I recently ran across a fantastic idea for a new “prop” to use in teaching over on Rebecca’s blog: LEGOS! She shared information on a LEGO Smart contest for educators (that includes a free Lego kit!). The contest doesn’t officially start until September, but I was anxious to try these out with students, so I picked up a set of basic blocks.
The different sizes of blocks work like a charm to diagram rhythms! In the picture below, one of my students diagrammed “Hot Cross Buns”:
We chose the yellow 4-bump blocks to be our quarter notes, then found blocks that were twice that length to represent half notes, 4 times longer to represent whole notes, and so on. I’m a huge fan of multi-sensory teaching, and often use Silly Putty and my beat boards to diagram rhythms. Students are able run their finger over the putty as we speak and hear the rhythm and literally feel how long a half or whole note is. The legos are a great alternative – students can run their fingers over the bumps on the bricks to feel rhythms.
The blocks work well for showing subdivisions, too. These would make a GREAT aid when introducing eighth notes to students who don’t understand fractions yet, or need a visual. If you designate a 4-bump block as a quarter note, it’s very easy to see how 2 “eighth note” blocks add up to the same size:
It’s even easy to see how a dotted quarter is equal to a beat and half (or equal to 3 eighth notes):
I used these last week with a student who was working on (and struggling a bit with) a piece that had a number of dotted quarter-eighth rhythms. We diagrammed a line of the rhythm, then counted it out in eighth notes while she tapped her finger across each set of bumps. It really helped her to internalize the rhythm, and the fact that we got to play with Legos turned what could have been a frustrating lesson into a fun one!
I’m looking forward to experimenting more with these this summer. I’ve got a LOT more ideas to test out with students – watch for more updates soon!