Sometimes I’ll start an activity that will morph into something totally new by the end of the week. Probably common among music teachers. This activity is an example of one of those instances. I was playing Musical Four Corners with my 4th graders and it quickly turned into another fun game that is free and easy to make!
- Display 4 rhythm patterns on the board. Download a FREE set of cards that you can print or project by clicking the image above. I started with simple 4-beat rhythms. You can add more measures depending on the skill level of your students.
- Place four pitched/barred instruments on the floor in locations that correspond to the rhythm patterns. For example, my rhythms were in a 4-square block, so the instruments were arranged the same way. I like varying the instruments to include xylophones, metallophones, and especially tone bars.
- Give your students a batting order. We sat in a semi-circle, so we just went down the line.
- The first 4 students sit behind an instrument. Remove bars to make instruments pentatonic for a pleasant sound.
- Give students a few seconds to become familiar with their instruments if needed.
- Students should play on only one bar until they are comfortable enough to move around to different bars.
- Display 4 different rhythms.
- Count off and listen for mistakes as students play their rhythms simultaneously. If played correctly, they will make a beautiful, rhythmic sound. If a student makes a mistake, they sit down and the next in line will take their place. You can also have a warm-up round to give students time to adjust to the activity.
- Students have a lot of fun trying to play their rhythm perfectly in order to gain extra turns.
- After everyone has gone once, I’ll tell students that they now have to play their rhythms as an ostinato.
For students who struggle with reading rhythms, or hand-eye coordination, I will let them slide for a couple of rounds so that they can get a little extra practice. When this happens, I say something like, “Oh, I didn’t catch anyone that time, let’s try again,” or I’ll move to the next slide.
If you find this game is successful, you can vary the activity with different rhythms/icons, or include pitches. You can arrange it for 5+ rhythms or have students “face-off” in teams with 2 rhythms.
If you prefer stick notation, download the free Kodaly-friendly version by clicking the image below!