Teaching with Little Hands On Rhythm.

Little Hands On Rhythm is a fun and interactive way to teach rhythmic concepts to young music students. Its purpose is to help teachers explain rhythmic concepts through the use of manipulative rhythmic components. Tactile presentation allows young student a concrete method for processing and understanding conceptual ideas. All rhythmic manipulatives are magnetic and easily attach to the unique Rhythm Board that has graphics specifically designed for teaching rhythm. The Little Hands On Rhythm Primer Kit includes a hardcover magnetic rhythm board, magnetic quarter notes, half notes, dotted half notes, whole notes, paired eighth notes, quarter rests, half and whole rests, 2/4, 3/4 , and 4/4, time signatures and their basic beats, counting numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, with + signs for counting the second eighth note of an eighth note pair, equal signs, and bar lines. All pieces are sized to allow easy handling by students age five and up. The kit consists of 112 manipulative pieces.

Ways in which to use Little Hands On Rhythm to Teach Rhythmic Concepts

1. Identify note values and demonstrate their beat values

Quarter Notes: Use the Time Tree to show a graphic representation of a quarter note. The teacher can use this time to give a verbal description of the note using the terms note head and stem.  (A verbal discussion on the description of the note in terms of the note head and stem should follow the visual reference for all subsequent note values.)  Ask the student to find and place four quarter notes from the  box on the board.  Explain that each quarter note is counted as one beat. Have the student place the number 1 under each quarter note. (1, 1, 1, 1, ). Clap and count the note values together.

Half Notes: Place two basic beats for 2/4 time on the top line of the board.  Ask the student how many quarter notes there are in each basic beat and count the quarter notes together.  Using the counting numbers have the student place the numbers 1,2 under the two notes in the basic beat in the area marked 'Numbering the beats' on the board. Explain to the student that he/she are now going to count the number of quarter notes.  Using  the counting numbers clap the number of beats (1,2 1,2.)  Use the Time Tree to show the student the visual reference for the half note and show how it is the same value as two quarter notes that are one beat each.  Describe the half note.   Ask the student to find the half notes from the box and place them underneath the first note of each 2/4 basic beat above.  Clap and count the rhythm numerous times until the student comprehends the concept and can do this unassisted.

* See 'How to clap...'

Dotted Half Notes: Place two basic beats for 3/4 time on the top line of the board. Ask the student how many quarter notes there are in each basic beat.  Count them together.  Add the counting number 1,2,3 in the area marked ' Numbering the beats' on the board.  Make sure the numbers line up under the quarter notes in each basic beat above.  Clap and count the basic beat.  There is no graphic reference for the dotted half note on the Time Tree.  Show the student the dotted half note from the box and ask the student to place the dotted half notes from the box on the board under the first note of each basic beat above.  Clap and count the dotted half note numerous times.  To evaluate the students comprehension of the dotted half note the teacher can ask the student to clap the rhythm unassisted.

*See 'How to clap..' 

Whole Notes: Place two 4/4 basic beats on the top line of the board.  Ask the student how many quarter notes are in each basic beat. Count the quarter notes of each basic beat together. Add the counting numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, in the area marked 'Numbering the beats'.  Line up the numbers under the notes of each beat above. Clap and count the basic beat.  Use the Time Tree to show the student the visual reference for the whole note and show how it is the same value as four quarter notes. Ask the student to find the whole note in the box and place it under the first note of each basic beat. Clap and count the note values until the student can do this unassisted.

*See 'How to clap..' 

Eighth Notes: Place two basic beats of 2/4  time on the top line of the board.   Ask the student how many quarter notes there are in each basic beat and count the quarter notes together.  Using the counting numbers have the student place the numbers 1,2 under the two notes in each basic beat in the area marked 'Numbering the beats' on the board. Count and clap the basic beat.  Use the Time Tree to show the student a visual representation of the paired eighth notes and how two eighths are the same time value as a quarter note; one beat.  Place the eighth note pairs under the basic beat and place the + (plus)signs (as the 'and') on the second eighth note pair.  Count and clap and eighth notes as follows: (1 and 2 and, 1 and 2 and). The teacher should clap and count the eighth notes with the student until the student can do this unassisted   The teacher can then clap the basic beat while the student claps the rhythm of the eighth note pairs.  This will give the student a reference that will help them understand the concept of two eighth notes equaling one beat.  The student could use a different timbre to further differentiate the rhythm from the basic beat. 

*How to clap Note Values more than one beat.

