Music in First Grade: How to Present Quarter Rest

In this post we looked at some great ways to prepare quarter rest through singing, games, listening, analyzing, and notating.

Now that students have this preparation it’s time to present the real name and symbol for a quarter rest.

To do this, we first need to know if students have enough experience with a quarter rest. Then we need a solid presentation plan to follow.

Let’s jump in!

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A Quick and Simple Presentation Test

The point of a presentation test is to ensure that the class is ready to move on to labeling and seeing the real notation for the rhythmic element. If you have data from these preparation activities, great! If not, this presentation test is perfect for you.

When I give a presentation test I’ll use one of my favorite songs for teaching quarter rest, such as Bow Wow Wow.

With four steady beat hearts on the board, I’ll ask students to tell me on what beat there is no sound. They will show the correct number of fingers on their hand (holding up 1, 2, 3, or 4 fingers), but only when I say “Go”. This helps me know that students aren’t simply looking at someone else’s answer and copying.

Students keep a steady beat on their laps as we sing the second phrase of the song, “whose dog art thou?”, and then I ask them to stop and think before they answer.

Then we sing it again.

By the time I say “go” students are confident that the answer they give is their own. I also ask students to hold their answer close to their chest, so their neighbor doesn’t accidentally see.

Then I can quickly go around the circle with my seating and assessment chart and mark grades for each student.

When I see that the majority of the class has given the correct answer, I know we’re ready to move on to presentation.

2. Presenting Ta Rest

With the data in from our presentation test, students are ready to move onto the next phase. The purpose of the presentation phase is for students to give a name to the sound they hear, and see the visual representation.

To present ta rest, follow a procedure and script something like this:

2. Give it a name:

  • Students keep steady beat on their laps while the teacher points to steady beats on the board. Sing Bow Wow Wow together.
  • T: “Remind me, how many sounds do we hear on this beat?” (none)
  • T: “Musicians have a special name for no sound on a beat. It’s called ta rest. Let’s say ‘ssshh’ when there’s a ta rest, that way we remember not to make any sound there.”
  • Students sing the whole song speaking “ssshh” at the appropriate time.

2. Give it a symbol:

  • T: “We can represent ta rest by using this sign: Z”
  • Students help the teacher notate whole song in rhythmic notation.
  • Students speak and clap the whole song in rhythm syllables

You can grab this free presentation lesson plan to use in your classroom - just click the image to download! 

I love this presentation plan for a few reasons:

The presentation test is super simple and gives me the information I need before moving forward.

I also love how the presentation script uses everything students have learned about rhythm so far - steady beat, rhythm, ta, ta-di. . . And now we get to build on that solid foundation of musical experience.

Next time we’ll look at some awesome ways to practice ta rest.

Happy teaching!  

How to Prepare Quarter Rest

In this post we looked at some great songs for teaching quarter rest. Now that we have songs picked out, we’re ready to move on to preparing this rhythmic element.

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Experience first!

One of the first tasks we have when preparing a musical element is letting students experience it without a label through what they feel, what they hear, and what they see. We do this through singing games.

Tinker Tailor

Each of the songs in this post has an accompanying game or dance that works great for preparing quarter rest, but my favorite is Tinker Tailor.

Tinker Tailor is ball passing elimination game sung on a two note chant (that’s right, this song can double for Sol Mi practice!).

There are three specific ways this song helps prepare students:

  • Kinesthetically: Students keep a steady beat on their knees while they pass the ball. Since students are out when they get the ball on the quarter rest, they are feeling the beat without a sound because it’s a crucial part of the game.
  • Aurally: Having the “out” students reinforce the steady beat on instruments allows students hear a beat being played without a sound.
  • Visually: Students watch the ball being passed around the circle and see that the ball doesn’t stop with the singing. It continues with the beat. Students can see that there is a beat even when there isn’t a sound.  

Describe what you hear.

The next step is for students to describe what they hear in the song. We do this by asking guided questions to get the students thinking about the specific rhythmic element.

