Write the Room in the Music Classroom

Rhythm: a strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound.

Rhythm: the way the words go.

Rhythm: a pattern of sounds connected to the main beat.

No matter your definition, it's one of the most important things we teach to our music students. It is what drives each of our classes. Without rhythm, where would we be? What would we teach?

Just as a child hears spoken words, then speaks, then reads sight words, and lastly begins to write those words, I truly believe that students should hear, speak, read, and write rhythms in that order. Just as a child practices handwriting in their regular classroom, I believe it is important for students to write rhythms in the music classroom. 

We often use manipulatives in the music classroom to encourage students to write a song.  My students use cards with notes on them and put them in rows of four and read the rhythms.  That is great, and really helps with their reading and writing skills!  They can move the cards around and read the rhythms.  However, if I asked them to physically write a quarter note with a pencil on a sheet of paper, it would not look like a quarter note.  It would probably look more like a lollipop or a circle and a line.  How often do students not realize that the note is actually "filled in"?  This is why I started using write the room activities with my students.  

Before class, I print out flash cards like the ones below.  I cut them in half for one rhythm on each card.  I place the 10 flash cards around the classroom.  I do not hide the flash cards, but I do want students to search for them.  It then becomes a scavenger hunt for students to find each rhythm.  I use the flash cards with note heads because I want my students to practice writing note heads.  But, I do have the stick notation as well if needed.

I then give each student a worksheet like the one below.  Students work in pairs walking around the classroom looking for the pictures on their page and copying the rhythms onto their worksheet.  It is not a race to see who can finish first.  I truly want the students practicing their music writing skills.  I want them to see and feel the difference in writing a quarter note and a half note.  I want them to see and feel the difference in writing eighth notes and sixteenth notes.  

Once students have finished writing all of the rhythms, they bring it to me so that I can see their writing.  I usually need to remind students to fill in the note heads, or write two bars across for sixteenth notes, or - you get the idea.  If everything looks great, I ask students to practice playing the rhythms with instruments while the others finish up.  

I love having worksheets that can be displayed on the walls at school and students can take home to their parents.  In the end, students have had the opportunity to move around the classroom instead of sitting.  They have had the opportunity for a small bit of socialization with their partner.  Last, they have the opportunity to write rhythms with a pencil and paper and hopefully understand what the notes really look like.  

How do you have students practice writing their rhythms?  I love finding new ideas!