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.




The Giant Valentine – A Lesson Mashup



I’m always on the lookout for ways to make lessons more interesting. Here’s what worked this week.

I cut out lots of hearts out of different colors of paper. On one page, I actually had a heart template, but I quickly discovered that it’s a whole lot easier just to make a random fold in your paper and cut hearts in random sizes.

On the back of each heart I wrote things like:

  • ​Sight Read
  • Improv
  • Student’s Choice of Past Song
  • Current Song – Right hand only
  • Current Song – Left hand only
  • Rhythm Challenge (this means they pick a random rhythm out of my rhythm cards and clap it back)
  • Note Challenge (this means we open a music book at random, I randomly place my finger on a note and they tell me what it is)

I also wrote some that were specific to each student, like a measure number or a phrase that was causing difficulty.

During the lesson, they picked hearts from the pile, do the challenge and tape it on to our Giant Studio Valentine, which formerly was just blank piece of poster board.. The picture above was early on in the week, but we ended up with it covered with hearts, and the kids enjoyed approaching the practicing in a new way.

**This post originally appeared on my other website here.