Sensory Spotlight: Rhythm Dictation

I’ve posted several times about the beat boards and rhythm cards that are go-to rhythm aids in my studio.  I use them on a regular basis to introduce new rhythm concepts, and give my hands-on learners some extra practice on rhythm patterns (for more details, check out this post and this post).

These aids are also a great interactive way to introduce and practice rhythmic dictation.  Here’s a look at a how we’ve been practicing our dictation skills this year:

Each student needs their own beat board (or set of boards).   For this example, I designated that we would be using 2-measure rhythm patterns in 4/4 time.  Students use a dry erase marker to write counts on the laminated boards.  (Note: For younger students taking dictation without eighth notes, omit writing the “+”s).

Student listen silently as I play the rhythm pattern once.   As I play it for a second time, I ask them to tap their fingers across their board, moving steadily across the hearts.  We repeat this step several times until they can tap and count along with the rhythm pattern:

Next, students place gemstones on top of each beat (or half beat) on the board.  (Note: any small markers such as bingo chips, coins, etc. could be substituted for the gemstones shown here.)  As I play through the rhythm again, students move their fingers across the board, and “nudge” the gemstones on to each beat where they hear a note:

Once they have successfully diagrammed the rhythm pattern with gemstones, students remove the extra gems from the top of their board and add rhythm cards to show the pattern they heard:

Once students get the hang of taking dictation with the beat boards, it’s easy to transition them to taking dictation on paper, using similar steps and motions.

They write out a designated number of measures and counts:

As they listen to the rhythm pattern, they can move their finger or pencil across the written counts, just as they moved across the hearts on the beat board.   Instead of moving gemstones, they simply dot or slash the beats where they hear notes:

They finish by adding rhythm notation:

Note: I know there are many ways to take written dictation.  If you have a fun or unusual process that works for your students, please leave a comment and share below!!


Sensory Spotlight: Rhythm Dictation — 7 Comments

    • Thanks Jennifer for sharing all your great ideas. I am excited to use your beat boards with my students. When I printed them, the top fourth of the heart is cut out and a little heart in it’s place instead of a solid heart. Am I doing something wrong?

      • Hi Arlette,

        I’m so sorry that the file is causing you problems! I’ll send you a private message to see if we can’t get this figured out.


  1. I used your beat boards just yesterday with a student for rhythm dictation practice, but didn’t think of writing in the subdivided beats. Thanks for the tip. I think I’ll try it again today with a couple of students but use some of the clearance Easter m&ms I picked up instead of stones. I love how this activity really reinforces to the student how important counting aloud is.

  2. This is such a great idea, Jennifer! Thanks for sharing. Now I’ll have to think of some way to incorporate rests too. If you have any ideas, please share!

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