Want a fun, sensory way to introduce and reinforce rhythms that your elementary students will love? Let them “play” with their rhythms in a simple, make-it-yourself sand garden:
Several years ago, I had a sand & rock garden in my studio waiting room. My students LOVED it – had I let them, some of them would have been happy to play with it for their whole lesson instead of playing the piano. Before long, the garden became a teaching aid, and not just a toy! (You can read about our first musical explorations in the sand in this post.)
A make-it-yourself sand garden is a fantastic tool for teaching and reinforcing the rhythms of elementary songs. Sing or chant the words of a song together as your student traces his or her finger through the sand. Ask your student to tap lightly for short (i.e. quarter) notes, and drag their fingers for longer notes. As they sing, they’ll create a visual representation of the song’s rhythm while simultaneously hearing and feeling the rhythm – a win-win for just about any student!
All you need to make your own sand garden is an old cookie sheet, baking pan or tupperware container that’s large enough to trace several lines of rhythm. The darker the container better – it’s easier to see the rhythm if the color of the pan comes through the sand when traced. You can find inexpensive decorator sand at most hobby/craft or discount stores. It’s also a good idea to have some hand wipes close by for students to use between “playing” in the sand and playing the piano again!