After playing the game to Tinker Tailor, ask students to keep a steady beat on their laps while they sing the last phrase of the song ("rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief"). Then, follow a script like this:

T: How many beats are in this part of my song? (8)
T: What word do I sing on my first beat? (Rich)
T: What word do I sing on my last beat? (There’s no word)
T: Does our voice make any sound on the last beat? (no)

These questions guide students to describe a beat without a sound.

Match known phrases to sound / no sound on a beat

Students are aware that there can be a beat without a sound, so it’s time to identify a quarter rest in known songs.

Using the songs in this post, as well as some others your students know, have students listen to specific phrases to determine if they contain quarter rests. For this example, I used Cobbler Cobbler, Tinker Tailor, Rain Rain Go Away, and Bell Horses.

Start by listing out the phrases on the board (lyrics only - no rhythms) and writing four hearts. We want students to do the actual determining of sound / no sound by ear instead of by sight.

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  • Cobbler cobbler mend my shoe, have it done by half past two
  • Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief
  • Rain rain go away, come again some other day
  • Bell horses bell horses what’s the time of day

While you point to the hearts to keep the steady beat, students may sing the phrase or clap the rhythm of the words.

Have students help you group each of the four the phrases into two categories: “beat without a sound” and “sounds on all the beats”.

Notate it!

After students can describe what they hear and aurally identify it, they’re ready to see it represented visually.

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Using a song like Bow Wow Wow or Bell Horses have students help you notate the first 8 beats. Start by placing two lines of steady beat hearts on the board, then ask students to clap the words and tell you how many sounds they heard on each beat. (This is great review for quarter and eighth notes!)

Since we’re in the presentation phase, we’ll use a question mark for the quarter rest - students have not learned the proper notation yet.

You can do this as a whole class, or use these printables for individual or partner work. They’re available totally free in the Sheet Music Library. Just scroll down to “Activity Sheets”.

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Next time, we’ll look at how to know your students are ready for presenting a quarter rest, and peek at some awesome ways to practice!

Happy teaching.

Songs to Teach Quarter Rest

Many music curriculums teach quarter rests in first grade. However, if you are relatively new to a school (as I am), your older students may be learning quarter rest along with your younger students. Today I’ve gathered some of my favorite songs for teaching quarter rest, and I’ve brought some that work for kindergarten through third grade.

These songs:

  • Are satisfying to sing
  • Have great accompanying dances or games
  • Can be used as a creative springboard to inspire student-created ostinati
  • Work for a variety of grades
  • Can be used later in your curriculum to highlight other rhythmic and melodic concepts

Let’s jump in!


Bow Wow Wow

Bow Wow Wow is an American folk song with an accompanying partner dance.

You'll probably love it as much as your students do!

How to Play the Game:

Create a single circle, with partners facing each other.
Measure 1 - Stamp three times (right, left, right)
Measure 2 - Shake finger at partner in steady beat
Measure 3 - Partners clasp hands and quickly trade places
Measure 4 - Stamp three times turning away from partner and facing neighbor (new partner)

I love watching students’ faces light up when they turn to see a new partner!

Other reasons to love this song:

  • Mi Re Do
  • La
  • Sol-Mi-Do
  • Ta, Ta-di



This is an African American folk song with a great game to go with it!

My students love playing this game, and I’ve used it successfully with first, second, and third grades.


How to play the game:

Formation: Children stand in a circle with hands joined and raised to form "windows."
Measures 1 - 4: One child “flaps wings” and weaves in and out the "windows"
Measure 5: The bird taps one child on the shoulder in a steady beat.
Measure 6: The bird taps a second child on the shoulder in a steady beat
Measure 7: The bird taps a third bird on the shoulder in a steady beat

All three chosen students get in line behind the head bluebird and the game begins again. Continue singing until all students are in the bluebird line.

Other reasons to love this song:

  • Ta, ta-di
  • AB form
  • La
  • Half note
  • High do

Bell Horses

I’ve written about Bell Horses here, and how I use it to teach sol and mi. It’s also great for teaching quarter rest, and since my students are already familiar with it, all the better!


