Thursday, October 15, 2015

Monster Rhythms

My students LOVE to play instruments! (Duh!) It's easy to get them to practice reading and playing rhythms - especially with fun and festive slides like these monster rhythms. I projected this brand new set in my second grade class and, and students ate them up.

My instruments are set up in three rows, and students zig, zag, zig through the rows. In other words, they move to the right on row 1, left on row 2, and right on row 3, followed by one quick zoom from the last instrument back to the beginning of row 1. Rows can include barred instruments in a pentaton, unhitched percussion, or a combination of both.

Since it is fairly early in the year and I only see them once a week, we used my introductory method of playing the slides.
  1. Say It: I count down: "8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, play it now." Students say it without playing
  2. Say and Play It: Students speak and play the rhythm (Play should continue without missing a beat. I sometimes speak in rhythm and give directions while they are playing to keep them on track.
  3. Just Play It: Students should think the rhythmic syllables while they play.
  4. Rotate: Students move to the next instrument while I click to the next slide and begin the countdown again. They know they only have 8 beats to get ready, so they move quickly and with purpose.

When students are proficient, they say and play each slide twice without stopping before rotating to the next instrument. When this works well, they are ready for their favorite rhythmic game: Poisoned Rhythms. I created this Monster version to go along with our new practice slides.

Students will strive to outwit the monsters by avoiding playing the poisoned rhythm. The "punishment" isn't too bad: they simply move to the next level of instruments. Complete instructions for the game are included in the product file.

The practice slides and the poisoned rhythm game are available at my TpT store. The bundle includes everything you need for a monstrous good time, plus it includes a discount:

I hope these ideas inspire you to make your music class rock!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Monster Recorder B-A-G Rhythms

My fourth graders began learning music notation last year. They are doing a great job at identifying notes. We have been playing Around the World - Treble Staff, so I know they can name the pitches. I wish they were doing as well at producing a pleasing tone on the recorder. I know they will get there. We just haven't had a lot of time in class to work, yet.

I wanted a quick way for them practice and for me to assess and assist, as needed. I created a quick monster-themed PowerPoint filled with 4-beat rhythmic slides. I assigned letter names to the notes, so I students could practice fingering and playing B, A, and G. I'm usually a stickler for reading the music and don't allow them to write letter names in their books. I usually want them reading the notes, instead of letters; but this time I was more concerned with helping them improve their tone and articulation.

I created three different levels of Monster Recorder B-A-G and began using it this week. We began with Level 1, which keeps each 4-beat rhythm on one pitch. It was easy to spot students who were playing the wrong pitch, either due to fingering the wrong pitch or not completely covering holes.

Here is the procedure we followed this week: (I'm sure I'll tweak this as we go.)

  • Students read and fingered the rhythm silently
  • All students played the example once
  • We identified issues with rhythm or pitch and then played it twice in a row.
  • Groups played examples, so I could more easily identify specific students needing help. (I have divided my class into 3 groups. They numbered off in their order, so no one sits by a neighbor in the same number group. I use this system often, because they can hear themselves better and I can focus on fewer players at once.)
Level 2 increases the difficulty by having examples that include more than one pitch, but all movement is stepwise.

As my students improve, I plan to use Monster Recorder to play a game. I'll divide the class into two teams and have individuals from teams play. They can earn points. I'm thinking of this point system:
  • 1 point for correct rhythm (but not all pitches or pleasing tone)
  • 2 points for correct rhythm & pitch OR rhythm & tone (problem with pitch or tone)
  • 3 points for proper rhythm, pitch, and tone 

Level 3 steps it up another notch and adds leaps between B and G. All levels use pretty basic rhythms, which include quarter notes and rests, half notes, and eighth notes.

Each level is available in my TpT store, as well as a bundled set available at a discount. You can find them here:

Happy Playing!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Around the World - Treble Staff Game

My fourth graders traveled around the world this week. Okay, it's not what it sounds like. We didn't leave home, but we did have a passport to an entertaining way to practice identifying treble note letter names! Around the World is a game many teachers use to review, practice, and assess various skills, and I thought it would be a great way to make identifying notes exciting for the students.

I created a game using PowerPoint and tried out two versions of play with my students this week. They had a blast and begged for more when it was time to go.

Game Play

Version 1 - Basic Play

  • Class sits in a semi-circle.
  • Student 1 stands behind Student 2.
  • Teacher counts down 5-4-3-2-1 and changes slides to reveal a new pitch.
  • Student 1 and 2 compete to identify the letter name of the pitch displayed on the screen.
  •  The first person to call out the correct pitch name is the winner. If the first answer given is not correct, the other student wins the round.
  • Teacher changes slide to reveal the correct answer.
  • The winner moves on and stands behind Student 3.
  •  The other student sits in spot 2.
  •  Play continues with the winner moving forward and the other student sitting in the spot.
  • The winner of the game is the first person to make it around the world and back to his/her “home.”

Version 2 - All Play

  •  Class sits in a semi-circle, grouped in pairs. Each pair needs 1 set of A-B-C-D-E-F-G game pieces.
  • Students must work silently.
  • Students must place both hands on their knees as the teacher counts down 5-4-3-2-1 and changes the slide to display a new note.
  • Pairs of students compete to identify the letter name of the pitch displayed on the screen and pick up the correct letter piece. (Both students can pick up a piece if they select different answers.)
  • Students hold their pieces in the air to signal they are done.  (They should not let others see their choice.)
  • When each group is ready, the teacher changes slide to reveal the answer.
  • The winner moves left to the next set of pieces, while the other student remains in place.
  • If neither player selects the correct answer, they remain in place and the person moving toward their group gets to skip over to the next set.
  • The winner of the game is the first person to make it around the world and back “home.”
  • Gameplay may continue.

"All Play" Tips

During the "All Play" version, I put a chime tree in the center and let the students quickly step forward and play it to signal when they had made it around the circle.

The "All Play" version requires a set of game pieces for each pair of students. I wanted to use different colors for each letter, so I could sort sets easily if they got mixed up. The pieces can be made out of anything that is durable and can withstand students grabbing. I considered several options and decided to use poker chips that I found online in a rainbow of colors. I used a permanent marker to label them. They are heavy and the perfect size for students to pick up and hold in their fists without others seeing the color. Bottle caps would also work as durable game pieces.

I gave specific instructions about playing safely and fairly. An important rule for them to remember is to keep their hands on their knees until the note is displayed and it is time to pick up a piece.
There were a couple of instances when I had to have a play-off for one set of students for different reasons. Overall, students played nicely and enjoyed the competition. I have to absent next week, and I know what my 4th graders will be doing while I'm gone!


You can play this game by simply drawing notes on the board, but I loved the ease of having the PowerPoint presentation. The graphics also make it more festive. If you would like to purchase a PowerPoint version of the game, you can head over to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store that I just opened. Two versions are available: one with basic treble notes from line 1 to line 5 and another with extended treble notes ranging from middle C to G above the staff. There is a discount for a bundled set of both version available, as well. You can access the items below.

Happy travels!