The students walk into your classroom, it’s hot, they’re bored from listening to the rules all day, and it’s their first music class of the year. You go over the rules and make sure they remember the procedures, that takes about 5 minutes..right? So if you’re me you have 35 minutes left to get the students back into loving music class from day one. So what do I do? Get the music flowing! It is time to compose our beats, pass out the instruments and rock out. Here is a quick rhythm writing activity that can be modified to fit each grade level K-5:
– 2 beach balls with notes and rests drawn on to them.
-Whiteboard with markers
-Get one, two, or three staff lines set up on the board. Modify this depending on the class you have, example would be one line for K and 1, two lines for 2 and 3, and three lines for 4 and 5. Each line would be a separate rhythmic ostinato part so you can divide your class into different groups to play each line.
-Start bopping the beach balls around the class like popcorn, let the students know when you start counting down 3..2..1..DONE who ever has the balls must hold them and tell you what note or rest is under their right hands. Have a few practice rounds before you start writing it down. Try to have the ball land on different people each time.
-When you have your ostinatos pass out instruments and assign parts. I try to have at least one strong rhythmic student on each part and will coax the other members in the same group to watch that person to keep the beat because obviously you cannot play 3 parts at once.
-Practice each part as a class before you start putting them together. My students know when I say ostinato they know to keep repeating until I play a finishing drum sound or give a vocal que.
-Once you are playing as a group together ,get grooving to the beat! If you groove they will too. I will stop and switch up parts if we have extra time too. If you want to go the extra mile, record it and have them watch the fun next class and give you describing words about their ensemble.
Tech Variations:If you’re looking for a way to integrate technology into this lesson take out the whiteboard and markers and use a notation software on your teacher computer. There are a few options for free software; Finale notepad, QComposer on Quavermusic.com, Noteflight, and Musescore are just a few. Another tech variation on this activity is to add a little background beat to your composition with Garageband loops. Have it prepared or choose a couple of those techie angel students to make one that will go along as the class plays.
This activity is simple and gets the students comfortable and familiar with what you do again. Don’t want to write rhythms? Go for melodies and use Orff instruments. It’s a simple activity that gets you groovin’ from the start.