Rhythm Cards

Rhythm Cards thumbnail

When I began teaching at my current school a few years ago, I discovered that my students struggled with differentiating between subdivided beat patterns. Reading and performing these rhythms with sixteenth note and eighth note combinations were intimidating. While rummaging through my personal office supplies at home one day, I discovered many sets of 5×8 index cards and decided to create these rhythm cards for my students to reinforce these rhythmic patterns.

Ideas for learning and/or assessment activities:

1. Display the cards for full-class or individual sight reading.
They can be displayed on the chalk/whiteboard using magnets (these are similar to the ones I bought years ago at the DollarTree which are not available online), on the ledge of the chalkboard or upright piano, on music stands, on the floor, etc.
Note: These are especially handy if you are extracting challenging rhythms from your repertoire to teach in a warm-up with your students before they see the actual music. Post the rhythms, practice, add ties if needed, etc.  If the cards are laminated, you may write the counts with a dry-erase marker and re-use.

2. Composition: This is one of my students’ favorite collaborative activities! Student groups are given a number of cards (4 for 1 measure in 4/4 time, 6 for 2 measures in 3/4 time, etc.) to arrange in the order they prefer, and they must work together to read and perform it.

Suggestions on how to differentiate this activity:

  • Intentional grouping of students and/or assignment of particular rhythms
  • Come up with a “creative” way to present (my students have done dance routines, cheers, body percussion, mock conversations by adding inflection to rhythm speaking, animal noises, etc.)
  • Assign pitches to each note and be prepared to sing your pattern
    (my students use solfege syllables to aid them with this)
  • Assign words to each note and speak the rhythm as a rap

3. Aural recognition and dictation
Students are given a set of cards and must raise the card that matches the rhythm they hear. Determine if your students can distinguish between four 16th notes in a row and another rhythm with an 8th note and two 16th notes pattern. If you speak the rhythm with your counting system, are they successful in identifying it? What if you simply play the rhythm, requiring them to mentally decode the rhythm in order to match what they hear to the visual/tactile manipulative in front of them?

How would you use these rhythm cards in YOUR classroom?

These rhythm cards are available for FREE in my store here. Rhythm-Cards-thumbnailIn addition to the original 5×8 index card size, the rhythm cards are also available 2/page in the standard 8.5 x 11 size. I recommend printing several copies of the cards on cardstock and laminating them for durability.
Note: If you click the “Follow Me” button on my store, you’ll be notified when new products are posted.

I’d love to hear your ideas and feedback! Please share your thoughts in a comment below.


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