It’s a frustrating thing the day you realize that your Grade 4 students are still confusing beat and rhythm, and that they don’t read rhythms quite as well as you imagined they should. I dare say—and feel free to challenge this—that it is a symptom of the PYP. Unless you have a lot more contact time than I ever have, then really great inquiry and student-led initiatives often take place at the expense of skills and literacy. (But I would love to hear from anyone who is accomplishing both in an hour a week!)

I have lots of ways to teach “ta” and “ti-ti” to my Grade 1 students, but not so many interesting ways that the older children would enjoy. The solution? Body percussion ensembles. Here are the awesome things about this solution:

  1. The students must keep a steady beat together.
  2. The students must listen to one another.
  3. Really simple rhythms (yes, just “ta” and “ti-ti”, but we could throw in some sixteenths if they can handle it) are more than enough if we are creative with the use of body percussion.
  4. It’s a great way to work on lining up parts because of the rhythmic simplicity.
  5. It’s super fun!
No singing? Teach rhythm and notation to upper elementary and middle school students, using body percussion composition! #musicedwithoutsinging #musicedchat #musiced #covidmusiced #pypmusic Click To Tweet

body-percussion-composition-collaboration-unitWe broke into three groups, each one composing a few bars of rhythm that they would like to use. Then we layered and combined them to make a collaborative, three-part composition. It’s still in the works, but the students absolutely love it, and they are working very hard to listen to one another and practice to get it just right. (A few YouTube examples helped to motivate and inspire them.) When they are ready, we will video their performances. After viewing the videos, the students will reflect in their individual journals/blogs.

Interested in trying it out with your classes? You can find a detailed unit plan and all the resources here.

What kinds of rhythm activities do you do with your older primary students?

Composing with Body Percussion
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