Silly Putty rhythms are one of the all-time student favorite activties in my studio. After all, who doesn’t love Silly Putty??? To teach beginning note durations, I have several “Beat Boards” – boards with several hearts painted, each representing one beat (or “musical heartbeat”). We stick blobs of Silly Putty to the boards to represent notes:
Students learn that one “note” to each heartbeat is a quarter note. Notes that s-t-r-e-t-c-h out for two are half notes, and so on. Often, before I even introduce note values, I’ll put on recorded music and have students simply tap across the hearts from left to right to feel a steady beat. Once they can do that, we diagram a rhythm, then they tap or slide their fingers on top of the silly putty as we count through the pattern. When they slide their finger down the length of a silly putty half note, they really FEEL how the note has a longer duration.
I also use the beat boards when I introduce or practice counting by measures. I write the numbers 1-4 (for 4/4 time) on garage sale sticker dots and stick them to each heart:
It’s a great tool to help students understand and visualize the place of each note in a measure, and transition from counting by duration to counting by measures.
Helpful hint: I do find that some of my students become fascinated with stretchng and stringing out the silly putty and wander a little off-task when we do this activity (it can take FOREVER to diagram a rhythm if the kids haven’t figured out the trick to pulling silly putty apart). If I plan to use this in a lesson, I’ll often have it pre-prepped, with the silly putty already divided into small balls before the student arrives.
I used some scrap craft wood and a heart stencil to create the beat boards above, but there’s a paper version available for download on my website:
If you print it on cardstock or heavy-weight paper, then laminate it, the cards will be sturdy enough to withstand the silly putty. The printed cards can be taped together (on the back side) to create a “board” 12 or 16 heartbeats long.