Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Body rhythms and chair beats

I've been engaged in a little "Spring cleaning and reorganizing" of my concept plans lately. The population of my school has changed in the past year and with it, I've noticed that my usual slew of activities need an update. While I've always include aural, visual and physical activities to engage all the learning styles of my students, I know I tend to rely heavily on aural and visual teaching.
With that in mind, I've recently revisited some rhythm activities for 1st grade.
Here's an activity I used many years ago, I believe I found it in a music textbook.

Body Rhythms and chair beats:

1. Place 4 chair at the front of the room. These are the beats.
(Option: on each chair, tape large construction paper hearts with 1  2  3  4 for each beat.)

2. On the white board or SMART Board write a 4 beat pattern using quarter notes, eighth notes, and rests,  preferably from a well-know song, (my 1st graders are preparing rest so I used "ta ti-ti ta (rest)" from "Pease Porridge Hot."

3. After the students have vocalized and tapped the rhythm, ask 4 students to write the rhythm with their bodies on the chair "beats."
1 student on 1 chair = ta, 2 students on 1 chair = ti-ti.
No student on a chair = Z (rest.)
My favorite thing about this activity is when the students see the empty chair and make that correlation: "there is no sound but the beat is still there. Our "piece of silence" is 1 beat."

Of course, you can have students compose their own rhythms on the "beat" chairs or use them for rhythmic dictation.

For a free SMART Board download of Quarter Rest (Z) Practice: Pease Porridge Hot and Naughty Kitty Cat, please visit my website


  1. Tanya,
    I love the beat chairs! I use them the same way, but also to demonstrate why rhythms have their names. For instance, a whole note is four beats, so why is it called a whole note and not a four note? Well, if there are four beat chairs, it takes one WHOLE person to cover all four beats. Half note = it takes one person to cover half of the chairs (2 beats). We go all the way to 16th notes, and the kids LOVE jamming four kids on each chair. :-) I have found that this really helps them conceptualize the names of the note values rather than simply memorizing them.

    Your blog is great! I found it on Pinterest. My blog and classroom website is at, if you would like to check it out sometime.


  2. awesome! I just started rest with my first grade last week... today we did rests in the middle of a pattern, how your chair activity would have been great... oh well.. .always next time!