When I started going to preschools I thought that kids either had rhythm or they didn’t. I asked the group to clap in time to the music and some could and some couldn’t. As I went back I tried again and as time went on it was obvious that everyone was learning to tap in time to the music. The fact that some could helped the others because besides watching me, they could see their peers doing the rhythms. All of the research that I have seen says that rhythm is an important component for learning patterns motor skills and other things.
Ever since my first experiences I have included rhythm exercises in all the music classes I do. Here are some simple rhythm exercises to get your students going. Just adjust the complexity to match the grade level you are working with.
Tapping with music
I start with simple chords on the guitar and have the students tap along. I ask them to tap lightly on their legs. Make sure to pace these exercises so they don’t go to long because some students will be overly energetic tapping on their legs. They can tap to music from a CD or your computer or however you play music for them.
Tapping with me
For this I use a large djembe, which is an African hand drum. You can just tap on your own legs, use a tambourine, or make your own drum from a coffee can or something like that.
1. Tap steadily at a moderate pace. Hold up your hands to signal for the class to stop. This is very important, you must have a stop signal to control them. Also, you can make it fun, and praise them when they stop right away.
2. Tap three times in a row, rest, three times in a row, etc.
3. Tap and clap. Tap three times and then clap three times, keep alternating.
4. Different combinations, clapping and tapping 3 and 2, or 1 and 3. Mix it up.
5. Tap steadily and sing at the same time. I sing simple chants like OH, Oh, Oh. For older classes I have them do the We Will Rock You chant. They love it.
6. For younger grades I finish with a session of freeze dancing. I use the drum and start and stop. You can do this with any music you have. They dance while the music is going and freeze when it stops. I like doing slow motion and telling them to act like zombies. It cracks me up! A little scary that they know about zombies, but oh well.