How I use this song:

I combine this song with the rhyme, My Little Pony. As we sing the song, Bell Horses, some students prance in open space around the room. To accompany us, a small group of students is chosen to play jingle bells in one corner. Another small group uses rhythm sticks to play the “nails” when we speak My Little Pony.

Other reasons to love this song:

  • Partwork: some students move, some students play, some students speak the rhyme
  • Ta ta-di
  • Sol mi
  • La


Tinker Tailor

This is an elimination game from England, and one of my favorites for teaching quarter rest. I like it because the students are naturally listening for the "beat without a sound" as we play the game.


How to play the game:

Students pass a ball in a steady beat and sing the game. On the quarter rest, the student with the ball is out. In my class the out students go to the “orchestra” to play a steady beat while we play the game again.

Other reasons to love this song: 

  • Ta , ta-di
  • Sol, mi

....if you have their interests at heart, you will let them learn while they play; they will find that what they have mastered is child’s play.
— Carl Orff

I love each of these songs for teaching quarter rest, not just because of the songs themselves, but because they remind me that the magic of teaching is in making our teaching concepts child’s play

Happy teaching!

Music in First Grade: How to Practice Sol and Mi (Part 3)

Sol and Mi are the first of many melodic intervals our students will learn with us. In past posts, we’ve looked at:

Finally, we’re on to my favorite phase - the practice phase. 

In this step, students use everything they’ve learned so far and apply it consciously to sol and mi. Let's look at three ways to practice this interval.

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1. Use Activities from Preparing Sol and Mi

Some of the most natural ways to practice sol and mi are from the preparation post. These activities are natural because students have already done them, but sol and mi were been called something different. Now the only thing to do is keep the same activities, but use the real names for sol and mi.

Here are some of my favorite ways to practice sol and mi:

  • Games (like Apple Tree)
  • Improvising a Melody
  • Writing Down the Melody
  • The case of the missing notes


Read more about these ways to prepare and practice sol and mi here and grab the free worksheets in the library.

2. Dictate the Teacher’s Melody

Dictation is a great way to make sure students know the theory behind an interval. To complete this activity students need to be aware that if sol is on a line, mi is on the line below it. If sol is on a space, mi is on the space below it, and we call that a skip in music.

Manipulatives for dictation:

One great manipulative for dictation is a bag with two pieces of string and a few bingo chips inside. When students get their bag, they lay out the black string to create two parallel lines. When they’re done, everything gets thrown back in the bag and you’re good to go for the next class!

If your students use the full staff to dictate sol and mi, consider laminating a class set of staff paper to use again and again with your bingo chips.

Dictation activities with sol and mi: 

There are several forms that dictation can take in the music room. Whatever the dictation activity, I always have the students sing the pattern back to me before they write it down - especially at the beginning. I want to make sure they have aurally deciphered the melody before they dictate it.  

  • Sing and Sign Sol Mi: This is the easiest one. The teacher literally sings and signs the pattern, “sol mi sol sol mi” and students write it down exactly as they heard it. (While it might seem as though you're "giving the answer", this step shows that students understand the basic concept of this interval being a skip apart. If students are confused about what line and space to use, the rest of your dictation activities will go awry.)
  • Sign Sol Mi: This is similar, but the teacher does not sing. Students need to watch the signs closely to get the pattern.
  • Hum Sol and Mi: When students have had enough practice with singing and signing, the teacher may change to humming. No words, no hand signs, just the interval. This really challenges students to pay attention to the melodic contour instead of relying on clues like solfege names and signs.
  • Play Sol and Mi on an instrument: Similar to humming, when a teacher plays sol mi on an instrument there are no words or signs for the students to follow. They just have the melodic interval! It’s possible for a change in timbre to throw students off, so I like to use this one toward the end of our practice.

Students as Teachers:

These activities are great, and students get even more value out of them when they are the ones giving the pattern! Consider handing over your teacher role to a student once they’re comfortable with this way to practice sol and mi.

3. Improvise an Answer

Improvising is one of the best ways I have found to show how a student understands the material. It takes a real understanding of the element to be able to use it on the spot, effortlessly, in an improvisation.

