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  • Writer's pictureJenny Ferris

Moses Supposes

Let's take a look at a fun little tongue-twister that I love using when first introducing my students to compound rhythms!

Moses supposes is something of a nonsense rhyming chant and features a pretty constant quaver pulse in 6/8 time, making it a great introductory or early compound piece for primary-aged students.

Apart from just learning and getting their chops around the chant, there are a few activities I like getting my students to do with this one.

Beat Passing

First of all, we play a simple beat-passing game to reinforce the feeling of strong beat within the song. You can use a ball or any small object, which is passed around the circle to the beat. Anyone who is holding the ball on the word "Moses" is out. This can lead to students rushing or dragging the ball in an attempt to avoid the word Moses, so as well as this poison word, it is also a given that anyone who passes the ball too fast or too slow is also out.

For a couple of variations, you might choose to include a rule that states a student who is already out can come back into the game if they spot another student passing out of time (this keeps them engaged after they've gone out).

You might also choose to remove the ball to test how well your students can internalise their sense of beat!


The next activity I like to include, which draws the students' attention more to the rhythm than the beat, is a knee-slapping ostinato. Each of the six pulses in 6/8 time has it's own action:

beat 1 = patsch right knee with right hand (left hand hovers over the top)

beat 2 = lift right hand up towards left hand so that left hand palm claps back of the right hand

beat 3 = patsch right knee with right hand

beat 4 = patsch left knee with left hand (right hand hovers over the top)

beat 5 = lift left hand up towards right hand so that right hand palm claps back of the left hand

beat 6 = patsch left knee with left hand

That's a little complicated to follow, so here's a video!

Once these activities are able to be performed fluently, the students are ready to derive the rhythm. You can also turn this into a dictation task, or a composition task utilising different lyrics.

It's also featured (albeit with a different rhythm) in the film "Singing In The Rain" to great comic effect, as seen below:

As an extension task, see if students can aurally distinguish, or perhaps even notate, the differences between the two sets of rhythms!

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