I really like to use the words of familiar songs or catchy phrases to reinforce rhythm concepts. Students naturally speak in rhythm, whether they’re aware of it or not, so it’s a great way to relate a “new” rhythm concept to something they already know. Interestingly, I also find that choosing the right rhythm to go with lyrics is one of the hardest challenges for my students when I give them an open-ended composing assignment. We’ve spent a lot of time in private lessons working on finding the right rhythms for their Halloween compositions, so I have a couple of activities planned for group this week to reinforce that process.
My students last year LOVED the 12 Days of Halloween Cards, so I’m excited to use those again this month. I have a number of students who are just starting to play eighth notes, and with all the repetition built into the song, these are great way to reinforce eighth note patterns!
As a follow-up to that activity, I made up a simple rhythm dictation sheet for the chorus of “Purple People Eater.” The entire chorus can be written using only eighth and quarter notes. Students just fill in the appropriate symbols (quarter or pair of eighths) on each furry blank:
When I do dictation activities with young students, I like to use movement to help them “feel” the rhythms before they write. Their first task is to simply take a walk around the room as I play through the song, matching my beat with their steps. Once they have established a pulse, I ask them to speak or sing with me. When they’re familiar with the words, they clap or tap the rhythm of the words on their thighs, while still walking. It becomes very easy to feel the difference between quarter notes (one clap/tap per step) and paired eighth notes (two claps/taps per step). After that, filling out the worksheet is a snap!