Whiteboard Rhythm Dictation

Whiteboard Rhythm Dictation

What You Need:

  • A whiteboard, chalkboard, or if you don’t have either, just use a piece of paper
  • Markers (or chalk) in a variety of colors
  • Rhythm cards like these

Setup:

  • None

How to Play:

  • The teacher draws a rhythm card. She counts a preparatory measure out loud and then claps the rhythm on the card without counting aloud.
  • The student chooses his favorite color of marker and writes the rhythm up on the board.
  • Switch jobs and repeat
  • If you choose to play for points, here’s how I did it.
    • The students get two points if they correctly write the rhythm within two times of hearing it. If it takes more than two repetitions, they go down to one point. I never let them get to zero because we keep going until they get it right.
    • The teacher gets one point for getting it right and has to get it on the first attempt. This ensures that the student will always at least tie me. Only one student complained that it wasn’t fair enough to challenge her. I switched to one of the variations below and she stopped complaining.

Variations:

  • To make it easier, limit your rhythm cards to very basic things like four quarter notes, two half notes, etc.
  • To make it harder, include the harder rhythms or make it two measures long.

Rhythm Duets on Chimes or Bells

xylophone-43574_1280
Rhythm Duets for Private Lessons

Technically, you don’t need chimes to do this activity. You can just clap the rhythms or use a piano, but the kids will love chimes or bells if you have them.

What You Need:

  • Rhythm Flashcards (one measure per card)
  • Chimes, bells, a xylophone, or some other pitched instrument
    • Preferably, each note should be on a different bell or chime, rather than part of a fixed keyboard.

Setup:

  • None

How to Play:

  • The student picks a bell. He draws a card and plays that rhythm on the bell counting aloud.
  • He draws two more cards and counts and lays them with the first to make a rhythm that is three measures long.
  • When he is confident with the rhythm, the teacher can choose a different bell and play along. (Choose a bell in the same chord.)
  • The student can then draw three cards for the teacher. Then they play a duet where the two rhythms are different. Many students have trouble holding onto their rhythm, so this is good for independence.
  • Finally, give the student three bells that form a triad. The student should then play the rhythm again, but move between the three bells in any order they choose. Because all the notes are in a chord, it will make a pretty melody.
    • If you are using a xylophone that cannot have the bells removed, you can still point out the right notes, but there is a much higher likelihood that the student will miss.

Variations:

  • To make it easier, limit the rhythms to quarter notes, half notes, and whole notes (the first page in this set).
  • To make it harder, increase the number of measures or use harder rhythms. You can also try having them play two different rhythms at the same time, one with the left and one with the right.

Body Percussion Tempo Challenge

Body Percussion Tempo Challenge
A lesson activity for practicing different tempos

Often when a student is struggling with a phrase or measure, I’ll suggest that we play it slower. My students nod and say okay. Then they play it again at exactly the same speed. They often really don’t seem capable of changing whatever their default speed is. So this week we are working on tempo changes.

What You Need:

Setup:

  • None

How to Play:

  • Stand up in front of the piano. Have the student pick four of the body percussion cards and lay them out in any order on the music stand. I put a ruler afterwards to represent a repeat sign.
  • Each card gets one beat, so we now have a measure of quarter notes in 4/4 time with a repeat sign. For example, the layout might be: Clap, Stamp, Stamp, Cluck. Practice the rhythm a few times.
  • The metronome app on my phone allows me to tap a beat and have it give me the metronome marking, so I tell the kids we are going to find out what their default preferred tempo is. They count, I tap, and the metronome gives us our start speed.
  • Working together, try to do the body percussion measures at that speed.
  • Draw a random tempo strip. Try it at that speed. Is it faster or slower than the student’s default speed? (If they get Presto and can’t manage it, that’s okay. It can be a good lesson in how important it is to learn things at a slower tempo before we try to take it fast.)
  • Continue drawing tempo strips until all are done. Which tempos are easiest? Which are hardest? How does it feel to switch between them?
  • If there is still time, try different tempos or working your way back up to presto. Many times a student who can’t do presto when they first draw that strip, will be able to do it if you work your way up slowly.

