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Use this lesson plan to help students grasp the basics of rhythm and music notation. Group instruction will help students develop rhythm and syncopation, and a guided activity will allow students to apply the knowledge.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

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  • Recognize the basic symbols of music notation and the rhythm they represent
  • Perform the beat of most basic music compositions

Length

1 hour

Curriculum Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.

6.4Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings.CCSS.

ELA-Literacy.RI.6.7Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.

Materials

  • Copies of sheet music to basic songs (e.

    g., nursery rhymes, college fight songs, or other well-known songs)

  • Metronome (optional)

Key Vocabulary

After this lesson, students should be able to define the following vocabulary terms:

  • whole note
  • rest
  • whole rest
  • half note
  • note head
  • stem
  • half rest
  • quarter note
  • quarter rest
  • flag
  • beam
  • eighth note
  • eighth rest
  • sixteenth note
  • sixteenth rest

Instructions

  • Before beginning the video, get your students acquainted with the beat of basic 4:4 music. Do this by asking your students to clap in unison to a 4:4 beat. There are four beats per measure in 4:4 time, so have your students count along as they clap (e.

    g., 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4…), counting a number with each clap.

    • If you are unaccustomed to music time or uncomfortable keeping a beat yourself, use a metronome.

      If you do not have one, your music department should have one they can let you borrow. Have your students clap each time the metronome clicks until they are in unison and comfortable with the basic rhythm of music.

  • Begin playing the Rhythm: Quarter Notes, Eighth Notes, Rests & Other Basic Rhythms video lesson, stopping the video at 2:12.
  • Discuss the terms whole note, rest, and whole rest and review the symbols for each notation.

    • Demonstrate the whole note by clapping on ‘1’ and counting off 2, 3, and 4 (e.g., ”clap, 2, 3, 4”).

      Explain that the whole note began on 1 and was held for four total beats.

    • To demonstrate a rest, instead of saying the number as you clap, say ‘rest’. For example, you could say ”clap, clap, clap, ‘rest’, clap, clap, clap, ‘rest.

      ”’

    • To demonstrate a whole rest, combine these two approaches by saying ”clap, clap, clap, clap, ‘rest’, 2, 3, 4, clap….”
  • Have students clap the rhythms together, until they can demonstrate them properly.
  • Continue watching the video, stopping at 3:29.
  • Discuss the terms half note and half rest and review the symbols for each notation.
    • Demonstrate the half note by clapping on ‘1’ and counting off 2, before clapping again on 3 and 4. Explain that the half note began on ‘1’ and was held for a second beat (e.

      g., ”clap, 2, clap, clap”).

    • To demonstrate a half rest, say ”clap, clap, ‘rest’, 4, clap, clap….”
  • Have students clap the rhythms together, until they can demonstrate them properly.
  • Continue watching the video, stopping at 5:10.
  • Discuss quarter notes and quarter rests, explaining that a quarter note only lasts one beat, so each time they clapped at the beginning of the class, they clapped a quarter note.

    Review the symbols for each notation.

    • Demonstrate a quarter note by repeating the clapping from the beginning of the class: ”clap, clap, clap, clap.”
    • Demonstrate a quarter rest by saying ‘rest’ for one beat; for example, ”clap, clap, clap, rest.”
  • Have students clap the rhythms together, until they can demonstrate them properly.
  • Continue watching the video, stopping at 7:35.
  • Discuss the terms eighth note and eighth rest and review the symbols for each notation.

    • Demonstrate the eighth note by clapping while saying ‘1’ and then clapping again quickly before counting off 2. Explain that you clapped two eighth notes, and that the pace is twice as quick as quarter notes (e.g., ”clap! clap! 2, 3, 4”).
    • To demonstrate an eighth rest, say and clap ”clap! rest! 2, 3, 4.”
  • Have students clap the rhythms together, until they can demonstrate them properly.

  • Continue watching the video, stopping at 9:25.
  • Discuss the terms sixteenth note and sixteenth rest and review the symbols for each notation.
    • Demonstrate the sixteenth note by clapping on ‘1’ and clapping three more times before counting off 2, 3, and 4 (e.g., ”clap!! clap!! clap!! clap!! 2, 3, 4”).

    • To demonstrate a sixteenth rest, say and clap ”clap!! clap!! rest!! clap!! 2, 3, 4.”
  • Have students clap together, until everyone can demonstrate them properly.
  • Finish watching the video, and have students take the quiz. Be sure to discuss any items that students are struggling with to ensure understanding.

Activity

  • Break students up into pairs, and distribute one copy of the sheet music to each pair.
  • Explain that students will work together to figure out the clapping rhythm for their pieces, making the necessary adjustments for different types of notes and rests.

  • Give students 5-10 minutes to work out the clapping rhythms for their pieces.
  • When each pair has their rhythm worked out, allow student pairs to demonstrate the rhythm of the piece by clapping it for the rest of the class. Ask the other students to try to guess the piece simply through the clapping rhythm.

Extension

  • Have students create their own beats at home to be performed at the beginning of the next class period.

    Students can create original beats, or they can base them on an existing song. Students should write down their beats they create using the notes and rests they have learned from the lesson.

Related Lessons

Rhythm: Recognizing Syncopation, Dotted Notes & TiesReading Music Notes: Symbols & Names

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