  • To clap the half note: Clap your hands once for beat one. Move your clasped hands to the right once to demonstrate the holding of beat 2.
  • To clap the dotted half note: Repeat the instruction for the half note but move your clasped hands to the right twice to demonstrate holding the note for beats 2, 3.
  • To clap the whole note: Repeat the instruction for the half note but move your clasped hands to the right three times to demonstrate holding the note for beats 2, 3, 4.

Teachers can also use the equal signs to help demonstrate note values. Place one basic beat on the board followed by an equal sign and ask the student to choose one note from the box that equals the number of beats represented in the basic beat. Example: A basic beat for 2/4 time followed by an equal sign followed by a half note or place the manipulatives as following: a quarter note, a plus sign, a quarter note, an equal sign and a half note. This should demonstrate to the student that a quarter note plus a quarter note equals a half note or 1+1 = 2.

2. Identify the Rest Values and demonstrate their beat values.

The rest values are colour coded in blue. The quarter rest like the quarter note is worth one beat. But like the name suggests the performer must rest on the beat in which the quarter rest appears. This can be indicated by motioning both hands outward to indicate the beat.   The half rest looks like a hat and is the same value as the half note but again we rest for two beats.  This can be indicated by motioning the hands outward twice while counting.  The whole rest is the half rest inverted.   The teacher can explain to the student that the whole rest is the value of the top number of the time signature.   if no other note or rest values are in the bar the whole rest is used and placed in the middle of the bar.  The resting beats can be indicated by again motioning the hands outward and counting the beats that apply to the rest based on the time signature.

3. Demonstrate the basic beat and the rhythm

The Basic Beat:  Place four basic beats from one of the time signatures in the area where the rhythm is usually notated on the board. Use the bar lines to make bars of equal beats and add the counting numbers underneath. Have the student clap out the basic beat over four bars. Ask the student to describe what they heard. Was the rhythm a regular beat? Did each note get the same amount of time? A Rhythm: Push the basic beat to the top line of the board and construct a rhythm using different note values. Make sure the counting numbers and note values are aligned under the basic beat above. Have the student clap and count the rhythm. Ask the student to describe what they heard? Was the rhythm the same in each bar? Were some notes held longer than others?

4. Explain and demonstrate the time signature using the basic beat.

The student can pick which basic beat they believe is a match for the time signature they have chosen and visa-versa. Use the questions in the Time Signature box to help explain the meaning of the top and bottom numbers. The student can make up bars of rhythm using the rest and note values they have learned, number the beats with the numbers provided, count and tap out the rhythm.. The teacher can point out the correlation between the basic beat, time signature and the counting numbers.

5. Demonstrate how music is divided into equal beats using bar lines.

The number of beats per bar is dependent on the top number of the time signature. Once the concept is understood, test the students understanding by making up rhythms with known time values. Add the counting numbers but omit the bar lines. Ask the student to add the missing bar lines. The teacher can also incorrectly place the bar lines on the board and ask the student to identify the mistakes and correct them in accordance with the time signature.

6. Test the students understanding of the note and rest values using problem solving skills.

Make up incorrect bars of rhythm. (Example: too many beats or an insufficient number of beats in a bar or the placement of the beat is incorrect in relation to the basic beat.) Have the student find and correct the mistakes. Rhythmic Dictation: The teacher claps and counts a simple rhythm and asks the student to 'write it down' by choosing the correct note and rest values that represent the rhythmic sentence. Rhythmic Recognition: The teacher makes up four bars of music and claps one bar. The student chooses which bar of rhythm was clapped. |Once each bar has been correctly identified the teacher can continue the exercise by changing the arrangement of the time values within the bars. You can reverse the roles by having the student tap out a bar of rhythm for the teacher to find.

7. Learning Difficult Rhythms.

Place the correct time signature and basic beat on the rhythm board. Have the student construct the rhythm they need help understanding.  Place the counting numbers under the rhythm.  Have the student clap and count it out. This allows the student an opportunity to understand the rhythm through repetition and in context with the basic beat.

8. Composition.

Let the student explore rhythmic notation by constructing their own rhythms using the elements provided in Little Hands On Rhythm. tT

The student can also use the Random Rhythm cards to construct their rhythm. 

9. Mixed Meter.

The student can explore moving from one time signature to another by constructing rhythms using different time signatures.


10.  Improvisation.

Use the rhythm constructed on the rhythm board to help practice improvising melodic lines.  For piano students, they can take the board to the piano and use their rhythm to help guide their improvised melody.

The teacher and student may think of other ways to use the rhythm board that will further enhance the students understanding of rhythmic concepts.  If you would like to share your ideas please contact us and we will post them on our website.

Many thanks,