Break is over! A new semester has begun! One of my goals as I start each new semester is to return to a “balanced” curriculum. I find that the END of a typical semester is full of performance-oriented teaching. Lesson time is consumed with fine-tuning repertoire and preparing for recitals, concerts and recording projects. For most students, the BEGINNING of a new semester does not bring with it those same impending performance demands. Months like this are a perfect time to “pay forward” a bit of emphasis on technique, theory, ear training and rhythm.
One of my “go-to” tools for teaching elementary rhythms is a set of note value cards I made several years ago, designed to hang off a clothesline in my studio:
The cards are proportioned to show note length (i.e. a half note is double the width of a quarter). The clothesline is really just for fun – it’s an interest grabber whenever something is hanging there when students first come into the room. It also allows us to “act out” the rhythms easily – we can stomp, whack, hop, clap or add percussion instruments with the clothesline much easier than we could with a music stand! I decided this semester to hang a “rhythm of the week” for elementary students. Each day as they come into lessons, we’re going to spend a quick minute working on rhythm before we sit down at the piano.
There are TONS of possibilities for activities with these cards. One of my other favorite activities is a hands-on “fill-in-the-note” game. Given a meter and a partial measure, students must find one note that will complete the measure. It’s VERY easy to visualize with the proportioned cards, and a great pre-activity to worksheets requiring the same skill. The cards are also handy for quick and easy rhythm dictation.
The current set available to print includes whole notes (and rests), dotted half notes, half notes (and rests), quarter notes (and rests) and paired eighth notes. (It may grow in the future – I’ll be sure to post updates!) For my set, I printed each different note value on a different colored paper for quick recognition. Cards can be printed from my studio site.