Improvisation is something that can bring adult musicians to tears if they’re not used to it! Students, however, can easily improvise easily, without nervousness, if they have enough structure.

Improvisation activities with sol and mi:

  • Question and Answer: The teacher asks a “question” and students improvise an answer. I like to have students copy me a few times at first. Then I say, “great! This time, instead of copying me why don’t you make something up!”. Since they’re in a group, this is a non threatening way for students to try out new ideas.
  • Use text: Some students need extra help to create a new melody. In these cases I like to use text. Sing a very basic question to the student (“What’s your favorite dinner?”  “How are you today?”) and allow him or her to sing back an answer. One danger I’ve found in this approach is that students may sneak “la” into the response. The first time it happens, I wouldn’t address it - congratulate the student on responding. The second time it happens, I address it by saying we should only use "high and low" in our response.
  • With a song: Another very natural way to make something up is through a song. Choose one phrase that students improvise - either vocally or on an instrument - in a song they know well. This can be done as a group first and then as individuals later.

The practice phase is my favorite of the three because I really get to see what students know, and what they can do with all the information of an element. I love watching their process of developing as young musicians and I’m always so proud of the skills they’re developing in the practice stage!

There are even more sol mi songs in the Sheet Music Library. It's totally free, so sign up and get singing!

What are your favorite ways to practice sol and mi?  


Music in First Grade: How to Present Sol and Mi (Part 2)

In the first part of this post, we looked at some ways to prepare sol and mi through movement, games, improvisation, composition, and completing melodies.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, read it here!

The next step in teaching sol and mi is to present these melodic elements with their real names. In order to complete this phase, students need to have a lot of experience using high and low, and be able to hear and dictate high and low on their own. 

Let's jump in!

How to Present Sol and Mi

The presentation phase has three main parts:

  1. Assess: We need to be sure students are ready to practice sol and mi, so we need some sort of assessment. 
  2. Present: We give the real names of sol and mi
  3. Apply: We apply our new knowledge just a bit to reinforce the connection between their preparation and practice.

1. The Presentation Test:

Before moving on from the preparation to the practice phase, it’s good to be sure you know when students are ready to move on. That’s where a presentation test comes in.

Using one of the songs from my favorite sol mi songs, The Case of the Missing Notes from my favorite ways to prepare sol and mi, and the printables here, we're ready for a presentation test!

In The Case of the Missing Notes, the teacher notates a portion of the song, but leaves some notes out. Students are tasked with filling in the missing pitches.

Student responses from this activity will tell you if your class is ready to move on to practicing sol and mi. If students aren't ready, congratulate yourself on another great preparation activity and try again in a few classes!

These printables are available for free in the Sheet Music Library - just go to "activity sheets". You'll also find a great selection of sol mi songs while you're there.

Just fill out your email to get the password sent straight to your inbox!

Happy printing! 

2. Presenting Sol and Mi:

Once you know you’re ready to present sol and mi, use this sequence:

  1. Sing a song you know very well and have been using to practice sol and mi (like Apple Tree). 
  2. Ask students to sing Apple Tree (the first four beats) with hand signs showing high and low.
  3. Read Apple Tree from the board, but sing "high low high high low" instead of text.
  4. Say, "High and low have real names. The high note’s real name is “Sol” and the low note’s real name is “Mi”

Now that students know the real names of high and low, it’s time to practice.

The practice phase for sol and mi will cover the next several lessons, but I like to start practicing in the presentation lesson so students have a chance to solidify what they've learned. 

3. Practice by Reading a Known Song

Simple, quick, and very important for students, reading a known song from notation is a great way to practice sol and mi. Choose a song - or a portion of the song - and write it on the board. Here are the steps I like to follow:

  • Ask students to sing the song on text while you point to the notation.
  • Ask students to sing the song on solfege while you point to the notation.
  • Ask a few students come up to the board to point while the rest of the class sings solfege.

With a solid presentation plan, your students have the information they need to soar in their practice activities!