the same idea in a few other ways: 

a. students say how many beats the selected note gets

b. students demonstrate how to clap and count the selected note, assuming it starts on beat 1

3. Rhythm selection

This one is also very simple: I have a slide with several lines of rhythms on it. The leader chooses a line, and the class claps and counts whichever line they picked. Often I'll turn on a track and have the class clap and say the rhythm with the beat of the track, just to make it more interesting (and contextualize the reading practice a little more).

4. Rhythm composition

I used to try to do this in slides, with images of notes students would drag and drop to create a 4-beat rhythm for the class to copy. You can certainly do it that way, especially if you have a good quality interactive board that makes it easy and intuitive for students to drag notes around, but I found the technology aspect got in the way of the thinking aspect since I don't have a good interactive board. Instead I have a bunch of cards with different rhythms on them (here is the post with pictures and explanation of how I made them) and I have the warmup leaders choose cards to create a 4-beat rhythm and put it up on the board with magnets for the class to read.

5. Rhythm play along's

There are so many great rhythm play along videos out there, it's impossible to use them all! For this warmup I will make a slide with 4 different rhythm play along videos on it and have the warmup leaders choose one (in this case, rather than having each student in the warmup leader group have a turn, I have them choose one together- we don't have time to do 3 or 4 different play alongs!). They can get a sense of the theme of the play along from the thumbnails so it's a fun way to give them some ownership and choice.

6. Rhythm randomizer

This idea was sent to me by a reader (thank you Kate!) and it's perfect for any grade level: set up the parameters on Rhythm Randomizer so it will focus on the rhythms they're practicing, and have the warmup leaders click "new rhythm" to generate a pattern using those elements for the class to count/ clap/ play.

There are so many fun ways to put students in charge and practice rhythms! These only take about 3 minutes at the beginning of class and they really help keep a skill that really needs to be "drilled" regularly feel less like a chore. You can find my post on warmup activities for steady beat in here, and my post on activities for pitch letter names here. I'll share more warmups for other skills and concepts in a future post- if you have any questions or more ideas please leave them in the comments!

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