A Half Note Presentation Plan

If your students have great repertoire for half notes, plus solid preparation strategies, they’re ready to move on to the presentation phase!

In the Kodaly philosophy, the presentation phase is where students learn the real name of the element they’ve been using. I love this approach because it reminds me that the name of the element itself does not have as much meaning as many teachers would be lead to believe. The name “half note” is simply something we assign to a two beat sound to make communication between musicians easier. Memorizing the label and shape of the notation has little significance when we put it in the context of experiencing how a half note feels, sounds, and how we can use it.

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Before we begin, make sure your students have plenty of experience with half notes in the preparation phase. Some of my favorite ways to prepare half notes are to: 

  • Experience first through games
  • Notice a note that lasts two beats
  • Explore through movement compositions
  • Explore through instruments
  • Read a visual representation

With these activities - or your own favorites - we're ready to move on! 

Choosing Classroom Repertoire

I wrote about some of my favorite songs for teaching half notes here. You can go to that post to see how I use each song, and get directions for downloading the sheet music. 

Are they Ready to Move on? A Presentation Test

Before we present the name of a half note, we need to be sure students are ready to move on from the preparation phase. That’s where our presentation test comes in.

I want to make sure my students have had lots of experience with this element, but the thing I care most about is aural skills. Can they aurally identify a half note? If they can, I know whatever mistakes they make in performance of a half note will sort themselves out.

That said, in my classroom the presentation test is essentially an ear training test.

There are two main ways this might look in my classroom:

  1. Whole-Class Test: The teacher will sing a phrase from a known song on “loo” and the students will echo back on ta, ta-di, and long.
  2. Small Group Test: If you want more targeted information, you can load the phrase into an app like Seesaw and have students submit a recording back to you in small groups. (P.S. I made a video that mentions assessment in the music room using the seesaw app. You can watch it here.)


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With the data back from your test, we can move on to presentation.

However, if the results of your test show that most students aren't ready to move on yet, don't push them before they're ready. You've still had a wonderful preparation activity and gained some valuable data! Take a few more lessons to prepare half notes and circle back around to presenting in a week or two.

If it is time to present, sing a song your kids both know and like - something from this post would be perfect. 

For this example, we'll use the American folk song, Who's That. 

1. Aural Presentation

  • Tell the students that musicians have a special name for “long”. When we hear a sound that lasts for two beats, we call it a “ta-a”. The real name for a “ta-a” is a half note.
  • Sing part of the song that contains a half note on rhythm syllables.
  • Try with another song or another portion of the song that contains half notes.

2. Visual Presentation

  • Tell students that musicians have a special way to write a half note, and show the notation on the board.
  • Have students help you write out a target phrase of a song containing half notes.
  • Sing the target phrase on rhythm syllables while students point to the board.
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The formal practice phase will take up the next several lessons, but I like to include it here so to help students bridge the gap between the two phases.

By this point in the lesson students have been sitting down a lot! It’s time to get moving - which means we need a game.

Games as Intentional Practice

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Bluebird Bluebird is a great one for this.

Students should have plenty of experience playing this game, and they should know the song very well.

  • The first time you play the game, do it completely as normal. (Students sing on regular text.)
  • Then, ask students to play the game while they sing on rhythm syllables

The presentation phase is the smallest of the three in the Kodaly philosophy. It matters that students all elements by the correct names, but it’s more important that they understand what these elements sound like, feel like, and how to use them.

Next week we’ll look at some specific ways to practice half notes!


Music in First Grade: How to Practice Quarter Rest

Finally, after choosing songs and preparing our mystery rhythm, we know the real name to a beat without a sound.

>> Songs to Teach Quarter Rest

>> How to Prepare Quarter Rest

>> How to Present Quarter Rest

Teaching students how to truly hear a rest is teaching students how to be thoughtful, aware musicians. To not play something, but to silently hear it, takes a lot of musical maturity, and it’s one reason I love teaching quarter rest.

Here are some of my favorite ways to practice ta rest. They involve student compositions, instrument choice, performance, and a reflection time.

Let’s jump in!

How to Practice Quarter Rest

Compose with quarter rest

Student-created rhythms are wonderful for practicing elements - what better material to use than material students have created themselves?

This rhythm pattern could serve as an ostinato for the whole piece, or it could serve as an interlude, intro, or outro.

For the song, Bluebird, Bluebird, my students were given these rhythm building blocks:

(Click here to download!)

In small groups, students create a four bar pattern using their rhythm building blocks. Since the purpose of this activity is a quarter rest, students include a silent sign for rest.

When the rhythm cards are in their final order and students can clap and speak their rhythm several times in a row as a group, students put their composition on body percussion.

**Teaching tip: Especially in younger grades, it’s a good idea to model how to have a creative discussion when several students are contributing ideas. Explain that your idea may not be chosen every time, and it’s important to work together as a group to come up with a musical idea that represents everyone.

Add Instruments and Perform

Once students have their compositions ready, it’s time to put them on instruments.

Step 1: Choose instruments in each group:

The teacher may demonstrate several options for instruments: Triangle, rain stick, hand drum, cabasa. . . .

Ask students to discuss in their small groups which instruments would be best, and which would be worst for playing their compositions. Students will discover that not all instruments are appropriate for their compositions - some instruments have a reverberation that lasts far beyond its strike - no good for playing a rest.

Since the purpose of this activity is the quarter rest, students should opt for guiros, hand drums, tambourines, cabasas, maracas, and other instruments that allow the quarter rest space to be clear.

Step 2: Practice their composition on instruments

When students move to instruments, I ask if they can recreate their body percussion on their new percussion instruments. Students can think through all the different sounds their instrument can make (high / low, loud / quiet, etc.), and make connections to levels, volume, and pitch of their body percussion.

Step 3: Give a performance!

With a composition, body percussion and instrumentation complete, students are ready for a “final” performance of their ostinati.

This performance could be in front of peers, in front of you, in front of the classroom teacher, or a larger parent or school audience.

Talk it through

Did we stay together as a group the whole time? Was the space for the quarter rest totally empty?

Our students need time to think through and evaluate their musical performance. They need time to hear feedback from their peers. Create space in your lesson for students to reflect on their performance, and make revisions if they feel it’s necessary.

When we teach quarter rest, we’re practicing inner hearing - inner pulse. We’re teaching how to listen.

I like this activity for practicing quarter rest because it draws upon so much previous musical knowledge. It also puts students in the driver’s seat of their own learning: creating music, exploring new ways to play it, and thoughtfully reflecting and revising their work. It’s a beautiful process to watch!

You can find more songs for teaching quarter rest in my Free Sheet Music Library. You can sign up below, or jump straight to it! 

Happy teaching!