Rhythm may well be one of the first topics that you cover with a class. Pulse and rhythm are so vital to every genre of music that it is really important that our students can at the very minimum feel it. Preferably they will be able to read notated rhythms and perform them too.
Often students are taught the basics - 'here is a crotchet, minim, quaver' etc - early on and then they are never mentioned again! Unless that student plays an instrument regularly, there is no way they will retain that information. So why not add in some fun games regularly to remind them of pulse, rhythm and notation?
One of my favourites that my students love to finish a lesson with is 'Pass the Beat Around the Room'. You can read more about that in my post 10 Fun Music Games.
The following 5 games are quick and easy to produce and can be used as starters, plenaries or main lesson topics.
Have you downloaded the FREE KEYWORD SUPERFOLDER yet? An amazing time-saving, workload-reducing pack of resources containing all keywords needed for GCSE/BTEC, with listening links and definitions. Check it out HERE.
This is a great little game for encouraging students to think about pulse and performing in time together. It does not require knowledge of any notation, it is an ideal starter for students to feel the rhythm.
Here is the chant, and quite simply you do the action on the action word. So when you say 'click', then also click.
First, you make your fingers click,
Then you stamp your feet
Both hands slap your knees
And clap on the beat
Once the students can do this independently take away the words to see if they can complete the action in time. You can go on to change tempo and even do it as a round game in groups. It might be a good idea to keep a pulse in this case!
Again, a game that helps students to feel the beat and encourages them to stay in time together. The famous 'cup song' will be extremely challenging for some students, so you could simplify it by removing some moves. Here are the 'words' to help students remember the actions. Once they are proficient, take away the words.
Clap clap ta-ble ta-ble
Clap up down
Clap sweep top table bottom hand down
Once they have the hang of that, swap cups at the end; this will pick up any students who are struggling. You can then either help them further or if you prefer, turn it into a game and they are either 'out' or become a pulse keeper on percussion. This depends entirely on your class and aims of course.
With this game, we move on to the recognition of notation. Students will need to understand time signatures at a basic level and some rhythmic values. The game can be made simple for starting rhythms or as complex as you like as your students become more advanced.
Each student folds a piece of paper into 16 squares - these will be the 'bars'. The teacher (or a student) then claps out a rhythm. This could be a bar each going around the class or one person leading.
The class then claps this back and finally writes down the rhythm in their squares.
This could go on to be the basis of a composition project or a polyrhythmic group performance.
This game is a good assessment tool for note recognition and can be done with body percussion or instruments.
Give each student a card with two rhythms on it. On is the 'who has' and the other is the 'I have'. Students sit in a circle and take it in turns to clap their 'who has' rhythm. The student with that rhythm as their 'I have' puts their hand up.
This handy game is quick and simple to do and enables students to perform as well as listen. You could make it simpler in the early stages by adding on rhythmic words or phrases that you have used to teach notation values. This is also a helpful tool to prepare students for GCSE aural dictation, as they practise hearing and seeing rhythms.
There are many games that can be played with dice, such as.....
Do you have any other go-to rhythm games that work well with your students? Let me know so we can share the love!