Processes for beginning rhythm reading
• Introduce the following two rhythms by writing them on the board and saying, “When I point at this one say ‘shark’.” Then, point at it over and over, keeping a beat; every time you touch the board, in other words, the students say “shark.” Eventually they will automatically associate the symbol with the word. You might even try to trick them a bit by, for example, pointing suddenly when they might not be expecting it. The key here and throughout is to make it interesting for the students. Find a level at which they are challenged, but can still accomplish the task.
• Repeat the process for “dolphin.” Say, “When I point at this one say ‘dolphin’.” Practice with “dolphin” just like you did for shark. It doesn’t have to take very long. Change the tempo a bit and strive to find just the right level of challenge.
• Combine the two rhythms, alternating between “shark” and “dolphin” in interesting, yet achievable patterns.
= Shark = Dolphin
• Keep a four-beat pattern on one hand (palm facing forward towards the class) by touching thumb to little finger, thumb to ring finger, thumb to middle finger, and thumb to index finger—over and over. Say “1, 2, 3, 4” and have the students repeat the pattern. Repeat the pattern over and over as a class.
• Say a four-count “shark-dolphin” pattern while keeping the beat on you hand as described above and have the students repeat the pattern (echo). Introduce a wide variety of “shark-dolphin” patterns.
• Say a pattern and have the students follow your pattern with their own improvised four-beat “shark-dolphin” patterns (answer). Repeat this process over and over.
• Invite individual students to create patterns for others to echo. They could lead the entire class or you could divide them into smaller groups with rotating leaders.
• Place the symbols in a 4 by 4 grid and say them as a class. Keep the beat—one beat per box (one sequence of four fingers for each row).
• This makes complete sense to most children because each box is the same size and can hold either a dolphin or a shark.
• Change the rhythms. Let the students create their own rhythms in their own individual grids.
• Clap the rhythm (each syllable) while saying the names.
• Clap the rhythm (each syllable) while thinking the names.
• Replace the clapping with other body percussion or instruments.
• Perform the grid backwards, down each column, or in a round.
• Have one group repeat a row over and over and then add other groups on other rows.
• Add more rhythms and repeat the processes.
= sh (have them say this at first, later only do the action—finger over lips)
= Sea Turtle
• Add rhythms for half notes, dotted halves, and whole notes. Use a line to connect boxes. The eel stretches across two boxes, the seal swims through three boxes, and the whale of course takes up four boxes.
= Eel Half note = Seal Whole note = Whale
• Have the students create their own grids.
• Trade grids and perform.
• Expand into much larger grids.
• Perform the grids as a round.
• Perform one line over and over while others perform and different line.
• Divide into groups and create grooves using the grids.