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  • Writer's pictureJenny Ferris

Rhythm Dictation Wallets

As the school year has wrapped up and the craziness of report-writing season has died down, I am left thinking about assessment and the constant juggling act we teachers seem to perform between our own needs to assess our students' learning, the needs of our school/district/state system to implement its own assessment guidelines and the needs of our students to be engaged and enjoy their music lessons.

As such, I am always on the lookout for assessment tasks that double as a fun game or useful teaching tool and this is one that I keep coming back to.

My lovely Kodaly lecturer Susan first put me on to the idea of rhythm wallets as part of my level 1 training course. I have since come down with manipulatives madness and I love all things fiddle-able - and so do my kids!

These rhythm wallets are a set of cards including heart cards (to represent the beat) as well as taa and ti-ti cards (though the collection can of course be expanded to include any and all rhythms your students are familiar with) and can be used in a number of ways.

The first is just a straightforward rhythm dictation exercise - you clap a 4 beat pattern and your students arrange cards underneath the 4 heart "beats" to show the rhythm they heard. It makes for a really quick informal assessment to see what portion of your class is really getting these rhythms and what portion is struggling.

You can then expand on this activity by having students compose their own 4 beat patterns and could either perform then one after another in a rhythm snake or could wander and observe other students' work to see if anyone else came up with the same pattern they did (good reading and analysis practice).

I also like an activity called "Round the World" in which students are arranged in a circle with their compositions on the floor. They then stand and clap their rhythm at the same time as the other students are clapping their rhythms around them. Whilst it can be a bit cacophonous (a good time for a discussion about quiet, musical clapping!) it really shows up which students are able to read and perform the rhythm in front of them and which students usually rely on mimicking their neighbours - which they can't do in this exercise! You then have 4 beats of silence for them to rotate to the next rhythm and repeat the activity. This is like the musical equivalent of High Intensity Interval Training - in a matter of a few minutes, they will have read and performed 20 - 30 rhythms (depending on the size of your class). You can also extend by asking them to analyse whether any rhythms were the same as each other etc.

The possibilities with these cards are endless. They save time and money printing endless worksheets and the kids have a ball with them. You can check out a set of these cards on my TeachersPayTeachers store here

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