Variations:

  • To make it easier, don’t use the rest cards. Also, you can require each card to come in a group of two identical cards, so that you end up with something like: Clap, Clap, Stomp, Stomp. It is easier than having four separate actions in the measure.
  • To make it harder, create two different measures. Also, gradually increase the speed beyond presto.

 

Zap It (Rhythm Review)

This is my spin on a traditional educational game listed on many places on the Internet. I use it for rhythm, but the principal can be used for anything. My version is a little different. It’s for two players only (teacher vs. student). The kids love beating me, and they have yet to point out that they always win. It takes a bit of prep work to create the game in the first place, but absolutely no setup during or right before each lesson.

What You Need:

  • Popsicle or craft sticks with rhythms (or whatever you’re drilling) written on one end
    • You can buy different colors or sizes to make different levels of rhythms.
    • All the rhythms are two measures long. I have mixed time signatures.
  • A few sticks with “Zap It!” written on one end
  • (Optional) A few sticks with “Instrument” written on one end, plus a selection of percussion instruments
  • An opaque container to hold your sticks

Setup:

  • None

How to Play:

  • The student draws a stick. She identifies the time signature and then counts and claps that rhythm. If she gets it right, she keeps the stick.
    • In reality, I have the kids do it again until they get it right, so they always keep the stick.
  • As teacher, I draw a stick. I identify the time signature and then count and clap the rhythm. If I get it right, I keep the stick. If the student catches me getting it wrong, the student gets a chance to do it right. If the student gets it right, she can keep the stick instead of me.
    • I do this strategically, not only to make sure they are paying attention during my turn, but also to ensure they always win the game.
  • Alternate turns until someone draws a Zap It! stick. At that point, everyone counts their sticks. Whoever has the most sticks is the winner.
  • If someone draws an Instrument stick, they draw another stick to get a rhythm and can choose a percussion instrument to use instead of clapping. They keep both sticks at the end of the turn.
Zap It! (Rhythm Review)
Zap It! (Rhythm Review)

Spot the Rhythm

It’s rhythm week here, and this activity evolved with the week. In it’s final incarnation, here’s how it worked.

What You Need:

  • A set of one measure rhythm cards
  • percussion instruments (optional)

Setup:

  • Lay out six to twelve cards, face up

How to Play:

This game is a series of challenges. Each step is a little harder than the one before. The goal is to get through as many challenges as you can before the lesson ends.

  1. The student chooses a card, but does not remove it, point to it, or indicate it in any way. He should count a preparatory measure out loud to establish the beat. Then he should clap the measure (not counting out loud). Hopefully, the teacher will be able to identify which measure the student chose.
  2. Switch parts.
  3. Repeat challenge one using a percussion instrument instead of clapping. If you’re not using percussion instruments, just clap.
  4. Switch parts and percussion instruments.
  5. Return to clapping. This time choose two measures. Again, count a preparatory measure. Then clap the two measures in succession. Hopefully, the teacher can identify both measures.
  6. Switch parts. Many of my students found one measure easy to identify, but two measures very difficult. Repeat the clapping as many times as necessary to ensure success.
  7. Add in the percussion instrument.
  8. Switch parts and percussion instruments.
  9. Return to clapping. This time choose three measures.
  10. Etc.

 

Variations:

  • To make it easier:
    • Limit the rhythms to quarter notes, half notes, and whole notes.
    • Put out fewer cards to choose from.
  • To make it harder:
    • Include eighths, sixteenths, triplets, etc.
    • Put out more cards to choose from.
    • Start with two or three measures to begin with. Or go on up to six or seven measures.
    • Put out mixed time signatures so they may have to switch in the middle.

 

drum-924348_1920
Spot the Rhythm