Valentine Rhythm Dictation

Among my students, Valentine’s Day is controversial. Their reaction ranges from love to hate, with most hovering around total indifference. Fortunately, there is a way to make a Valentine’s activity that appeals to all of the above because the poems range from the traditionally sweet, through the silly surprising, down to the frankly insulting. I used this activity with all my students of all levels. The only difference was that the more advanced students could do it faster and with less help.

What You Need:


  • None

How to Play:

  • Show the student all the Valentine poems so they can pick their favorite.
  • Determine the time signature.
    • I do this by telling them I’m going to clap and say the first measure (“Roses are”). Once they figure out that it’s in 3/4 time, they can write that before the first word of the poem.
  • Draw the first bar line.
    • Since I’ve already told them that the first measure ends after the word “are,” they need a bar line there.
  • Draw the first three notes above the first three syllables.
    • Repeat counting and saying the first measure. Some students may need a few hints to realize that each of those syllables gets a quarter note.
  • Finish the first line.
    • Count and say the entire first line. I made the final word a dotted half note. Obviously, alternate rhythms are possible, but the main point is not what the rhythm is, but whether the student can identify and write whatever rhythm you do.
  • Dictate the second line.
    • I did it as a whole line now that they have the idea of what to do.
    • Point out that the rhythm between first and second lines are exactly the same. That is normal and expected in this type of poetry. In music, it would be called a rhythmic motif.
  • Repeat the process for the third and fourth lines. The rhythms here will not be the same.
  • Have the student say and clap the whole poem in rhythm.
  • If there is still time, move to the piano and compose a song. The notes can be any note in C major (all the white keys). The rhythm should be the rhythm they wrote down.


  • To make it easier, you can put in all the bar lines and time signature first, and do only one measure at a time.
  • To make it harder, don’t use the natural speaking rhythm. Syncopation or other unexpected rhythms usually go over well.
  • To make it longer, have the student change the rhythm after having written down yours.
  • To review the rhythms again afterwards, use percussion instruments to play it.




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