Teaching young children about rhythm can be tricky. Many are barely learning to count and the concepts of subdividing a measure can sometimes be a little over their heads. In the past I have always used fruit to help children remember note values. For example, "grape" would be a quarter note, one beat. "Apple" would be 2 eighth notes, half of a beat. And we would clap out these fruit names and I would show pictures to reinforce these ideas. It worked to a certain degree, but I wasn't sure we were really grasping it completely. This year I tried something new.
As a private lesson teacher for piano and ukulele, I know that the books designed for early learners tend to use simple vocal sounds to emulate each note value. For instance "Ta" is said for every quarter note. For a half note (two beats) you simply say "ta-ah". I decided to use this method for the class and I think it went pretty well!
For the visual aspect of the learning process, I created a felt "measure". I divided my measure into four squares which represented each beat. then I created felt notes of varying values that we could stick in the squares to create different rhythms. We started with the quarter note and the quarter rest. We practiced saying "ta" and whispering "rest" as I let each student create their own 4 beat rhythm. The next week we moved on to half notes, whole notes and then of course the "big fat whole note" which the kids love to say! The children got the hang of it by week three and were becoming pros at chanting and clapping the rhythms. Not only were they correctly assigning value, but they were chanting and clapping in a much more steady beat than when we first started!
This kind of chanting, clapping, tapping, and learning will stay with them and help them in many other areas without them even realizing it. Clapping and chanting are all helpful contributors to literacy and increasing vocabulary! Children will begin to hear the natural "rhythm" in their speech. They will be better prepared when they begin reading and can use these tools for years to come! Not to mention, when they start learning about fractions down the road, we've already done some work! We had a lot of fun! We closed out the month with a special visit from some very talented musicians!